Internships are great, but they don’t always work out. There’s this idea in engineering that if you don’t get a summer internship, then you’re wasting your summer. That’s not true. There are tons of ways to use your summers to your advantage and gain relevant experience. Here are 6 things to do over the summer if you don’t have an internship.
- Non-Internship Industry Programs
- Retail Job
- Apply for Fall Internships
- Summer Abroad
Research is a great way to get experience over the summer. Paid research opportunities exist, but it will be easier to land a position in a lab if you’re willing to take an unpaid position.
Networking with your professors throughout the school year is a good idea for multiple reasons, research included. It’s a lot easier to ask a professor about joining their research team if you already know them.
If you don’t know any professors or aren’t interested in their research then you should try cold-calling. Do some research on the professors at your university and make a list of any of labs you would be interested in. Email them all and ask about joining their lab for the summer. The response rate probably won’t be high so email as many as you can. In the email, make sure you introduce yourself, provide a brief summary of your experience/skills, write about why you’re interested in joining their lab, and include your resume.
2. Non-Internship Industry Programs
Many companies offer summer programs for students that are not internships. Even though they’re not technically internships, they are great experiences to have on your resume. Here are some options to look into:
- NASA L’Space: NASA’s L’Space program is a free, online industry prep program open to all types of engineers. With this program, you are not working for NASA, it is simply a program being taught by NASA. The program is 12 weeks long and you can either chose to participate in their “Mission Concept Academy” (engineering group project focus) or their “NASA Proposal Writing and Evaluation Experience Academy” (technical writing focus). Students may participate in one program per semester. You have to apply for the program, but it is much less competitive than internships. It is also not a paid position.
- Google Summer of Code: Google Summer of Code is an entirely online mentoring program designed for software engineering (or similar major) students. In the program, you work on a 12+ week coding project with the guidance of mentors from google. Upon successful completion of the project, you receive a stipend. However, you are considered an independent developer, and participants are not employed by Google.
3. Retail Job
Contrary to popular belief, internship experience isn’t the only job experience that’s attractive to engineering managers. Having a job in a non-engineering-related field looks great to employers. It shows that you are professional and reliable enough to hold a job. If it’s a retail job, it shows that you have good communication skills.
Hiring managers are looking for someone to work on a team and be able to act professionally in the workplace while having decent social skills. These are qualities that are not always easy to find in engineering students.
Using the summer to get certifications is a great way to amp up your resume. It’s especially useful if you can learn a skill that’s not emphasized in your major.
The downside to this is that certifications typically cost money. However, if you’re just looking for experience or have time to complete a certification in addition to a job, they’re great to have on your resume. Here are some ideas for certifications you can get:
- SolidWorks Certification – A Solidworks certification is a great thing to have on your resume. Universities typically provide free access to download Solidworks for students. The certification exam itself costs about $100.
- Harvard CS50 – Harvard CS50 is a free, online introductory coding course offered by Harvard. It’s a great option for people with no experience in coding. If you receive at least a 70% on each problem set, lab, and final project, you receive a free certificate. *Note, there are lots of free, online coding courses that are great for all levels of experience*.
- Six Sigma – There isn’t one specific certification for this. There are online certifications, but even learning about the basics of Six Sigma and lean manufacturing on your own is useful.
5. Apply for fall internships
If you were unable to land a summer internship, look for fall ones! Fall internships/co-ops are less competitive and often even better learning experiences than internships. While taking an entire semester off may seem daunting, it’s a great career move in the long run.
Read Co-ops vs. Internships: 7 Major Differences for more information on the benefits of co-ops.
6. Summer abroad
College is a great time to have fun! In the world of engineering, there is a lot of pressure to get internships. It’s easy to feel guilty or anxious if your life isn’t all about engineering all the time.
Never let anyone tell you it’s a bad idea to do a summer abroad or even to take the summer off to relax or travel. You’re never going to look back and think “wow I really regret doing a summer abroad”. One missed internship opportunity isn’t going to make or break your career in the long run.