If you, like many other students, waited until junior or senior year to gain internship experience, you may have been out of luck as a great deal of companies canceled internships due to the pandemic and on campus leadership activities were paused. In fact, nearly one-third of survey respondents in a LaSalle Network survey of 2021 graduated reported they did not have a single internship throughout their college career.
Internships are an excellent way to gain professional experience and get a taste of the professional world. Many interns sit alongside a team of tenured professionals and observe the day-to-day of an organization’s operations, noticing what tasks and skills are needed from entry level employees and gaining exposure to various software and business procedures. Interning is also a valuable way to network and learn from professionals within a targeted industry or role. Depending on the company and type of program, interns can actively participate in the sales process, draft email or blog copy, conduct research, try their hand at graphic design and more. In addition to contributing to their team in meaningful ways, this allows students to gain experience they can add to their resumes and reference in job interviews.
Just because you didn’t have the chance to gain these experiences and skills while interning doesn’t mean you should disregard it completely. Below are 6 ways 2021 graduates can set themselves apart and make up for lost experiences by building a stronger professional skillset.
Utilize online skill-building resources:
Virtual courses and webinars offer unique accessibility to many high-level professionals and educational opportunities. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of organizations offering valuable skill-building resources online, from software certifications to creative writing courses and more. These courses and certifications can be valuable additions to a resume and LinkedIn profile to help elevate experience and highlight a self-starter attitude.
A few of these resources include, but are not limited to, Hubspot, Google Analytics, Code Academy, Adobe Suite tutorials, LinkedIn Learning, and Duolingo.
Set up informational interviews:
Find those within your network in an industry or role you may be interested in pursuing and ask to have 15 minutes of their time for an informational interview. Alumni from your alma mater are a great place to start! Prepare questions to ask them about their career, their organization, skills they’d recommend sharpening, and tips for a job seeker looking to get into the industry or role. Learning about their day-to-day can provide insight into if it would be a career you’d like to pursue and how to set yourself up for success. Consider asking questions such as:
- What is your favorite and least favorite part of your role?
- How did you get into this career path?
- What has your experience been with growth and development through this role?
- What is the company culture like?
Attend networking events:
Networking events are still happening, many virtually or safely in-person. Many associations, schools and private companies are hosting online networking events or discussion groups and opening them up to the public during the pandemic. Consider attending as many events as possible to meet those within a targeted field, hear advice and learn about various industries and companies. This is also excellent practice for interviews.
Work with your career services center:
With limited time left to take advantage of a college career services center, graduates should schedule time to review their resume and get as much help in their job search as possible. Career services centers can offer career coaching, interview prep, or make introductions to other valuable connections, be it alumni working at various targeted companies or roles, or companies looking to hire 2021 grads.
Practice public speaking:
Interns often get the opportunity to join team meetings, learning how to present to a group and gaining public speaking experience. Public speaking is a much-needed skill in the professional world that does not come easily to many people. Find ways to practice speaking confidently and presenting ideas to a group of people in order to prepare for interviewing and the professional world. Consider enrolling in Toastmasters, which hosts virtual meetings for free in order to practice public speaking, improve communication and build leadership skills. Also consider asking an alum, professor, or group of peers to listen to you present on a topic you care about or on a project you worked on this year.
Getting involved with non-profits and regularly volunteering is a great way to gain valuable experience and learn more about how an organization operates. Inquire about problems or opportunities that need attention and offer ways in which you can help.
While continuing to job search, ensure you are going the extra mile to stand out in a competitive jobs market. Demonstrating the willingness to work independently to gain experiences many graduates missed out on can help set an applicant apart and better prepare you for success in the professional world.