Beyond Internships: Advice for gaining meaningful experiences this summer

Beyond Internships: Advice for gaining meaningful experiences this summer was originally published on College Recruiter.

4 ways to have the internship of your dreams this summer

School’s out for summer, and for many of you, that means finding a great internship to build valuable experience for your resume. While a solid history of internships signals that you’re committed to your chosen career path, they’re not the only way to gain the experience that employers are looking for. If you’re maxed out on internship experience, or just having difficulty finding the right one, there’s another option. Instead of an internship, do something interesting. Create the summer experience of your dreams by doing something imaginative that will capture the attention and approval of employers that are looking for candidates who stand out. Not only will you have a blast doing something more interesting and enjoyable than a typical internship, you’ll also be accumulating differentiating experience while your peers are defaulting to a norm.

Here’s why you should consider a different approach this summer along with some helpful advice for how to do it:

1. You don’t apply for a job, you compete for it.

While the task of getting your first real job feels like it’s a ways in the future, there’s no time like the present to begin creating an advantage for yourself. And that begins by rethinking the job application process and realizing that it’s actually a job competition. Despite what you may think, you don’t get a job, you need to win it. To win your dream job, you’re going to need to outperform all of the other highly qualified candidates that want the same coveted spot. Part of that will require looking better on paper, so the experience that you list on your resume will need to be winning experience, not some basic internships that merely “check the box”. So as you consider an interesting experience instead of an internship, think like a competitor and apply a winner’s mentality to what’s possible.

2. Interesting experiences make you interesting.

Hiring managers who interview for a living will tell you that the biggest challenge you’ll be up against is the “sea of sameness” that results from everyone pursuing the same traditional path to a job i.e. education and experience. That means that the hiring managers aren’t looking for candidates that are qualified, they’re looking for those special people who stand out because they’ve done something noticeable. And if the experience that differentiates you is also an interesting one, you’re going to be the applicant the interviewer remembers. With this in mind, start holding your summer experience to a higher standard. Is the internship you’re looking for going to make you stand out because it makes you more interesting? If the answer’s “not really”, you’re at risk of becoming just another fish in the sea of sameness.

3. Dream it and do it.

Unlike internships, the pursuit of interesting experiences means you’re in complete control of what’s possible i.e. you’re sure to have the experience of your dreams because you dreamed it up. Let’s say you’re interested in a career in Conservation because you believe that we need to do a better job managing and preserving our natural resources. One of the most noted conservationists in history was John Muir, who was the force and inspiration behind the creation of our National Parks. In 1867, Muir  walked 1,000 miles from Kentucky to Florida, an experience later described in one of his many publications named “A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf”.  What made this journey noteworthy is that he did not have a planned route. Instead, he chose to go by the “wildest, leafiest and least trodden” way that he could. With this as your inspiration, what if you re-traced his route this summer and wrote your own take on the contemporary state of the route today, making a personal case for the need for improved conservation efforts in our country. Not only would it be an incredible experience, it would also give you a very tangible advantage versus other young conservation aspirants who spent the summer interning as assistants to docents in  natural history museums.

4. Create stories that sell.

The experiences that go on your resume can go a long way in differentiating you, but ultimately your success will come down to how well you perform in the interview. For the best of both worlds, you would ideally have great experiences that also come with interesting and memorable stories. Stories are more memorable than factual answers to interview questions because stories have meaning that appeals to the emotional side of the brain. Using our proposed John Muir experience as an example, think of all of the stories that you would have from your journey in contrast to the assistant docent, whose experience fits their resume but comes up short in creating differentiating interest value. In the end, an interesting summer experience will not only make you more interesting on paper, it will give you more interesting things to talk about to sell yourself to an interviewer who’s seen and heard it all before.

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Every job seeker wants favorable results, but few of them are willing to challenge convention by approaching the process differently. This is your summer to step up and do something that will make you stand out from the crowd that took the familiar path. While getting work is hard work, there’s no rule that says you can’t have a lot of fun along the way. Dream of all the interesting things you could do to make yourself interesting, and have at it. Einstein wasn’t wrong about many things.

— Article by Peter Hubbell, the Founder and CEO of Apply:You, Job Winning WORKshops for College Graduates

By Peter Hubbell - College Recruiter
College Recruiter
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