How to Advance Your Career Without an Internship

Posted by MassApply on July 1, 2020

Last month, we released an article for those that are looking to maximize their summer internship; but as a company we know all too well the devastating impacts coronavirus has had on the employment prospects for students this summer, whether that be internship or otherwise. Our team at MassApply has brainstormed some tips to help you stay productive and have a more than fulfilling summer.

1. Summer Classes

Whether it’s getting ahead to graduate early, or catching up to stay on track, taking classes at your university is a great way to keep academics in your daily life throughout the summer. An alternative, more feasible option, to those who may not want to take formal summer classes is building their skills up in areas that are not offered at their university.

Online Resources

A great alternative to the structured, formal option of university classes is online resources. Websites like Udemy, Coursera, Skillshare, Udacity, and more offer full-classes that can be taken on your own time, at your own pace, and include a variety of skill levels. The subject from lessons can range from learning how to code, to web development, to data analytics, and other technical skills or even hobbies such as an instrument or language. Top-tier schools like Harvard, MIT, and the University of Michigan offer free online courses from subjects like computer science to biochemistry-- and they are oftentimes taught in a similar manner to traditional university coursework. A class that has gained popularity recently, especially given the current pandemic circumstances, is Harvard's CS50 and is a great option for beginners looking to explore computer science. Depending on your university, you may also have the opportunity to take classes on websites like Coursera for free given university partnerships.


The most advantageous option to these online courses is, oftentimes, a certification is presented to the student following the completion of the curriculum. These certificates are a valuable addition to your resumes and future interviews as you can expand on exactly what you have learned with the certificate for proof of mastery. Another great free option for many university students is that many schools have a partnership with LinkedIn Learning, allowing access to a plethora of free resources and classes that oftentimes produce a certificate at the end.

In the next section, we'll discuss how you can go a step beyond certifications to show employers a tangible product that demonstrates to them you've not only mastered the content you learned, but know how to apply these skills as well.

2. Portfolio Development

Internships are a great way to garner skills to broaden your application areas for future ventures, but another way to show employers how you can apply what you know is a portfolio. Portfolios consist of any side-projects that you put in weeks worth of work to demonstrate certain skills and ideally have something publicly available (published, open-sourced).

Where to Start

The easiest way to brainstorm for the ideas and projects to include in your portfolio is by taking a “big picture” approach and thinking of something that can be directly targeted. With the example of data analytics, we want to choose a research question that targets a specific problem and can be answered using multiple datasets, and then proceed to showcase the different skills you’ve learned to support your conclusion. Another example would be in the realm of software engineering, think of a specific problem or hindrance you want to target and then build your platform around that, rather than coming up with the solution first and then thinking of exactly what you want to target.

In any industry, there will always be something that you at the individual level can produce. If you are in Technology or Engineering, you’re in a position to build your own product and get some initial users! If you are studying any of the major Sciences, you can conduct your own research (via the Internet) and publish what you learned. If you’re into Liberal Arts, or any other area for that matter, you have the ability to WRITE about anything you’re interested in or have learnt!

For research-oriented portfolio projects that may be harder to provide an end-product for, here a few items worth including:

  • Different Stages of the Process: This is especially important in a non-visual product so that employers can see your thought-process behind your work
  • Relevant skills and certifications: explain how they were used in the process to come up with your solution
  • Summarized Findings: This is in the case of showing your portfolio in a setting that doesn’t allow the reviewer all the time in the world to look at every detail
  • Future considerations/ Key takeaways: shows higher-level analysis towards both the process and product, efficiency in production
The important piece to note about working on these projects, is having something to show for your efforts. This is what will set you apart from anyone else that claims to have done something of value this summer, but lacks the substance to back it up. The only limitations you have for this summer are ones you impose on yourself. It is up to you to come out of this period with new skills, knowledge, and results to prove it.

3. Prepping for Your Next Internship Cycle

Some of the most successful applicants in the internship cycle start their job search now for the following summer-- you can never be too early! Now is a great time to start compiling a list of prospective companies, and maybe even reaching out to employees on LinkedIn to get in contact with higher ups, essentially getting your name out there sooner.

An important consideration to keep in mind when compiling your list is figuring out exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are to find job descriptions that match up to who you are as a candidate: This will really help in the interview process as the more you can talk about your strengths and exactly how you align with a role, the stronger and more confident you seem.

The summer is a great time to create or revise your resume to be not only up-to-date, but more polished and refined than the previous cycle. There are many resources online that teach you exactly what recruiters like/dislike to see on a resume so that everything on your resume is there for a reason. Every single spot on your resume and every word written should have some sort of purpose! Filler words are not your friends when crafting the perfect resume. This is also a great time to get as many eyes on your resume and get professional advice on if it looks professional for your field.

With this summer being one quite unorthodox from past summers, there is a high possibility that there will be questions included in the interview pertaining to your productivity during quarantine if you were not able to get an internship. This is a great time to talk or even send your portfolio and your resume with all your new certifications to show the hiring manager that you did not let this summer go to waste.

Although this summer was one that no one expected, it is no use at this point to dwell on any missed opportunities given the current circumstances. Hiring managers and companies know all too well the impacts to the hiring season, especially for college students, as they may have had to make their own internal changes to adapt for this summer. With that being said, there are still a lot of things you can do to prove yourself in the next application process and stand-out. Think of this almost like a self-employed internship! Treat it as such, and hold yourself accountable and disciplined to maximize your productivity.

The Team at MassApply wishes you the best of luck with everything you decide to tackle this summer! Be sure to use to help prepare for the next internship cycle using our organizational dashboard and cold-emailing tool to get noticed this next hiring season.