When hiring, employers are seeking candidates who have experience, which is a hard thing to come by as a new graduate, usually, unless you’ve done an internship. Internships are wonderful opportunities to give you the experience of working in a professional environment, developing and honing things like interpersonal skills, time management, and problem-solving, and networking in your field of interest. Internships show employers what you have learned at school and can apply that knowledge in the workplace. In fact, many companies and organizations use their internships as a jumping-off point for an entry-level position.
Internships also help you to confirm if the career path you’re considering is the right one. An internship gives you a much better idea of what working in that field will be like post-college, and it is so much better to figure out a path isn’t right (or is a great fit) for you, rather than taking your first job out of school and learning then. You will also see how your schooling is preparing you for a job in your internship field and it might be falling short. You could also explore an internship that is not in your major. Say you’re a marketing major but have always been interested in public relations. Take an internship in PR and see if it is something you might want to pursue.
Some schools offer credit to students who do eligible internships, and it may even be required for your major.
When searching for an internship, start by thinking of what goals you want to accomplish through it. Consider what skills you want to learn and what field(s) you’re interested in. Are you looking for general career experience or learning a specific skill? Do you want to be able to travel or stay put? This will give you a starting point as to what kinds of internships to look for. As you start your search, keep these goals in mind.
Some programs, especially those that require students to complete internships, will help place you or have resources of places to search for them. You can also stop by your school’s career counseling service for resources. And of course, turn your search to the internet; there are many websites out there dedicated to helping students find internships. A couple to check out include Idealist (great for internships with nonprofits) and GoAbroad.com (for internships in other countries). Don’t forget to check with specific places you are interested in working. Many companies and organizations have internship programs listed on their websites. Start thinking about this well in advance of the time you want to do your internship, however, as there are likely particular application deadlines and time frames for interns to work, and you don’t want to miss your window.
When applying, make sure your resume reflects, as best it can, your relevant studies and experience that make you a good candidate for this internship. Do your research. Make sure you are well-versed on who they are and what they do. Should you be asked to interview this is an important part of showing them that not only are you interested in they work they do, but that you might also be a good fit. When writing your cover letter, be sure to customize it to each specific place you are applying. Include information you learned in your research and how it applies to you as an intern. Be as specific as possible but also keep it short; you want to make sure the recruiter actually reads it. Dress formally for an interview and try and write a thank you email or note afterwards to whomever interviewed you. It won’t ensure you get an internship, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be polite and shows your possible new workplace that you take the role of intern seriously.
Internships are a wonderful way to broaden and deepen your college experience, and can be an invaluable step towards your post-college life. Think critically about what you want from an internship and then don’t be afraid to go out and find (or more) that help you achieve those goals.