Management Consulting
Dec 21, 2022
Summer internships are an important step to impress a potential employer if you are eyeing the big names, especially in the summer before your final year. But do not despair if you did not get one. There are plenty of options for the summer and while summer internships are an excellent opportunity to convert an internship into a full-time offer at the same employer, they are not as important for other potential employers, even less so if you have done a summer internship in a different industry.
So what can you do now if plan A did not work out?

Widen your search
Have you only applied to the big names? Consider that there may be plenty of other companies out there that could also offer you a valuable insight into the sector in which you're interested. It could be a smaller bank, fund or consultancy. Things might be less formalised there, they might be willing to create an extra internship post and might not need approval from HQ. They might be grateful for an extra pair of hands, and you get more out of the internship. It might come out of fashion, but picking up the phone can do wonders compared to sending in yet another CV, especially if you are looking at something on short notice.

Volunteering looks great on your CV. Often you can find volunteering opportunities in something that is relevant or appropriate to you. You will gain great transferrable skills and experience. It also demonstrates that your time is spent productively and that you have a caring side to you. What’s more – it gives you a chance to make a difference and give back to a community. If you are available for the whole summer, you might even get a managerial role overseeing a small team which will look good on your CV. Depending on the organisation, youmight even be able to make connections with some high-level figures involved in your charity.
You could work for organizations such as your local pet shelter, a food bank, a tutoring service for kids, help preparing for job interviews or a group that dresses women who need business-appropriate clothing. The work itself can range from talking to potential donors and encouraging them to give money to working on marketing campaigns to spreading awareness about a particular initiative. When there’s a cause you care about, this can be quite fulfilling work.
If you have a nearby charity in mind, check their website, give them a call, or stop by to inquire about volunteer opportunities. Your university might have some useful contacts, too.

Build your profile
In contrast to continental Europe, UK graduate hiring does not place as much emphasis on work experience. I interviewed quite a few candidates with no work experience at all and they did not perform worse than candidates with internships. That being said, if you want to make it to the interview, your profile needs to get some polishing elsewhere. Short of doing extra credits (see below), there are other things you could do.
  • Try to learn coding/relevant software applications and get certificates for it. If you are involved in one or more relevant societies/groups at uni, see what you can do over summer – it might help with getting into a leadership position for the next year
  • If you want to get into finance, get/expand quant and/or ML knowledge - depending on your uni, you could get a really prestigious additional name on your CV (e.g. Harvard, Columbia etc.) through courses at edX or other providers, not as expensive as you might think
  • For these two, try to build up a GitHub portfolio – a great way of showcasing what you have achieved so far
  • Take summer classes in another language and get certificates for this; a lot can be done online, but maybe you can even take classes in the respective country
Find part-time, full-time, or freelance work at a company within your target range
There are plenty of organizations that don’t have official internship programs but likely could use some extra assistance over summer. Focus first on these questions: What’s your desired industry or function? What role do you hope to get? Once you’ve narrowed your interests and done some research, make a list of companies you’re reaching out to, and start connecting directly. Sometimes there’s an HR contact on the website or you might find someone who’s in a managerial role on LinkedIn. Try to find a specific person’s email (or even phone number), and politely reach out. If they are not able to help you directly, ask who else you could contact. H

Retake exams or classes, get extra credits
Not exactly a mind-blowing option, I know. However, if there is an option to push your grades up by retaking exams or taking some extra classes, think about it. A high average might even beat a summer internship on your CV. Depending on how your uni reports grades in its transcripts, no one will even get to know that you retook exams.

Get a (local) summer job
Seasonal industries and other local businesses might need short-term workers. Some of them offer quite decent pay as well. Have an eye on tax allowances as well as you will be within the 0% allowance for most summer jobs. This might not sound as exciting as a prestigious internship but it will add to your skill set and show that you’ve developed a work ethic, working eight-hour shifts. You are likely to interact with customers on a regular basis, be trusted to handle cash and/or stocks and probably make decisions that have an impact on the success of the business. Personally, I value this experience quite highly, having to deal with an irate customer and solve a conflict will give you people skills a plush internship at your dad’s friends investment firm won’t teach you. To land a local job, you can either try to find a contact form if there’s a website, walk in with a resume, or call the person who would hire you if you’re able to find their phone number. And once you’re in the door, you could potentially ask to do something more specific to what you’d actually like to learn, maybe there is a bit of accounting to do or a sales forecast.

Assist a Researcher or Professor
You could help a professor or researcher at your uni (perhaps you like their work or have taken one of their classes). If that individual writes papers and books, for example, you could ask if they need help with background research, proofreading, fact-checking, transcribing, or completing other tasks for their latest project. Co-authoring a paper is something not everyone is getting to do, although more often than not you might just be mentioned in a footnote, but this is still something that you can show to the outside world in your CV.

Freelance/microjobs/microinternship (or several)
Remote work has become more popular, so microinternships are a natural extension of microjobs: small, project-based internships that take about a few to 40/50 hours of work but can often offer payment. In practice, you might be writing an article for a company’s blog, identifying qualified candidates for a role a company’s hoping to fill, searching for sales leads or studying competitors’ social media accounts and writing reports identifying what they’re doing successfully.
You can register a profile on sites like Upwork or or Fiverr to gain this sort of additional experience. While you will quite likely start with smaller one-off tasks, you can work your way up to larger, longer-lasting projects. You might even find some tasks that you can do during the week to earn some money on the side
These micro jobs can usually be done remotely and if you don’t like the work, it doesn’t usually last long. You can do several of them over the summer—which can help you explore roles, companies, and industries you’re considering—and it’s great for building your professional network with hiring managers.

Job shadowing
Some universities offer this as a part of career service, but you can also ask companies or contacts if you can shadow someone for a day or two. That is a great way to get first-hand insights. This isn’t just about seeing what a job is like day-to-day: You’re also building your professional network. You can count anyone you have shadowed as a connection, so make sure you ask to shadow politely, be gracious if they say no, and thank them if they do give you the opportunity. Pro tip: you can mention this on your CV, but do not blow it up into a job aor even hands-on executive experience

Pursue a personal project
Not convinced of any of the above? Try a personal project like cycling the length of the UK, running a half-marathon, learning to cook complex meals. You might not get immediate recognition for it, but you could blog about it, take videos for social media etc. If it something that you can link to raising funds for charity, even better. This can really be a conversation starter on your CV and will set you apart from those more streamlined CVs with summer internships.