Most professionals in almost every industry started their career path as an intern. Often times, interns are seen as the low man on the totem pole, but internships are essential to the health and growth of both businesses and the interns themselves. Want to get your feet wet in an industry that you don’t have experience in? Not sure if you want to go into a certain field but don’t want to invest a lot of time and effort into it just to realize you have second thoughts? That’s what an internship is for!
I’m here to help you to pick the right internship, make a great first impression, start well and finish strong!
First off, why should you intern?
- Internships help students find the right field for them. Most of the time, if you’re unsure whether or not you would want to work for an industry or company, an internship will help you make up your mind.
- Internships can also help students pick a new major if they are thinking of switching (⅔ of all college students change their major at least once in their college career).
- Internships can help students learn both hard skills, such as writing and computer technology, and soft skills, such as communication and office behavior.
- Internships are a great way to meet other professionals in the field and network for other possible jobs. Meet as many people as you can!
How to prepare for your search?
- Determine your priorities.
Do you want to move for your internship? Do you want to be paid? What type of work do you want to do?
- Determine the field and subject.
Look at fields that you would be interested in and try to find out if there is a job market in the areas that you are looking in.
- Get your resume ready beforehand.
Use resources on campus to help create a resume that you can easily send out at a moment’s notice. Save your resume as a PDF on Google Drive or Dropbox so you can easily send it at a moment’s notice, even from your phone! Companies are extremely impressed when students send out resumes immediately after connecting with them.
Time to search?
Most colleges and high schools have resources to help you. College department offices most likely have a master list of companies that regularly take on interns. Ask your professors and fellow students.
Practice your “Google-fu” or use Craigslist and other classifieds to search for advertised positions in local companies.
Ask friends and relatives and other professionals in your sphere of reach for recommendations or connections. You might be surprised by who knows whom.
Even though it might be nerve-racking, cold calling or emailing still works. Find local companies, even if they seem unlikely to hire interns, check their staff list on their website, if available, and give them a call or stop in. Ask for someone in charge and be persistent. If they don’t hire interns, offer to be their first one!
- Before the interview, make sure to research the company and field that you are going into. That way, you can both impress the employer with your initiative and knowledge, and be ready for questions about the job and your experience.
- Double check your resume and print it out professionally on nice card stock and bring it in a manila folder or briefcase.
- Think of questions that might be asked of you and prepare for answers. Even the simple question of “describe yourself” is often overlooked and might be a curve ball during an interview (it’s happened to me).
- Of course, dress professionally and make sure to mind your manners. Be early. On time is late!
- Discuss job duties that will be expected of you. You don’t want to be stuck in a position just filing papers and making coffee runs. Ask for concrete and professional projects that can be listed on a resume.
- If you are getting close to graduation, discuss advancement within the company.
- Follow up with an email to the interviewer a day or two after the interview thanking them for their time.
- Make sure to ask to be put on big projects that you can take ownership of and put on a resume. Ask your supervisor if you can use projects for a portfolio.
- Keep track and good record of what you’ve done through a journal. If you’re at a marketing firm, record how well your advertisements and promotions performed or the effects of your work on the firm’s audiences.
- Meet as many professionals as you can and stay connected with them.
- Discuss a good ending date so you can transition out well.
- Ask your employer for a letter of recommendation a couple weeks before you end the program.
- Stay connected with your employers every few months. Word of mouth spreads fast and they might be able to get you your next position!
Remember, embrace this time of learning and experimentation and find what you love to do! Always look for more to do and challenges to overcome!