THE BLOG
08/11/2013 07:00 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2013

How to Improve Your Resume Even If You Didn't Have a Summer Internship

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You're not a worthless person. Really, you're not. So why does looking at your resume -- currently lacking that prime internship that you wanted so desperately -- make you feel like your life is going nowhere, and that you should just give up and break out the ice cream?

We've all had these moments of despair. The importance of internships is drilled into our heads from the moment we enter college, and spending a summer working a minimum-wage job does little to inspire confidence. While you feel like you're gaining valuable skills and life experience, being a lifeguard has nothing to do with your accounting major. Employers couldn't be interested in seeing that on a resume, could they?

It's a vicious cycle; you can't get a job without experience, and you can't get experience without a job. So what's the big secret? You have to either a) get relevant experience without getting a job, or b) know how to market the skills you already have. Or, ideally, both.

"If you've applied for a few internships and haven't gotten them, it's not the end of the world," says Alicia Rodriguez, director of career development at the University of Miami's career center. "You just have to think about, if you don't secure the internship, what else could you be doing?"

Read on for ways to improve your resume--even if you didn't get the internship.

Summer Jobs

Summer jobs are certainly on that list of options and can be very attractive to potential employers if described correctly. Having a job relevant to your career field would be the most valuable, but even unrelated jobs have worth. If you spent your summer waitressing at a restaurant or working the customer service desk in a clothing store, you've learned how to deal with the public, manage difficult people, and efficiently handle challenges. These are all things employers look for. "When it comes to part-time jobs, you want to look at opportunities that are relevant to your field in terms of skill sets," says Rodriguez. "You want to learn transferrable skills that can be applied to multiple positions."

Kayla Stangis, a vocal music education major at the University of Northern Colorado, lists jobs as a data entry assistant and a barista at Starbucks on her resume. "I think it's important to list all of my work experience for a possible employer to see," she says. "That way they can see how diverse I am even before meeting me in person, and it starts things off in the right direction."

How to List it on Your Resume:

Work Experience

Subway, Baldwin, NY - Cashier and Sandwich Artist
Duties include assisting with customer relations, preparing sandwiches, handling cash register transactions, closing the store and calculating daily receipts.

Volunteering

When the term "volunteering" is mentioned, most people immediately think of soup kitchens and animal shelters. But if neither of these options strikes your fancy, there are plenty of other options. Places like nursing homes and hospitals love having volunteers come in and talk to residents/patients to brighten their days, which is a perfect use for your gift of gab. If you're obsessed with going green, national and state parks are always looking for volunteers. Do sports get you going? Teams, leagues, and events--even the Olympics!--rely heavily on their volunteer workforce. There's even the option to take trips with Habitat for Humanity and build houses in places like New Orleans. Putting things like this on your resume will only benefit you!

How to List it on Your Resume:

Volunteerism

YMCA, San Jose, CA - Development Volunteer
Solicited contributions as a member of the fundraising committee. Helped raise $200,000 over a four-year period.

Leadership and Involvement

Employers also look for things like leadership experience and participation in activities outside the classroom. Molly Neuhauser graduated from the University at Buffalo with a major in communications, but has significant leadership experience in other areas. "My leadership experience pertains to my dancing," she says. "I put down my experience as kickline captain from my senior year in high school, and my experience as a choreographer for the dance club in college. I've been doing that for four years." These experiences helped her land a summer internship with Sony Pictures.

"Always include leadership and involvement outside of the classroom," says Rodriguez. "Things like positional leadership in student group or organization, but maybe you've been engaged in a community service activity as well. Employers like when you've done things to enhance your academic experience and anything that adds to your value."

How to List it on Your Resume:

Leadership Experience

Stage Crew, University of Miami, FL - Art Director

For two more ways to improve your resume without a summer internship, be sure to check out the full article here. HerCampus.com is the #1 online community for college women with national content on Style, Health, Love, Life, and Career, supplemented by local content produced by teams of students at 200+ colleges across the country. Want to start a chapter of Her Campus at your school? Apply here.