Ask an Expert: Alternatives to Summer Internships

Rachel Mangiavellano, Career Consultant, College of Engineering

Q: I wasn’t able to land an internship this summer. What are my options to still gain some experience and build my skills?

Summer is a great time to engage in some resume building activities! Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Take a course to learn a new skill or improve upon an existing one. There are a number of low cost or free options through sites like edX, Coursera, FutureLearn, and Udacity. *Keep in mind that there are higher cost options on these sites to earn certificates and credentials but those are not necessary to access the material.
  • Complete a micro internship (or two!). Micro internships are a chance to take on short-term, paid, professional projects with companies or entrepreneurs who don’t have a current need for a full-summer intern. These projects are a great way to explore as well as network for potential future opportunities. Check out the postings at Parker Dewey
  • Complete a virtual work experience (for free!). Forage offers programs that can be done at your own pace and replicate actual work at real companies. Each experience details the skills you will learn in each module. Additionally, as you complete the tasks, you will be able to see how professionals in the industry approached it. Khan Academy also offers an Imagineering in a Box program for artists, designers, and engineers with project-based exercises to show how Disney theme parks come together.  
  • Volunteer. Volunteer work looks great on a resume and many opportunities allow you to use and build upon skills you are developing in your degree program. Some sites will even allow you to sort opportunities by skills. Check out MSU’s Center for Community Engaged Learning, VolunteerMatch, and idealist
  • Conduct major or industry-specific projects. For example, you could build a website, develop an app, create data visualizations using Tableau, practice design with Canva or purchase an Arduino kit and practice programming a “mini computer.”  Need help getting started? Check out resources like YouTube and online blogs and tutorials.
  • Complete a certificate program to boost your marketability. MSU offers some certificate programs in Business Analytics, Strategic Leadership, and Supply Chain. Some additional certification areas include Human Resources, Project Management, Financial Analyst, and Digital Marketing. *Many of these do have an associated cost.
  • Participate in company-based challenges or competitions. Many of these types of programs are offered during the academic year but Google, NASA, and IBM are a few companies that offer summer programs where you or a team can compete to solve problems.
  • Pick up a part-time job. All work teaches valuable transferable skills that employers highly value including communication, team work, problem solving, and time management.
  • Pick one or a couple of these to engage in this summer and enhance your skill set and marketability for an internship or full-time role next year. But don’t forget to also enjoy your summer and take the opportunity to recharge after a busy academic year! If you need any help generating more ideas specific to your interests, be sure to schedule an appointment with your career advisor.
By Rachel Mangiavellano
Rachel Mangiavellano Associate Director of Early Career Development & Experiential Education, College of Engineering