Internships rescinded due to the 2020/2021 shutdown. Sports and club events canceled. Zoom classes from your bedroom at home. Definitely not the college experience you signed up for. The pandemic has altered the college experience for the class of 2022 and derailed many students’ plans for their career launch, but it doesn’t have to.
While the benefits of completing an internship are gaining real-world experience and making professional connections, don’t let the lack of one play mind games with your confidence or hold you back from going after what you want, deserve and have worked hard for these past few years. You can’t go back and change what was, but you can move forward and influence what could be.
Here are six ways to move beyond the lack of an internship and build the bridge to job search success:
1. Consider taking an externship.
An externship, like an internship, is an experiential learning opportunity, and depending upon the length of the engagement, can be paid or unpaid.
Even a short-term experience shadowing a professional in your field of interest or limited involvement in a project or event can yield great results in terms of adding meat to your resume and making valuable connections. Career centers can help direct you to these opportunities or you can search for them online.
2. Use LinkedIn to reach a wider audience and ask your network for help.
LinkedIn is free and waiting for you to take your place on the platform. Sign up for a LinkedIn profile and learn how to optimize it and use it. Resources to learn how to do this are abundant!
LinkedIn is not a short-term strategy. Embrace it as your digital network where working professionals go to grow their careers, share information and help each other be successful. Asking for help with job leads and making connections or introductions can be a powerful way to kickstart conversations that could open the door to your dream job.
3. Gain certifications that are important to the type of work you want to do.
Review several job postings that interest you and find the skills or specific certifications that are common across the postings. Target those to strengthen your candidacy. LinkedIn has a large database of skills testing that you can tap into, and once you complete the testing, it provides a badge to post to your profile to demonstrate to recruiters that you have mastered that particular skill, taking the guesswork out of your qualifications for recruiters.
“What certification(s) do you recommend I focus on?” is a great question to ask during an informational interview with someone doing the work you want to do to fast track your efforts. The internet is full of other reliable sources of continuing education/certifications that can serve this purpose as well.
4. Reach out to alumni from your college/university.
Fellow alumni love to help one of their own! Join your school’s alumni association and search its database (and its LinkedIn page!) to locate alumni that work at one of your target companies or is doing the type of work you want to do; ask for a conversation to explore what guidance they can provide.
Shared collegiate experiences and the desire to help a graduate from their alma mater can push you to the front of the line for job opportunities that may have been out of reach before. This strategy also applies to fellow fraternity/sorority members!
5. Join organizations that align with your career goals.
This is a great way to gain exposure to the industry you want to work in, specific work you want to do and people you want to meet. Sign up for their newsletters, attend its social events (in-person or virtual), volunteer for a committee or offer to contribute to its social media presence.
Organizational involvement should go on your resume and help boost your experience, value and credibility. You can absorb so much by being part of a larger group in your field of interest and share those takeaways during interviews.
6. Start a blog, vlog, podcast or newsletter.
If you find that the doors you are knocking on are slow to open, create a vehicle to display your knowledge, passion and resourcefulness. The barrier to entry to launch a social media presence is minimal, and if you have the skills to manage the technology aspect, all the better!
Adding a blog, vlog, podcast or original monthly newsletter to the experience line on your resume can raise your credibility and help employers view you as someone they need in their organization. Consider the platform you choose as a living and constantly evolving job interview. Even after you land the job, you can keep your social footprint growing as a side hustle or long-term passion project.
Yes, internships are often a highly valuable gateway onto the career path of your choice, but the reality is, many in the class of 2022 may have missed out on this rite of passage. The happy news is that the lack of an internship can also provide a chance for a new graduate to dig deep into their creativity bank and search out opportunities they may not have considered to set them apart from the competition.
Like all things in life, there is always more than one way to get to your desired outcome, and the rewards of taking an alternate path can be highly rewarding. Class of 2022—you got this!
This article was originally posted on Forbes.com on April 1, 2022 as part of the Forbes Coaches Council. The original article can be viewed here.
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