During their time at UConn, students are exposed to many different experiential learning opportunities, the most popular of which are internships. Internships provide students with an opportunity to get hands-on experience in their field of choice and decide whether they want to pursue a career in that field after graduation.
But what if an internship is not an option?
Internships are becoming more and more competitive, so it can be difficult to secure a spot even in an unpaid position. Internships also require a substantial time commitment, often several months, that need to be dedicated for participation, and some students may not have that much time available in their schedule to take part in an internship. There are plenty of other reasons why a student may not be able to participate in an internship.
So what are some alternatives?
Here are a few popular alternatives to internships that Career Coaches at the Center for Career Development suggest for students to pursue if participating in an internship is not an option:
Volunteering – Volunteering can be a fantastic way to gain experience and be a valuable résumé builder. Volunteering is usually a lot more flexible than an internship as far as time commitment, and organizations recruit volunteers at different times during the year, so you don’t have to wait for a fall or spring “cycle” to start volunteering because opportunities can be found all the time. Volunteering is also a great way to network because someone from the organization may know of an opportunity that you may not have found on your own. Volunteering can also help you gain transferable skills that employers are looking for, which are skills gained from any experience that you can use in any field you decide to pursue after graduation. Volunteering is a great way to build leadership skills, communication skills, organizational skills, and many others depending on the experience, and all of these skills are needed in the workplace, so volunteering is definitely something to consider as you think about opportunities you can use to help you gain experience. Visit UConn’s Community Outreach page to learn more about what opportunities are available through UConn to get you started with volunteering, and also read our blog on virtual volunteering if you want to help out from home.
Skill-building – if you want to work on building a specific skill rather than gain industry experience, then there are many skill-building activities you can participate in to help you become proficient in whatever skill you want to work on. Here are some popular platforms online where you can learn and practice new skills:
- Coursera: a learning platform that allows you to take classes in virtually any professional topic and offers certificates and other credentials to help you boost your résumé. They offer courses on transferable skills and on hard skills, like knowledge of different software, systems, coding languages, and similar industry-specific knowledge.
- Udemy: a platform similar to Coursera and offers classes and certifications to help you build professional skills. Most of the content on Udemy is focused on learning hard skills like coding or industry-specific programs, so it may be a good idea to research the skills that your industry requires prior to registration.
- Duolingo: is a popular app to help you start learning a foreign language. You may want to check out other resources if you are already familiar with a foreign language because Duolingo is mostly geared towards introductory language skills, but it’s great if you want to explore different languages or learn the basics. Foreign languages can be listed in the skills section of your résumé, so you can include it on your résumé if you do end up learning enough to consider yourself at least conversational.
- YouTube: is probably the simplest option out there, but you can learn just about anything on YouTube. There are no official certificates or courses you can take through YouTube, but watching YouTube tutorials is a good first step to take if you’re not sure whether you want to enroll in an official course or sign up for a certificate program through another platform and you want to learn a little bit more about your topic first before making a commitment.
Networking – Networking with professionals in your field can be helpful to learn more about your industry and make connections with the people who may know of an opportunity that you may pursue as you continue your professional development. There are a few options available if you’re interested in virtual networking:
- LinkedIn: is a great resource to get started with networking (we even have this guide on how to build your LinkedIn profile). There are professionals within every industry that are usually open to having a conversation about their field, and you can also connect with UConn alumni to see where their degrees have taken them. You can also explore different professional opportunities on LinkedIn, such as LinkedIn Learning, to continue your professional journey.
- HuskyMentorNetwork: is a network of specifically UConn alumni who are open to conversations about résumés, interviewing, career advice, and answering any industry-related questions you may have. You can also conduct informational interviews if you’re interested in learning more about a specific industry or company and want to hear about someone’s experience.
These are just a few alternatives to internships to keep in mind. Remember that not having an internship experience on your résumé is not something to worry too much about as long as you engage with other activities that help you strengthen your professional acumen. If you would like more information, feel free to schedule an appointment with a Career Coach at the UConn Center for Career Development to have a conversation on what professional development opportunities are right for you and your circumstances.