How to Gain Experience Beyond The Summer Internship

“1 to 2 years of experience”, “Demonstrated experience in…” “Knowledge and ability to…” These are all phrases that appear on job descriptions, but what happens when you don’t have enough paid experience to meet the requirements?

Employers seek candidates who have demonstrated their qualifications through past working experience. While paid internships are the most common method to gain experience, many internships are completed during a 3-month summer break. This valuable, but short period of time limits the amount of internship experience a college student can gain. Don’t just rely on your summer internship though; supplement them with other valuable experiences.

So, what else counts as relevant experience?

College students are often under the impression that only paid experience matters. Well, you’ll be happy to know that this is not the case. Unpaid experiences often allow more room for creativity, schedule flexibility, and unplanned positive impact.

  • Do an unpaid internship during the school year: target small, local organizations who have a need, but don’t have a traditional internship program.
  • Engage in group projects; as a college student, many courses offer the opportunity to work with a group to complete short-term or long-term projects.
  • Get involved on campus – join a student group focused around your career interests. If you want to be a programmer, join the computer science club. If you enjoy publishing, apply to be apart of the student newspaper.
  • Join a sports team – team sports provide a fun and healthy outlet, where you can meet new people, and enhance your ability to collaborate and motivate others.
  • Volunteer for a local organization – build out your network and experience by finding an organization with a strong purpose and goals aligned with your career interests.

How can they add to my skillset?

All experiences, no matter what kind, provide you with learning opportunities and chances to build upon the skills you had gained at your internship. Sample skills include:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Event planning
  • Problem solving
  • Conflict resolution
  • Dedication
  • Initiative

Should I put them on my resume?

Definitely. Any and all relevant experiences should be placed on your resume. Treat an unpaid internship, volunteer role, or group project as you would treat a paid internship. Describe each experience and highlight not only what you did, but also your major accomplishments. Remember, completing these relevant experiences will make tailoring your resume much easier.

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Rhonda Sarmento

Rhonda Sarmento has over 5 years of experience in career and professional development and is currently the Sr. Career Specialist at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Her expertise is in helping student’s identify, embrace, and communicate their strengths to employers through engaging in meaningful experiences. She received her M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from East Carolina University and her B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.