The wheelie rider above, Zach Dischner, is an Aerospace Engineering student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He took this picture of the Milky Way during a summer adventure/research experience at Mt. Hood in Oregon. His dramatic photograph would be a great “show and tell” item to help start a networking conversation with almost anyone!
This networking scenario would be fully endorsed by friend of UMBC and quirky career expert Donald Asher. A staunch advocate of intensive networking, Asher has created a new, free career development program for college students called “Life Launch”. The first module starts off with Donald lecturing from a dumpster (as far from the Milky Way as you could imagine).
… Meanwhile, we want to acquaint you with another cardinal Asher principle.
YOU MUST DO SOMETHING PROFESSIONAL DURING THE SUMMER AFTER YOUR JUNIOR YEAR.
In other words, based on decades of experience with college students launching themselves into the workforce, some with more success than others, Donald Asher has seen a clear, unmistakable pattern. Students who have a solid professional experience in that final summer in college have a much, much better chance to land a professional position after graduation. And if you are headed to graduate or professional school, that summer activity is also something that can strengthen your credentials and your application.
Not only do you want to do “something professional,” but you want that something to be as closely tied to your future career as possible.
EXAMPLE: Aspiring Astrophysicist
If you are headed to graduate school to seek a Ph.D. in astrophysics, spending that junior summer working as an intern at NASA Goddard could be life-changing. Another great option would be participating in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program thematically related to your area of career and research interest. There are REU sites all over the country (and a few abroad) that essentially invite talented undergraduates to participate in the research program of the site for about 10 weeks during the summer, with all expenses and a stipend provided. Applications are generally due in February.
EXAMPLE: Prospective Physician Assistant
Most health professions expect students entering professional school to have spent a lot of time in clinical settings prior to admission. This is absolutely essential for Physician Assistants, who are expected to have worked in some capacity—paid or unpaid, full or part-time—for many hours (1000+ hours for the PA program at George Washington University). It is therefore a “no brainer” that the junior year summer for a prospective physician assistant would be spent in a hospital, clinic, group practice, or the like.
EXAMPLE: Probable Public Servant/Policy Analyst/Elected Official
A student who sees a future career in government or public administration can use that junior summer to participate in the (Maryland) Governor’s Summer Internship or other Federal and State government internship programs. Or, an enterprising student may work in a political campaign or as a community organizer. There is a Maryland Democratic Party summer internship and a Maryland Republican Party Internship (election years only)—both unpaid, but invaluable for the student who wants a career in politics and government.
EXAMPLE: Likely Linguist/Translator/ESL Specialist
Spending time abroad is career-related for students who want to work as linguists, translators, international educators, etc. The Critical Language Scholarship offered by the State Department is a not-to-be-missed and fully funded opportunity for studying languages such as Arabic, Chinese, and Farsi in countries where those languages are spoken. Stateside, special summer programs such as the Summer Language Workshop at Indiana University provide intensive study in languages not often taught at U.S. universities, such as Dutch, Urdu, Turkish and Ukrainian.
Five Big Reasons to Focus on that Junior Summer Experience
Why is that junior summer experience so incredibly valuable? Here are 5 good reasons:
1. Your internship supervisor or research leader will become a go-to person for a letter of recommendation in the fall when you apply to graduate or professional school or a reference on your job-seeking resume.
2. You will have demonstrated in a very concrete way your commitment to your field. And your commitment will be based on actual first-hand experience, not just speculation.
3. You will have shown that you are a high-caliber individual if you are accepted into and successfully complete a competitive summer internship or research program.
4. You will learn a great deal about the field, develop relevant skills, and therefore make yourself a better applicant and more effective once you enter the field.
5. You will have an excellent opportunity to clarify and refine your career and educational goals.
Even more reasons:
- Sometimes that internship leads directly to a desirable job offer for post-graduation.
- Sometimes you meet friends and mentors who stay with you for a long time.
- Sometimes you discover that you really do not want to be a ___________________ (veterinarian, dance therapist, biochemist, urban planner) and you can replan accordingly.
BONUS LINKS: SUMMER INTERNSHIPS
Governor’s Summer Internship Program (GSIP) application information on Shriver Center site
Practicing Their Passion: profiles of UMBC students as summer Interns on Career Services site
BONUS LINKS: SUMMER RESEARCH
Summer Research Opportunities for Undergraduates listing on Office of Undergraduate Education site
UPCOMING WORKSHOP: Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, 2:30 – 4:30 pm details here
“How to Write a Personal Statement for SURF”--- an undergraduate summer research fellowship at NIST (National Institute for Standards and Technology) in Gaithersburg, MD and Boulder, CO.
EXTRA CREDIT FUN POLL
What are you planning on doing this summer?