Author: Adrianna Waters
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted thousands of college students’ lives in the spring 2020 semester, and unfortunately, it continues to interrupt summer plans. Several college students, especially upperclassmen, use summer as an opportunity to gain valuable and marketable experience through internships, jobs, study abroad programs, and more. While the U.S. is on a path toward normalcy—albeit a muddled and long path—many summer experiences were suspended, canceled, or diminished to accommodate for safety and social distancing practices, leaving college students without the chance to gain valuable skills.
However, just like how we adapted to work or study at home, college students can adapt to acquire marketable skills, portfolio pieces, and more from home. Here are a few ways to build up your resume and portfolio without a summer internship.
Start New Projects
Have you had an idea for a short story typed in your laptop for months, only to never be explored because of time? Or have you been itching to start a blog but never got around to it? If you are without the internship or experience you sought, summer is a great way to start new projects or writing. By doing so, you build up portfolio pieces and gain more experience writing or working in a specific field, both of which will help you market yourself for a future job.
For English majors, writing is one of the strongest ways to improve your portfolio. If you are a creative writer, using the summer to create a writing schedule for poetry or prose writing will strengthen your portfolio and your artistic accomplishments; however, you do not have to be a creative writer to improve your sense of language and style. Blogging is a source of writing and marketing that English majors can use. Common examples of blogs include reviews for books, movies, TV shows, or music; food, cooking, or nutrition; lifestyle; faith; travel; clothing; and more. If starting a blog is too overwhelming, consider contributing articles to blogs or websites that accept submissions, like English for Secondary Teachers major Lauren Sheppard did for Her Campus. Because several jobs that English majors seek may require blog writing, creating and updating a personal blog provides you with skills and experience that you can acquire from your own home.
Similarly, social media is increasingly important for communication, and the jobs English majors seek often involve social media. Using the summer to learn more about social media marketing for personal and non-personal uses gives you knowledge on a highly marketable skill. You can take the next step by applying this knowledge to your own social media accounts, whether this be your personal account or a topic-specific account. Social media communities for book reviews (called “Bookstagram”) are a natural starting point for English majors, especially those interesting in a book-related field after college, like book editing and publishing. The topics for personal blogs can be explored in social media accounts as well.
Revise Past Writing
Starting new projects is not the only way to spend the summer wisely; English students have access to countless papers, projects, or other assignments that can be revised and included in your portfolio. The thought of spending more time on essays so soon after the semester ends may seem tedious or stressful, but taking a look at projects from past semesters—after you have had a chance to distance yourself from the assignments—is a valuable way to incorporate feedback from professors and improve your writing, thus strengthening pieces for your portfolio.
Additionally, revising writing during the summer will save you time if you wish to submit to WKU publications such as The Ashen Egg, Zephyrus, student conferences, contests, etc. For a list of publishing opportunities in and outside of WKU, go here.
Freelance Writing or Editing
If you are disappointed in the lack of on-the-job experience during the summer, freelance work is a useful avenue to consider. Using social media and personal connections to advertise your availability as a freelance writer, editor, etc. provides practical experiences using the skills you have learned in class, preparing you for future jobs or internships after the summer; you can also document this work on your resume or portfolio. Showing employers that you adapted to current events to practice communication skills demonstrates responsibility and flexibility, two traits that are sought after in the job field.
Freelance work has become more common, especially for English graduates. If you are interested in pursuing freelance or remote work after college, trying freelance work this summer provides experience. It should be noted, however, that freelance work can be challenging, especially if you decide to use it as a reliable and stable source of income. For advice and resources about freelance work, go here.
Create a Website or Portfolio
Now that you have improved your portfolio pieces and gained valuable skills, you can learn to market those skills, and a website is a starting point to broadcast your experiences. Websites are used to show tangible examples of your skills, a natural avenue for writers. Uploading your resume, including educational and work experience, and highlighting awards on a website shows your audience that you have the multimedia skills to present your work on more than just paper.
Additionally, because resumes and cover letters cannot show the full range of your writing, you can use websites to provide explicit examples of your writing skills. Do not limit a website to just class assignments; including examples of creative, academic, professional, journalistic, or personal writing demonstrates to future employers your wide variety of writing skills, an action that is significant for those seeking jobs in writing, editing, or content creation. For some examples of websites or portfolios, check out English major graduates Oliva Mohr and Leah Walker.
Get a Head Start on Next Semester
Although the exact plans for next semester are still uncertain, you can ease some of the anxiety or stress by getting a head start on projects or opportunities for fall 2020. For students who will be completing a capstone or thesis project, using the summer to brainstorm ideas, research relevant topics, or even draft ideas will improve your preparation for the fall semester—and open up more time for other work you may have in the fall.
If you have a new job, internship, or position next semester, you can research and brainstorm ideas to bring to the table, making you more prepared and starting your position on a positive note. If you wish to seek or apply for positions next semester, get a head start on that search now. While all information, applications, or positions may not be available yet, there may be some information from past applications that you can research. If you have an idea of what you are interested in applying for and what those applications call for, you can seek out experiences that will make you a more competitive candidate for that position.
Non-traditional or Remote Internships
Because of the uncertainty of future plans, some companies are offering remote or non-traditional internships in the future. A few internships were remote this summer, and it is possible that internships beginning in fall 2020 or starting during the winter—in which there is some concern whether the virus may return—may become remote instead of being canceled. If it looks like circumstances are going to change again, do not panic! Consider applying for remote internships or experiences. They may not be exactly what you were imagining, but some experience is better than no experience, and future employers will recognize your ability to seek opportunities during uncertain times.