I didn’t have a single internship in college. I spent months and months searching and interviewing and even making it to final rounds at some great companies, but it just didn’t work out for me! Obviously, you don’t have to want an internship, there are tons of other things to do with your summer. But if your goal was to spend your summer interning and things aren’t piecing together the way you wanted, this post is for you.
Not having an internship doesn’t mean you can’t learn or improve yourself during your time off. What’s important is finding a balance between giving yourself that break from the stress of school while staying productive enough that when you return in the fall, you don’t feel overly behind or out of practice for interviewing season. You’re probably going to have a million people telling you you NEED an internship to succeed, and honestly, they’ll make your full time search a lot easier, but you can still get that dream job without one if you make the most of your time.
Establish your goals
What do you want to be better at by the end of the summer? Or, what topic do you want to explore? Having goals will make it easier to plan out your time and figure out what resources you need. For me, my goals were to get better at technical interviews, learn more about front-end development, and grow my blog.
I personally don’t like defining concrete goals like “write 10 posts each month” or “do 5 technical problems a day,” because I know I’ll get stressed out thinking about how many of each I have left. As long as I know what direction I want to go, I can make progress in those directions at whatever pace I feel comfortable with!
Look for online classes
You can totally teach yourself just about anything through some good research, but if someone’s already done the hard work and put everything you need to know into an organized class, why not take advantage of that? I’ve taken several classes on Udemy and love their platform. The classes are pretty cheap (I got most of mine for $15), and they’re always running sales, so you should never pay more than $20 for a course!
Classes are awesome because you can literally see your progress as you complete the course. Some of them also have mini projects you can optionally complete, which you can add to your resume or use to talk about in an interview.
Most of what I learned over my summer was really relevant when interviewing season started up again, so all the notes I took from my online courses made it easier to refresh myself on the topics. I like keeping one notebook throughout the summer where I write down anything that sounds applicable to other projects or interviews, like general tips and explanations of hard topics. This will also help you visualize your progress, so if you ever get in a rut feeling like you’re doing nothing, you have pages of proof that you’ve done a lot of work.
Start interview preparations early
Research the internships or jobs you’re wanting to interview for and figure out which of their requirements you can improve on. For me, that meant doing a few small technical projects that I could later talk about in detail during interviews. Even if you’ve already taken a class on a topic, you can always refresh yourself or find another similar class to reinforce that knowledge so you’re not stressing so much when you go into an interview!
Now is also a great time to come up with your STAR scenarios. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result, and it’s the form you should use when answering a behavioral question like, “Tell me about a time when you performed well under pressure.” Chances are you’re going to end up in a behavioral interview at some point, and if you can master the STAR method, you should do pretty well.
To start, look into the most common behavioral interview questions and come up with a list of scenarios you’ve experienced that you could use to answer those questions. Like, a time when you dealt with conflict or displayed leadership. Having that list will give you tons of options to pick from in your interview, since most of them can be applied to multiple questions. Getting this list together before interview season will give you time later to practice actually answering those questions and turning your scenarios into responses that follow the STAR form. I might make a whole post on this kind of interview so if that’s something you’re interested in let me know!
Find people that are where you want to be in five years
I have honestly learned more about my career path from the people I follow on Twitter than my college classes. I follow a bunch of women who are a few years into their engineering careers, and they’re always sharing advice for women younger than them on that same path. They’re also constantly sharing job opportunities and events, so you never know when a life-changing tweet might pop up.
Sooo ya. Go be productive! Or be productive tomorrow! Even if you take three days just to come up with your goals, that’s progress!