Summer’s still a long way off… right? As collegiettes, we still have an entire semester to get through until that glorious summer vacation, so it might not be the first thing on our minds. But if you haven’t started thinking about how you’re going to spend this coming summer, you might want to set aside some time for that!
Whether you’re planning on having an internship or going home for the summer and getting a retail or waitressing job, the earlier you think about it, the better. HC has compiled some things you should be doing—if you aren’t already!—to stay ahead of the summer planning curve.
Get your research done early
Even if it’s too early to solidify your internship or travel plans at this point, you should compile a list of your potential options (such as companies you’d like to work for, international programs you’d like to apply for, etc.) so you can do thorough research into each and ensure that you don’t miss any deadlines.
“Get your résumé ready, look into companies you’d like to work or intern for, and send cards to past employers letting them know what you’re doing and you’re still keeping up with their company,” says Jessica Salerno from Ohio University.
Rochelle Sharit, a career manager at Northeastern University, says winter break is the perfect time for students to do research—and even start applying!
“Think about the type of internship you're looking for and research what internships are out there,” Sharit says. “Many organizations offer the same internships consistently each year. Your career center may have information, but conduct your own research as well. Use online resources, such as Indeed.com. If there's a dream company or organization you'd like to intern at, look directly at their website. If companies are taking applications, start applying! It's never too early, but can be too late.”
Even if you end up discovering that you have a couple more months to think about these things before making any decisions, it always helps to get organized ahead of time and avoid scrambling at the last minute!
Start applying for internships… now!
Depending on what type of internship you are looking to have during the summer, the application process starts extremely early. In fact, the due date has already passed for some larger corporations, overseas programs and other third party programs. Because the process of being accepted and setting up these internships takes so much time, the internship organizers like to fill these spots as quickly as possible.
“I’ve already started my summer internship search—well in advance,” says Lindsay Shoemake, a collegiette from Georgia College & State University. “I just applied for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) Summer Internship program on Dec. 1, and I’m looking for more summer opportunities.”
Of course, there’s often a debate about how early is too early to be looking for internships. “Sometimes it can be frustrating because a lot of the time companies want an intern to start right away, so they aren’t ‘officially’ looking for interns until a few weeks before the summer,” says Jessica. However, by establishing contacts in advance, you’ll have a better chance of actually securing these opportunities when April or May come around. “Start your search early, it will definitely pay off,” Jessica says.
Update your resumé
One thing you should definitely do in advance is make sure your résumé is looking perfect before you start applying for any internships or jobs.
“Keep the résumé to one page and focus on accomplishments including work experience, internships, academic projects and community service. Be sure to have others review and proofread your résumé. Most university career centers remain open - even if you're on break; ask an adviser, as well as other people, such as family members and faculty to review your résumé,” Sharit says.
Though updating your résumé can seem like a tedious and time-consuming task, there are little things you can do to improve it within a few hours. Focus on things such as making your internship details sound the best and adding extracurricular activities.
Consider creating an online portfolio
If you’ve never created a portfolio, you’re missing a great opportunity to show off some of your best work during interviews. Portfolios can contain work you’ve done in class—such as essays, PowerPoint presentations, group projects, etc.—as well as things you’ve done at past internships or jobs—such as research, articles you’ve written, etc
Although creating a hard copy portfolio is great (in a binder or folder), creating an online portfolio is even better and can make you appear both tech-savvy and organized. And don’t worry, you don’t need any HTML experience for this. Use a free website builder, such as Weebly.com, and you can drag and drop things such as your résumé and essays onto the pages.
Confused? If you’re looking for what to put on your electronic portfolio, career expert Heather Huhman has excellent examples of successful online portfolios.
Ask for letters of recommendation ASAP
You probably heard this advice when you were applying to colleges, but it really is crucially important to ask for letters of recommendation in advance. For one, it looks bad when you are asking a professor or industry contact to write you a letter at the last minute. Even if this person is a strong advocate for you, you might frustrate her by asking so late.
If you aren’t completely sure what internships or jobs you’re applying for yet, it’s still a good idea to have letters of recommendation on hand that can be easily customized to fit particular opportunities later. Professors especially get dozens of requests for letters once summer approaches, so save them the stress and ask now!
Also, when you need to have letters of recommendation written, there are a few tips you should keep in mind, such as asking in a professional manner and sending a follow-up thank you note.
Network, network, network!
Even if you aren’t applying for jobs or internships in the foreseeable future, you’ll have more success finding opportunities when you’ve already established contacts in the industry.
“Network like crazy,” Sharit says. “Meet with your parents’ friends, parents of friends, family members—anyone who's willing to talk about careers. They do not need to be in the field you're focused on, but they may know somebody that can help. Don't be shy. People really do want to help, they love to give advice and you can learn from everybody. Ask questions and listen. Send hand-written thank you notes to show your appreciation.”
Your best chance at finding networking opportunities is to contact your school’s career office and ask about upcoming career fairs or events. Most universities have a countless number of events every month, so attend and collect some business cards!
So there you have it ladies. No matter how far away summer might seem right now, there are many little things you can be doing right now to prepare.With just a little work, you can ensure that the coming summer will be the best one yet!
Rochelle Sharit, Career Manager, Northeastern University