Memo to students: If you didn't land that dream internship this summer, don't panic.
While on-the-job experience is a good way to get the skills future employers look for, career experts say it's far from the only way to get ahead.
Here's a crash plan to help make the most of your summer:
Yes, the hot spots at Google and Apple may be gone already, yet May is still a decent month to land an internship — particularly in business, marketing, and computer science, says Paul D'Arcy, senior vice president of Indeed, a job-search website.
Some school job boards and websites like Monster and Indeed allow users to set up alerts that do the busywork for you, notifying you when a suitable job is posted.
Think of unusual ways to use your skills. A charity group hosting a summertime event, for instance, may need a local ad-hoc bookkeeper (ideal for accounting majors), says Vicki Salemi, career expert at job-search website Monster.
The experience may also help you determine if this is the right career path, says Kylan Nieh of LinkedIn.
"It's not until you're actually out there fighting the war, building those skills, and doing the work that you know if this really is something you could actually be doing when you get out," he says.
Joyce Hodel, data scientist at Care.com, says it's easier than ever for college students to create their own businesses. Consider easy-to-launch operations like dog walking or gardening with seasonal opportunities.
The faster you complete your course work, the faster you're out of school (you might even save some money). Summer courses at a local college might be cheaper than your regular school and transferable. Picking up some credits over the summer may also leave your schedule free for an internship during the fall or winter semester.
If the deadline for that dream summer intership has passed, start thinking about the fall. Gather the paperwork and build the knowledge your preferred companies might require. This will place you ahead of the curve, in addition to making you ready to jump on any last-minute opportunities that might pop up.
Remember to keep everything in perspective: Internships help employers evaluate candidates, but also help interns suss out which companies suit them best. That dream job might not be the best fit, something you might discover more easily as a temp or contractor.