By Lexie Brada
Being a college student is tough. You're juggling classes, extracurriculars, and maybe even a part-time job. And on top of all that, you're supposed to be figuring out your career path. No pressure or anything. If you're lucky enough to have a clear idea of what you want to do after graduation, that's great. But if you're like most students, you might be feeling a little lost.
One way to gain some clarity is to land an internship in your field of interest. Not only will this give you some real-world experience, but it can also help you network with professionals in your field. So how do you go about getting an internship?
- Research Kinds of Internships
The first thing you need to do is decide which kind of internship you want. Yes, you heard me, there are different kinds of internships out there. Knowing where you stand on some of these ‘either ors’ will help narrow your search and assure you’ll match with an internship that benefits not just your employer but also your own needs.
Here are some of the different types of internship to consider.
* What time of year do you want your internship to take place during?
An internship can run for many different time periods. Due to scheduling, you may only be able to work a specific type, but you should know what your time constraints will be. Note; some internships are a mix of these or may go longer than a standard duration. These are the most common ones:
- Holiday/Winter Break
- Year-Round (12 Months)
- School Year (9 Months)
* Are you looking for a paid internship or an unpaid internship?
* Are you interested in a credit-internship (in which you get credits toward your degree) or a non-credit internship?
* Are you able to travel to a specific place for an on-location internship or are you interested in a virtual internship?
* Would you be interested in an externship?
An externship is a super-short internship. Think of it as job shadowing. It may last for a few days or a few weeks. While this may not be what everyone is looking for, it can be a good way to see if you would like a specific industry or company and start to network with some of the employees.
- More Research
After you do all that research into the different types of internships, congratulations, you are asked to do…more research! It’s not just the type of internship you need to consider, but now you need to start thinking about what companies or industries you want to intern in. You might be fine with any and all companies in your major, but taking the time to research will help you later on, and you might uncover some information that either cements your excitement or makes you reconsider applying to a particular opening.
So, take some time to research the company or organization you're interested in. Internships are all about networking, so you want to make sure you're knowledgeable about the company's history, products, and culture. This will give you a leg up when it comes time to network with employees and interview for the position.
The next step is networking. Get connected with as many people as possible who are in your field of interest. Go to career fairs, informational interviews, anything to get your name out there. The internship process is all about who you know, so the more people you know, the better.
There are a couple ways to network as a college student applying for an internship. The first, as stated above, is to seek out places that are related to career help, like job fairs. You may also consider taking tours of companies (if that’s an option) and starting to become familiar with the people working there.
We also know that college can be very expensive. Part of that is that colleges often offer many utilities to students. Something that many colleges offer to aid searches just like this is internship matching or a guidance counselor to help you find opportunities. If you’re having trouble or unsure how to find jobs yourself, seeing what your college can do for you is always a really great option.
Another great way to use your college to your advantage is to seek out professors that you’ve enjoyed and see if there are opportunities in their field. Remember how you were always told it’s super important to go to office hours and make a good impression on your professors? This is one of those times when, if you did that, you may have a leg-up on other students who did not attend. In very lucky cases, you may be offered an internship with the professor themself, such as if they’re a research-oriented professor, or perhaps a TA in an upcoming class. Or, they may know who to get you in touch with to find opportunities, and their good recommendations can go a long way.
Finally, you can absolutely network outside of your college campus. This is the time to start chatting up anyone you know if you think they’re working in a field that may offer worthwhile internships; parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, the parents of that kid you babysat in high school, an old boss, friends, parents of friends…anyone who you think might have a connection is fine to ask. The worst that they’ll say is no, but you can definitely miss that opportunity if you never take the chance.
- Preparation (Application/Materials/Resume/Cover Letter)
Okay, now you can start looking for internships.
How many should you apply to? In truth, that is up to you, but if you have no idea what a good starting place is, we have some tips on that. Once you've found a few positions that sound like good fits, it's time to start creating your application materials. Depending on what career you’re interested in, you may need to submit some work or examples of projects you’ve worked on. This is a great time to remind you to save papers, projects, exams, mock-ups, or other school work that you think you did great on, because you may need it to show your raw ability and learning process to potential employers. You should save it safely if it’s a physical copy (and consider making a virtual copy) and have multiple back-ups if it’s a virtual version.
Don’t forget about resumes! A strong resume and cover letter can go a long way in helping you stand out from the competition.
Make sure your resume is up to date and error-free. Internships are usually the first taste of the real world for college students, so you want to make sure you're putting your best foot forward.
Lastly, before you get to the interview, the general rule of thumb is that you should spend 30-45 minutes preparing for each interview. More than that starts to be a bad use of your time, but less than that can leave you unprepared. Things that you should be looking up can include:
- What you like about the company
- Statistics that interest you
- Knowledge about the internship responsibilities you’ll be asked to perform
- If it’s paid, the average pay for your skills and experience
- The person or people that will be interviewing you (if that is known to you)
- Recent news about the company
- To Interview and Beyond
Great! You’ve made it to the interview day.
First? Take a deep breath. Calm down. Don’t be nervous. You researched. You got this!
If you’re panicking and forgot everything, there are many resources out there about the most commonly asked interview questions (and how to answer them!)
Finally, don't be afraid to negotiate. If an internship doesn't offer enough pay or isn't giving you the opportunity to learn and grow, speak up! College is all about learning and developing as a person, and your internship should reflect that. Think of this as a trial run for post-college interviews. You deserve to have your needs and boundaries met too!
Another part of the ‘practicing’ includes sending out follow-ups. Follow-up emails and calls can be the last pieces that put you above everyone else. There is a way to do it right, and you can learn all about that in further detail on this blog post. Whether or not you get this internship or not, sending out these emails will give you a chance to reflect, practice professional correspondence, and leave without burning bridges.
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