Tips for Students: Summer Productivity and the Internship Search

Around this time of year, college students across the country realize that summer is closer than they think. Work, summer classes, and internships replace sleeping in, traveling, and staying up late. Internships tend to spark immediate fear as students begin to ask the necessary — albeit nerve wracking — questions about what opportunities are out there. We all have that one friend who is working at Facebook, a major newspaper, or has just landed their “dream job.” However, it is important to remember that other students’ successes do not take away from your own. The ins and outs of college life are difficult to navigate, so let this act as one potential “guide” to the stress of building your resume during the summer months.

First of all, an internship doesn’t make or break you. You get to choose how much time and energy you put into everything you do. Seemingly “small” opportunities can end up shaping your professional career — as with anything in life, it all depends on your contribution. While there are actual internships and job opportunities referenced in this article, they are only meant to guide you towards the right fit, not to highlight the “best” or “most competitive” options.

Identify your interests

Figuring out how your varied interests can translate into the workplace isn’t always clear. I may love journalism, but does that mean I would enjoy the Sports Reporting Internship in San Francisco? Not necessarily. If I were looking for an internship in Journalism, I might try searching some keywords on Google that pertain to my specific interests in writing — for example, “news internships bay area” or “editorial internship south bay.” This will give you a more specific idea of what is out there and how you fit into the picture.

Consider priorities and time constraints

Think about the type of opportunity that might be right for you at this point in time. If the last few quarters were spent focusing primarily on family, work, or relationships, then you’ll want to consider how these factors play in to your summer work. You wouldn’t want to get an internship that expects 40 hours a week if you can only handle 20. It is best to be honest with yourself about where your priorities lie — rest assured, even students with multiple commitments still have plenty of opportunities.

Location, location, location.

For many students, staying local is the only option, but it’s always possible to branch out through travel. Take this into account during your search, and perform a cost-benefit analysis of all opportunities at your disposal — in each situation, weigh the pros and cons. Try to consider more than just the added benefit of traveling somewhere new; this can be expensive if you aren’t prepared for the challenges of a new environment.

Paid vs. Unpaid

If you are anything like me, money plays a crucial role in choosing between opportunities. That is not to say that unpaid internships are not worth your time — some of the most sought-after internships are with non-profits where students get to work with real professionals to make a difference. Of course, paid internships can also provide a good opportunity to save money and plan for your future. Nevertheless, the smartest thing to do is examine your personal finances and better understand your needs to make the most responsible decision. In whatever capacity, the quality of the experience is the most important element of an internship. The Boys and Girls Club of America, American Cancer Society, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are all offering great opportunities for students to contribute.

Remember to Relax

Some of the most successful students are those that realize the importance of finding a healthy balance between different parts of life. Don’t get so caught up in summer work that you forget to relax and celebrate the hard work you’ve done over the last year. There is a lot you can’t learn in the classroom, and knowledge can come from unexpected places. I have done everything from presenting at conventions to six A.M. Starbucks runs — and honestly, I’ve learned a lot from both. Internships can give you an “in” to the professional workforce while still enrolled in undergraduate study. Some internships will expect you to organize excel sheets and some will have you working hands on with clients. In either case, if learning is your goal, you are sure to discover something new about your work ethic, priorities, and interests through jumping into a new experience.