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Home  > Article

What's Your "Plan B" for Summer Internships?

By Joe Bucher
Student Branding Blog

You may have started an internship search sometime during the spring semester or before. Some of you may have been surprised by how competitive it can be to secure a summer internship. For those of you who have landed an internship? Congrats! But if you haven't found the right internship yet, I want to encourage you to think about a Plan B.

I will be honest with you, I am not normally a planner in my everyday life. I leave that to those who enjoy planning and organization more than I do. However, there are certain things that are just easier to be successful in if you have a plan.

Many internship deadlines have passed or are right upon us. While there are definitely opportunities available, it's time to start thinking about what you will do if you don't get a summer internship. Thinking about these things ahead of time will help you not only with finding an internship but also with your overall career development.

Here are 4 things that you can do if you don't gain a summer internship:

1. Do an honest assessment of yourself and develop skills necessary to gain an internship

The easiest and most efficient way to assess yourself is to review the descriptions of the internships that you applied to. If you see that you are missing important aspects of the skill sets from the description:
  • Consider developing those skills over the summer either on your own or through classes.
  • Think about how you can target your fall semester class projects to increase your aptitude and add to your resume.
  • Review some fall internships and determine if they would be better fits for you based on your skills and experience.
  • Remember, that you can develop skills and apply to an internship that you missed out on for the following summer.
2. Do some career research

If you have a certain career path in mind or even if  you are not quite sure which areas to focus on, use this time to do some additional research.

Some things that you can do today are:
  • Review the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) which can help you to gain an understanding of the demands of your desired occupation including: training/education needed, earnings, expected job prospects, and an overview of working conditions.
  • Speak with professionals through informational interviews as  a way to learn and connect with professionals in your field.
  • Get insider info by researching blogs and utilizing social media to search for good sources of information on your industry and organizations of choice.
3. Evaluate your marketing materials

Your application materials and your personal brand are what employers will use to determine what kind of employee you will be.

Consult with your career center and a trusted industry insider to:
  • Have your resume and cover letter critiqued.
  • Do a mock interview with a career counselor to get feedback on your interview skills.
  • Evaluate your online presence.
  • Take the information you gained from your assessment and career research and incorporate what you learned into your application materials.
4. Develop transferable skills through part-time or volunteer work

Transferable skills are skills that you may have acquired over time through work, classes, and even activities. These skills are essential to any job that you are seeking and can assist you in your job search by highlighting them in your application materials.

Some tips to maximize your volunteer or part-time opportunities would be to:
  • Seek opportunities that are related to the particular cause or population that you would like to work with.
  • Create your own opportunities by targeting specific employers to send an internship or volunteer proposal. Remember to be specific about how you would be able to help out the organization.
  • Based on your self-evaluation from tip #1, seek out opportunities that will help you develop skills that you were lacking from internship descriptions.

During this time of uncertainty it is important to stay positive and continue to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to continue to progress. While a summer internship will provide you with a great chance to develop in your field, there are many other ways to gain valuable experience.


Joe is a career counselor at San Jose State University. His areas of specialization include: experiential education, resume development, interview preparation, job search strategy, and assessment inventories. In his role, he also serves as the community manager for the Career Center's social media outlets. Connect with Joe on Twitter or follow samplings of his work via the SJSU Career Center Blog and Career Action Now.

The Student Branding Blog, part of the Personal Branding Network, is the #1 resource for career and personal branding advice for high school, college and graduate students.

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