Expanding Your Horizons — Preparing for Summer Internships and Opportunities

Learn effective and practical strategies to improve your odds of securing summer internships and opportunities based on the time of the school year as a UC Berkeley student.

Let’s be honest, securing summer plans is the greatest stress on students’ shoulders every year. Internships and summer opportunities can be so broad, especially regarding the range of timing, methods for pursuit, and levels of stress, and application process.

Nseke Ngilbus, Honors Fellow

Summer to Fall Semester: Building a Foundation

Nseke: Many students are on vacation or relaxing. And there is nothing wrong with that and probably well-deserved, but sometimes I believe more can be done to set myself up for success without compromising my summer plans. I’m always trying to strike a balance in being productive and still having a relaxing and restorative summer. I do not want to come back to school exhausted and ill-prepared or already feeling ‘behind.’

The most important thing is knowing what you want, or at least starting to think about it.

We can help you structure a plan to accomplish your goals. The most important thing is knowing what you want, or at least starting to think about it. That way, you can keep your eye on opportunities as they come your way. The Career Center has a Career Clarity test to help students gain clarity on the best career path for them. Also, it will be imperative to start building your resume and LinkedIn because you must establish a professional identity. The Career Center can help you with this as well. Sometimes the hardest part is just starting — we can help guide and refine.

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

Fall Semester to Winter Break: Creating a Strategy for Success

Nseke: Once the fall semester has started, most students are still getting into the swing of things. They are figuring out their classes, financial aid, extracurricular activities, etc. They have come back from a summer layoff and need to reintegrate into university life. Students subconsciously know that they have the entire year to lock down summer plans. While there is truth to this, I noticed the students who get the best opportunities, internships, research programs, or self-directed projects began looking in the fall semester. I even found out that there are many internships that you can only secure in the fall for the upcoming summer.

We have worked hard to develop connections and resources so students can access job and internship opportunities that support their professional development.

In addition to the Career Center, explore the UC Berkeley Career Network and coffee chat opportunities. Students will find that many Cal alums want to talk and help you in your career journey. Students should know that the connections they forge and leverage will help them get the opportunities they want in the short-term and many times, long-term. Data from LinkedIn states LinkedIn members are four times more to get hired when referred. So get to networking! Lastly, keep improving your personal branding and strengthen your interview skills through Big Interview, an online interview prep platform. Go into interviews confident, knowing that you have adequately prepared and can articulate how your experience is relevant to the specific opportunity.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Winter Break to Spring Break: Implementing Your Strategy

Nseke: This is where panic may start to creep in for students that have not secured anything. The school year is halfway over, and they have not confirmed a summer internship quite yet. Some of their friends are now relieved of the stresses of the dreaded internship search, but they are not. This is when I have seen a shift in students’ mindsets. Students start to think that they better secure something or else they’ll be out of luck for the summer. I have been here too. It is not an easy position to be in.

Too often, students think they want a specific internship or job without talking with or shadowing people in that field.

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Spring Break to Summer: Planning Ahead

Nseke: This is when I find students who have not secured something for the summer transition to full panic. The sudden realization that we are basically in April and only one month left of school hits students very hard and is stressful! They are now in full-time search for internships and summer opportunity mode. This can be challenging because they are simultaneously trying to finish strong in their classes and prepare for finals. One thing that students may not realize or account for is the time and energy needed in the job search and interview process.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Conclusion: My Thoughts

Securing a summer internship or opportunity can be daunting for many reasons: How do you find opportunities? What are good opportunities? How long should it take to find opportunities? Will I even get paid or have the chance to negotiate? The most significant piece of advice I can offer is to have a professional advocate in your corner. Whether it is your professor, career counselor, or UC Berkeley alum, share your story and goals and let them help you accomplish them. They have been through what you are going through now and can advise on how to navigate it successfully. While there is no set number of times to meet your advocate, attempt to establish a genuine relationship with them by having monthly or bi-monthly check-ins. I meet with Heidi bi-weekly. The frequency of our meetings are not that essential, but our connection is! The more your advocate knows about you, the more they will keep their eye out for networking events, people, and opportunities beneficial to you. So, please don’t do it alone; get an advocate, be proactive, and increase your chances of getting that opportunity you deserve.

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