May 7, 2012

Internal affairs

With just a month remaining in the academic year, time is running out to find a summer job. While it may be stressful to be stuck in limbo while friends and classmates score exciting internships, it is important to remember that it is still entirely possible to have a productive and rewarding break—with or without a Metcalf. Being proactive and flexible—though not a sure bet—can help improve one’s chances of a successful summer. And it’s worth keeping in mind that “successful” doesn’t have to mean busy, either.

Perhaps the most critical thing to keep in mind about the summer job search is that it is, at the end of the day, a numbers game. Don’t be afraid to play it. We all probably know someone who applied to a mere handful of top preferences and had their pick of offers, but life doesn’t always work out that way. So send in a resume and cover letter to as many potential jobs as possible, even those that are less-than-perfect, not in your dream city, or not precisely in your field of interest. You may not get exactly what you want, but you’ll be increasing the odds of having options in the first place.

A good way to increase your number of applications is to look beyond the CAPS website. Professors might have research opportunities that are not well-advertised. Companies and organizations may be willing to take on summer workers even if they don’t have official internship programs. You won’t know unless you ask. Even if they don’t have anything available, they might be willing to point you in the direction of a place that does.

Remember to always play up the personal angle in any correspondence with a potential employer. This doesn’t mean you have to be lucky enough to have family friends at a company you want to work for. If you’re passionate about the work a professor has done, make sure to tell her. If you’ve been closely following that start-up or subscribe to that nonprofit’s newsletter, let them know. Seeking out alumni, with whom you already share the bond of a college experience, is an easy way to put this advice into practice.

Finally, keep in mind something that doesn’t get pointed out enough in our high-pressure, pre-professional culture: There’s nothing wrong with not having a job. One such often-overlooked possibility for the summer is volunteering. It might not directly relate to your career aspirations, but a volunteer position can help develop many of the same skills an internship would. As an added benefit, you get to leave work every afternoon with a sense of having advanced a cause you care about. Volunteering also frequently comes with more time flexibility than an internship would, leaving open the possibility of picking up a job for extra cash on the side.

People often spend a summer without formal employment while still making productive use of their time. Take the freedom you have in store to do something fulfilling. Read, write, draw, learn a new language, work out every day—the possibilities are numerous and diverse. This might be one of the last summers in your life you will have so little to do and so few concerns to worry about; you might as well take advantage of it. No matter what you’re doing or how much you’re paid (if at all), summer is a time to put your interests first.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.