As the school year begins to wind down, students across the country are preparing for their summer internships — and for good reason. People with internship experiences report having higher rates of employment and higher starting salaries.
"The best time to apply for internships is in August, and February is the best time to apply for summer internships, based on the number of openings," Monster career expert Vicki Salemi tells CNBC Make It.
If you missed the peak summer internship application season in February, do not fear. There are still several steps you can take to make sure that you make the most of your time off school.
Here are three things to do if you don't have a summer internship yet:
Student's should not feel disheartened over not having summer plans lined up yet because it is still possible to land a paid internship, says Salemi. "If students have missed internship application deadlines, they can still find opportunities," she explains.
If you are still looking for an internship, be sure to keep an open mind. By casting a wide net and applying for any paid internship that could help you gain helpful experience, you may find a surprising opportunity that could open your eyes to a new career you hadn't previously considered.
Additionally, students should follow up with the companies they have already applied to and they should reach out to additional companies even if they do not have open internship positions publicly posted.
"Even when interns have already signed their contract with employers, occasionally there are some who must decline at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances," says Salemi. "Or, another internship spot could have opened and the department needs to bring on additional support."
A company's priorities change and by reaching out and continuing to apply for internship positions, students can make sure they are the first person that comes to mind when an employer needs some last-minute help.
If you don't know where to start your internship search, reach out to people in your network with jobs or careers that you admire. If you don't know someone with the career you want, work with your college to find a connection that could give you valuable advice.
"Contact your career office on campus and ask for a list of alumni in your geographic region and industry and/or company you're interested in interning or eventually working for," says Salemi. "Ask if you can meet with them for an informational interview."
Once you have contact information or an informational interview, be sure to take full advantage of your networking opportunity.
"Leverage downtime in summer to your advantage. As you build rapport with your contacts and if they seem open to it, ask if you can shadow them for a day, ask for introductions to more people in their group and continue networking," explains Salemi.
Once you have exhausted all of your internship options, don't be afraid to try something different.
Taking a class online or at a nearby community college can be a cost-effective way to continue your educational development. Volunteering can help students connect with their communities and put their time to good use. Working a regular summer job is a great way to make some extra cash and is nothing to be ashamed of as well.
The most important thing is that you are setting goals and continuing to work towards them.
"Internships are valuable to open the door for full-time employment upon graduation. They provide you with opportunities to bolster your communication skills, work experience, and hone your work ethic while making valuable contacts," says Salemi. "If you were unable to land a summer internship, alternatives should aim to accomplish similar goals of the internship, most importantly focused on learning."
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