What to do with your summer vacation

Even though W&M students are knee-deep in final exams, several have still found their way into the Career Center for appointments this week. The question on everyone’s minds seems to be, “Is it too late to do something this summer?” For myriad reasons, many students don’t give themselves a lot of lead time prior to summer break to look for part-time jobs, volunteer opportunities and internships. The end of the semester is often characterized by mental alarm bells when no plans have been made.

But fear not, Tribe, hope is not lost. If you haven’t secured a sweet summer job, here’s what you need to do:

Take inventory: Often, the question of what to do with the summer precludes a bigger, more important one; are you prepared to pursue and apply for something to do this summer? If you don’t yet have a resume, an idea of how cover letters work, or a list of things you want to get out of a summer opportunity, searching will be infinitely harder than it has to be. First things first! Get your professional documents in order and take stock of what you want to get out of your summer. Is a paycheck essential? Are you looking for a new skill set? Exposure to a particular career field? Arming yourself with great professional documents AND ideas about what you are looking for will make finding a summer work experience infinitely less stressful!

Start with who you know: One of the biggest internship search mistakes students make is heading straight for the internet to begin the search (i.e., I need a psychology internship, therefore I will google psychology internships!). This is not a productive strategy. Turn your summer opportunity search inside out and start with who you know. Review your personal (read: parents, family friends, friends’ parents) and professional (read: professors, advisors, former supervisors, W&M alumni) contacts and mine them for connections to your field. Does your favorite professor have professional colleagues in the industry you’d like to explore? Does your best friend’s uncle work for X company you’re interested in? Many, many jobs and internships come from personal and professional network contacts, not from huge job databases, or worse, Google searches.

Be assertive: Tackling the summer opportunity search requires strength of will, persistence, and being your own biggest advocate. Be assertive in your search. If you know that you’d like to work for a particular company or organization, don’t stop at a website void of information about summer opportunities. Call and inquire. Discern whether volunteer hours are a possibility. Ask to set up an informational interview with a professional in the organization. Internships often grow out of students’ interest and inquiry, coupled with assertive marketing of what they have to contribute.

Use your resources: The Career Center offers lots of great summer job and internship information, all accessible to you online. Check out the University Career Action Network, an all-internship database, which has added more than 130 new internship postings just this week. You can search for other opportunities using the W&M Experience database and additional internship resources maintained by the Career Center. And don’t forget our alumni! By creating a LinkedIn account, you can join the William and Mary Alumni Career Network, an online social networking group of alums from all kinds of fields. Connect with them for expertise, advice and summer opportunity ideas.

Finding a summer opportunity in May can be challenging, but certainly not impossible. I can’t predict your summer job search future, but I can tell you this: you will not get 100% of the internships or other opportunities for which you don’t apply. So finish those finals and go for it! Let us know if we can help.

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