The leaves and temperatures are falling, and summer 2016 seems very far away. But, it’s not too early to start thinking about what you want to be doing in June. Soon, internship postings will start pouring in, particularly for the most competitive opportunities (subscribe to the NRES Career Information Blog at https://blogs.illinois.edu/publicSubscribe?blogId=6466 to make sure you receive them). No matter where you are in your education, there are summer work and study opportunities that may be appropriate for you.
Ask any senior—when you start applying for jobs, the biggest challenge you’ll face is the need for experience. It is VERY possible for an NRES student to get three summers of useful work experience, and there are opportunities no matter where you live. So begin your planning now, even though most summer jobs and internships have not yet been posted. Here are some early steps you can take:
- Determine your geographical and financial parameters. Do you have to earn a certain amount of money over the summer? Are you flexible about where you can work or do you need to be within driving distance of home? If you have to be close to home, what is the reasonable distance you will be able to travel every day, given the means of transportation you will have available?
- Decide what type of experience is your ideal. What do you want to be doing (e.g. research, advocacy, education, restoration, regulation compliance, policy development)? If you aren’t sure what the possibilities are, talk to other NRES students about what they’ve done in past summers. You can also get an idea of past opportunities by reviewing the listings at http://illinois.edu/emailer/newsletter/47242.html and http://illinois.edu/emailer/newsletter/48768.html.
- Research the area near your summer location to find companies and organizations. Park districts, forest preserves, public gardens, and environmental consulting/restoration companies are obvious sources of opportunities, but think more broadly, too. Any company involved in activities that bring them under environmental regulation is a potential source of an internship.
- Create a spreadsheet with containing information about the possible sources you identified. As you identify companies and organizations, make a list of them, and do your research to find web URLs, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of people there who might be sources of information about possible opportunities. You should at least be able to find the contact information for Human Resources, but it’s even better if you can identify someone who works in a job related to what you want to be doing (the natural areas manager for the local park district, for example).
Taking these steps in November will prepare you to begin searching for opportunities over winter break. If you’ve gathered contact information, it will be easy to send e-mails right after final exams to request informational interviews in early January to learn more about the profession and the company/organization. You never know, you might just create your own opportunity, without having to wait for one to be advertised!