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Traditional Summer Jobs vs. Unpaid Internships

With summer approaching, for college students anyways, internships may be on the brain. Sure, internships are a year-round thing, but the competition really heats up in the summertime. Internships though aren’t the only summer options for college students. Amidst the competition for summer internships, traditional job options can still help bolster your resume.

The value of internships is well-documented. You can work in your chosen field, gain real experience, and continually network with industry pros. For this article, however, we’ll give internships a little break and focus on other resume bolstering jobs for the summer.

An older post on The New York Times’ blog Motherlode weighed the benefits of letting the author’s college daughter work at her overnight summer camp rather than pursuing the summer internships her friends were taking. I have some qualms with the author’s logic–mainly the knock on internships as being glorified coffee-getters. In my number of internships I never made coffee, nor would anyone trust me to make coffee over say, writing a press release. In one of my internships I served as the Director of Communications for a major marathon.

Traditional jobs, such as camp counselors, can offer candidates valuable professional references in their job search. If you worked with one particular camp or company over a number of summers, take advantage of the reputation and connections you built during that time.

You may be without an internship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gain valuable skills otherwise. You may be able to add sales experience from a retail position, leadership experience as a camp counselor, and event management experience working for your local dance studio or athletic facility. You’ll show potential employers that you like to work hard and stay busy during your time off.

Don’t just forgo the internship route because it seems like less work. I would still advocate looking around first before committing to a different summer path. Other jobs, though, do offer a number of opportunities to impress potential employers on your resume. You can use these skills in your job search, whether you get them from a traditional summer job or an internship.

Are unpaid internships superior to traditional jobs in the summer? What’s a valuable skill you gained from a traditional summer job? We’d love to hear from you so leave a comment below.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by USAG-Humphreys

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Jen works as a Marketing Project Manager for a restaurant, a kitchen assistant for cooking classes, helps with database management, does some freelance writing, and more. She received her B.A. from the University of Maryland in Government & Politics in 2011. Currently, she resides in the Washington, D.C. area and is an avid sports fan.

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