As you progress in your degree track, it is important to consider the ways you can professionalize your portfolio and grow your skill sets to prepare for life after graduation. One of the best ways of polishing your resume and giving yourself a competitive edge is by pursuing an internship in your field.
An intern is a trainee—often a student—who works for an organization to gain experience. Internships can be paid or unpaid; some degree pathways even require internships as a college credit. More than anything, an internship is an opportunity to learn new skills, experience a particular environment, and explore career possibilities.
Deciding that you want an internship is the first step, but now you have to go out and get one—and your Take Stock College Completion Coaches can help you there! Follow these steps below get the internship of your dreams!
- Identify your interests
The first step in searching out the right internship for you is to look inward. What are your career interests at this time? Sometimes this choice seems obvious; if you are in hospitality management, a hotel internship sounds like a good fit. However, this can be a bit trickier if your career aspirations haven’t yet taken a concrete form. For instance, a business major might end up in the insurance industry or working in finance. That’s okay! Internships are a great opportunity for you to experience multiple aspects of a business and see what appeals to you. If your interests are less defined at this time, look for an internship that services multiple aspects of one business or office to give yourself the most experience.
- Start early
Internships can be very competitive, especially the ones that take place over the summer holidays. The best strategy is to get started early! If you find your schoolwork and social obligations are very time consuming, it’s all the more important for you to start early. Failure to plan is planning to fail! Commit a little bit of time each week to researching and applying. You might even be surprised how early application deadlines for these job positions can be.
- Clean up your social media
Before you get out there and start applying to jobs and making new professional connections, make sure your online footprint is one that you are proud of. It is common practice for employers to Google potential new hires, so please be hyper-aware of what you are posting online.
Begin by going through all your old posts and start removing any photos or posts that are unprofessional or racy. Remember that even though you can delete a tweet, everything you put on the Internet is forever. These posts live on in servers and screen shots. You never know what might come back and haunt you later, so think about the next time you post moving forward.
Networking is one of the most vital steps to growing in your career. Whether you are just starting out or have 15 years of experience under your belt, professional relationships are one of the most versatile and essential tools in your career-building toolkit.
The key thing to keep in mind when networking is that it’s all about social interaction. Putting yourself out there by attending guest lectures, social mixers, campus events, and career fairs increases the amount of folks you are meeting and interacting with. You never know who you will meet—so look professional, be friendly, and try to collect business cards and/or contact information. Once you make a contact, be sure to keep it! Send a follow up email, attend an event hosted by their office, or connect with them on LinkedIn.
As a student, professors are often a key network contact, thus networking is mostly about getting involved outside of the classroom. Stop by their office hours, volunteer to help your favorite professor with their research project, and attend campus events to meet with other professors. Don’t hesitate to tell anyone you meet what your career aspirations are and that you are looking to grow yourself with an internship.
- Attend Career Fairs
Most colleges and universities host career fairs throughout the school year. These events are a great opportunity to find out what kinds of internships are being offered in your community, to learn how to apply for them, and even to impress recruiters. Remember, the organizations represented at the career fair are actively looking for new hires. You should come prepared to give a little 60-second pitch about who you are, what your area of study is, and why you are looking for internships in this field. Set yourself apart by being ready!
- Visit your campus career center
The best resource for you as you grow your portfolio is the campus career center. The dedicated career coaches can help you identify what kinds of internships you are interested in, recommend some you might apply to, help you work on your resume and cover letter for these positions, and so much more! The career center likely keeps a calendar of events that will be great for networking too, so don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your career center today.
- Look online
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, your challenge this week is to make one. LinkedIn is a great online networking tool where you can upload your resume, forge new contacts, keep in touch with existing contacts, and even scroll through a job board. Recruiters often reach out to candidates through LinkedIn, so you might even be contacted with a job opportunity just by being present on the site.
One of the best things about being an intern is that your employers expect that are there to learn; these job types are designed to train and grow interns. Having an internship on your resume is a sign that you are a well-vetted applicant, and this will set you apart from the competition when you apply for entry-level jobs in your career field post-graduation. Plus you never know, you might even be hired on at the very company where you’ve interned!
What’s a dream job that you’d like to be an intern at? Share in the comments below!