Summer Opportunities 101

Vacation or work? It's that time of the year -summer internships, research, and job applications are upon us at last. (Mike Rosenberg / Wikimedia Commons)
To vacation or to work? It’s that time of the year: summer internships, research, and job applications are upon us at last. (Mike Rosenberg / Wikimedia Commons)

Are you looking for a summer internship or job? Searching and applying for your first work experience is no easy task. You have to identify your interests, create a résumé, and pass the final assessment. In an interview, Darlene Hnatchuk, director of the Career Planning Service (CaPS) at McGill, elaborates on the breadth of opportunities available to first year science students.

If you need to ever know anything about CaPS and recruitment, Darlene Hnatchuk is your person. On February 12, 2014, I walked into the CaPS office to interview Ms. Hnatchuk. “With the internet, resources are not the problem, but finding information is,” she informed me. Darlene Hnatchuk navigated the CaPS website demonstrating the wealth of material available. Our interview switched between looking at material on the computer and discussing options. Darlene Hnatchuk’s advice – which is paraphrased here – regarding job hunting as well as her knowledge on internet resources made the interview an invaluable source of information. I walked out stocked with brochures and ready to share the knowledge she gave me with the world.

What career options do you feel are open to Bachelor of Science students?

For people starting to explore career options, follow your interests. The skills you have as science students in statistics, Excel, cooperation, communication, organization, and presentation are applicable everywhere. Public speaking, presentation, and bookkeeping are broad spectrum skills that aid in internships from finance to research. Try new things in the beginning to find what you like.

Where would you begin looking for a summer job?

Tell your friends and relatives that you are looking for a job. Your networks can aid you. Hiring someone is a risk factor so employers often take recommended candidates to limit this risk. Also, do not be afraid to put yourself out there. If you have the credentials for a job, take the plunge and put together an application. You never know who will find your portfolio impressive.

What about opportunities abroad?

Canada has programs to apply for visas for work abroad. Depending on the visa type and country, you might sometimes have to first apply for the a visa and then apply for the job (to guarantee to employers that you can work in the country), or else to obtain the job first and then use the support documentation provided by the company to aid in your visa application process. Do your research to figure out what is required for your job of interest. To strengthen your application to an international internship, especially in a country where you do not speak the official language(s), you might also want to consider checking out language exchange programs such as Explore.

What services does McGill offer to aid students in searching for summer internships?

Career Planning Services (CaPS) at McGill offer links to different programs abroad and in the Montreal area to aid students in the job hunt. CaPS keeps a list of professors who hire summer research students. A database of opportunities for research is available on their  website. If you take the extra step and go to CaPS in person, there are daily drop-ins and resume review sessions to help you prepare for the application. And workshops recur throughout the year, covering topics such as creating LinkedIn profiles, mastering the interview, and creating strong application profiles. Jobs are also posted internally on the MyFuture site, so check it out!

Do you have any advice or additional comments for students facing their first job application ?

Never be scared to contact the human resources section of a company to ask if there are available jobs. Follow up once on your emails (politely!) if there is no response. Start early, be prepared, don’t give up, and start afresh with every new opportunity!

A taste for programs you can consider applying to include Work-Study McGill, Arts Internship Awards, Pharmascience and Science Undergraduate Research Award (SURA).

For the work-study program, apply well ahead of time because you may need to hand in an application for provincial student aid before completing your work study profile. Professors hire based on their needs using the profile database. Arts Internship Awards are available to fund non-research internships within Canada and abroad (field studies and third party organized internships are not eligible). CGPA’s of 2.7 are required for the application. Students must also return to McGill the following fall semester. Pharmascience offers science or business related placements within the Montreal region. Nothing says science students cannot apply their knowledge and skills to other areas! SURAs are another great option if you or your supervisor are not eligible or do not receive an NSERC. Unlike NSERCs, international students may also receive funding. Further, SURAs are available for students to work in any lab –  not just a lab that receives an NSERC grant. However, supervisors must be in the Faculty of Science, which restricts the list of people to contact for work.

Stay on top of deadlines, remember that no list is limitless in opportunities, keep calm and quest on !

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure

– Paul Coelho, The Alchemist


  1. Any tips for a first year undergrad searching for something great to apply his (limited) knowledge to?

  2. Sorry for the late reply, from what I gathered from the interview, do not be scared to contact different professors and researchers inquiring for summer experiences as well as scoping the web. And email or ask your teachers/friends as well if they have any suggestions. McGill offers research courses and older students have recommended that you offer volunteering and training with the professor first perhaps during the summer because a semester is usually not enough to conduct any research if you don’t already know cell culture techniques

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