The summer is nearly here. I didn’t put a jacket on to come to work this morning and the university has that pre-exam feel – which is a much less nice mark of summer. In just a few weeks academic work will be over for the year. Fantastic. But what are you going to do with all that time?
Of course you want to do some of that. The exam season is gruelling and you’ll need to give yourself some nice treats and a bit of a break to recover. A holiday is definitely called for, but ideally this shouldn’t be extending over the whole summer period!
Didn’t get an internship?
Most people don’t. It’s particularly difficult to get one in your first year and they’re in short supply for those further on in degree courses too. Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself isn’t the answer to this one. You need to find something constructive to do, to enhance your CV and convince future employers that you’re the “must have” candidate.
So what then?
Think about casual jobs available for the summer. There are lots of festivals. I’ve just googled two which sprang to mind, Glastonbury and Edinburgh Fringe . Bingo! They’re both advertising posts. There’ll be many other casual summer jobs supporting festival and sporting events. Some of these will be very short term others for longer periods. You’ll probably earn a bit, maybe get to watch a festival you wanted to visit anyway, but will there be any other benefits? Of course. You’ll be developing skills which will be relevant to future graduate employment. I know someone who’s cleared litter at Glastonbury for years. I’m sure he has lots of stories to tell from that! (Including that he got to see Dolly Parton!) Resilience and a work ethic are an easy sell, but I think that the job probably provides much more to talk about. I’m guessing that it calls for a sense of humour, an ability to communicate effectively with a really wide circle of people, negotiation skills?
I go to the Edinburgh Festival every year. I’ve observed the temporary staff there. They have to be able to organise queues, managing people into position and keeping them cheerful while they wait. Interpersonal and communication skills are much in evidence. Bar staff are working under huge pressure, they multi-task and operate effectively in a team, and the ticketing staff need to display close attention to detail. All great skills sought by graduate employers.
Wanting something closer to home?
Bar or restaurant work is always an option. Flogging around local outlets with a CV is a good starting point, it demonstrates your enthusiasm. It might be worth concentrating your search on smaller employers. Costa Coffee and Starbucks will have set recruitment processes, designed to allow them to take on permanent, rather than temporary staff. The summer will probably be over before your application has worked its way through the system. On the other hand your local garden centre might need staff NOW and you might find you can start immediately. Jobs like these will give you many of the same skills on offer from work at the festivals, and you might be able to live at home and work all summer (or at least until you have earned enough money for that holiday!)
No paid jobs?
Think about volunteering. It’s true that it’s not always easy to give your time. Some of the large charities also demand unwieldy application processes, but there are sometimes opportunities with smaller charities which can be just as (or even more) rewarding and useful.
Another option is to run your own small business over the summer. Prepared to do gardening? You might find that you can develop your entrepreneurial skills by setting up a little local gardening round. Good at social media? Maybe some local companies could do with a bit of help with theirs? More advanced IT or webdesign skills? An ability to blog? Paid opportunities are out there if you go and look for them. Graduate employers will be impressed by the way in which you’ve marketed yourself and your business idea, and identified a gap in the market. You might find yourself quizzed about it in detail in subsequent interviews.
Just want to go travelling?
Perhaps you can see that this might be your last opportunity for a major trip. You don’t want to spend your life regretting not seizing the chance. You might have to work a bit harder to sell this to employers, but there could still be plenty to impress. Did you earn some money to self-fund your travels? Did you “do it on the cheap”? (If so there’s a fair bet you’ll have to overcome some unexpected problems). Did you travel to somewhere unusual and inaccessible? Did you organise the trip for you and a circle of friends, ending up feeling that herding cats would have been much easier.
Anything you shouldn’t do this summer?
Yes. Sit on the sofa and do nothing! Unless you’re unwell or there’s a family crisis, there’s no good way to explain complete inactivity to employers.
Get out there and have fun! Just get the exams done first!
(Front cover image) Pelican atop a rocky outcrop: This one is real again – I was lucky enough to get to the Galapagos over Easter!