The Best Summer Jobs That Aren’t Internships

Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC. Courtesy photo


Another nontraditional option for undergrads looking to enhance their resumes is going abroad. Whether studying, interning, or partaking in a service learning opportunity, traveling to another part of the world can be of incredible significance.

At Villanova where around 55% of students graduate each year having had some type of international experience as an undergrad, some study abroad options are a two-for-one combination of course work and opportunity for an internship. “The beauty of this is that with the study abroad with internship program in it, we typically partner with a company that does internship placements to help students find intern work while they’re abroad,” Brenda Stover, director of the business school’s Center for Professional Development, says. “So it’s multifaceted. Not only do they get a global business experience, but exposure to living and working in a different culture.”

North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler school also boats study abroad internship options.

“We offer international internships that are facilitated through vendors to our students,” David Vogel, co-director of the undergraduate business program at Kenan-Flagler says. “These are great ways to simultaneously gain hands-on work experience and cultural/global awareness. We also have service learning trips. International internships take advanced planning, but for service learning, some of those opportunities are actually recruited for and open right now. Others can also be found through independent research and through networking.”

A service learning trip — or just volunteering in general — whether domestically or abroad, helps students establish team building skills, problem solving, interpersonal communication skills, and more. Obtaining such skills and being able to speak about them during job interviews can equate to big future wins for an undergraduate B-school student.


A third option for students is job shadowing. While the traditional eight to 10 week summer experience may no longer be available at a given company, this shouldn’t stop students from seeking out one- or two-day job shadowing opportunities as well as informational interviews.

David Vogel of UNC Kenan-Flagler. Courtesy photo

“We often recommend job shadowing especially if you’re earlier in your academic career and trying to figure out what you want to do,” Vogel explains. “Doing a half day or a full day shadow with a number of companies or industries is a great way to test different opportunities — especially for rising sophomores. I tell our students it’s an amazing epiphany to find out a job is exactly what you want to do and it’s also an amazing epiphany when you realize it’s not at all what you expected.”

Schools say supplementing a part-time job — whether it be waiting tables, working at the local pool, or being a camp counselor — with multiple job shadowing appointments signals to employers that a student has drive, takes initiative, and has a good work ethic.

Another way to send strong work ethic vibes is through informational interviews. At Villanova, Stover says they coach students on landing and conducting such interviews. “Students request a professional inside a company they’re interested in to share their insights,” she elaborates. “We coach students on prepping the same way they would for a regular interview, but instead of coming at it from the standpoint of getting a job, it’s about gaining intelligence about a particular industry and learning what a possible career path looks like.”


Finally, students are advised not to snub part-time roles such as camp counseling, retail, or restaurant hosting. The key is to be open-minded and to seek out the transferable skills.

Mark Sorenson-Wagner, director of the Undergraduate Business Career Center at Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management says, “We spend a lot of time telling them you don’t have to have a specific internship that will make or break your success after graduation. It’s about skills that you can communicate to employers that can add value and will make a difference to their organization. When working as a waiter or waitress or at the counter of a fast food chain, there’s customer service, conflict resolution, problem solving. Internships are fantastic for building technical skills and I think companies are doing a great job creating wonderful experiences, but you can still articulate how you add value and what you bring to the table in other ways.”

Notre Dame’s Kibbe says the best alternative to a summer internship is anything that helps build and develop on a certain skill set. “Take a part-time class that helps further develop a skill set,” Kibbe continues. “Even a part-time job at a fast food place or a company only offering 15-20 hours a week is still gaining exposure to an industry and day-to-day work activities. What we hear over and over again is do something. Employers don’t care what it is. Just demonstrate that you have a good work ethic and you’re developing a skill set as these factors can be transferable no matter what. We never want to hear a student did nothing over the summer.”

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