Let’s say you’re in college and know what career you want. You’re getting good grades (maybe even great grades) and participating in extracurricular activities related to your desired career field. What’s more, you’re feeling good about what you’re doing because you believe it’s all that’s required to land a job in your dream career after college.
Well, I have some news for you: Your grades and activities may help you get your foot in a company’s door, but to dramatically improve your odds of working in your desired career immediately after graduation, you must get an internship.
Most of you know what an internship is, but for those who don’t, it’s a temporary job you perform, hopefully for pay, in the career field you want to eventually work in. Internships are designed to give people with little experience the chance to learn the landscape of a company and pick up skills they can use right away when they begin working full time.
Now, I say that you will intern “hopefully for pay” because some internships are unpaid. If you are not in a financial position to work for free but find that unpaid internships are prevalent in your career field, don’t let that stop you from interning. Get creative: Find a way to participate in at least one internship during college even if it’s not paid. Do research and check with your advisor to see if research or work grants are available for students like yourself. If you are unable to land a grant, you may have to work in a paid job unrelated, or minimally related, to your dream career during the school year so that you can work an unpaid internship later; while you’re working that job, sock some money away so you can use it when you’re working for free.
In other words, get an internship whether it’s paid or unpaid. You can’t afford NOT to.
Whether the internship financially compensates you, you reap tremendous benefits from having interned. For one, if you’ve performed well in an internship, the experience makes you a better job candidate than a peer competitor with no internship experience. Other benefits include:
- You require less training than an entry-level employee who has never had real-work experience in the field; this can put you on a faster job promotion track.
- You have an idea about your career field’s culture, so you’re more likely to quickly adapt to the culture. By doing so, you contribute to a positive company atmosphere and will probably be liked and respected by your colleagues and bosses. This makes work pleasant for all involved and inspires a strong work performance from you.
- Participating in at least one internship shows a company you are serious about your chosen career field, that you are a go-getter. Your bosses’ positive perception of you can, once again, inspire the company to fast track your career.
How do you land an internship?
- Try to make the best grades you can in your college major. Companies look for interns who demonstrate strong academic performances in these courses, because they are the ones that prepare you to work in your chosen career field.
- Participate in extracurricular activities that give you the experience recruiters are looking for in intern candidates. For example, a student seeking to enter the journalism field should work on their school’s newspaper, TV, or radio station staff.
- Have a good attitude and make a positive, strong impression on your professors and the leaders of your extracurricular programs. You’ll rely on these people to provide you references.
- Prepare a resume for an internship just as you would prepare a resume for a “real” job. Make sure to show your grades, activities, references, and, of course, any previous internships or jobs you’ve held that are related to the internship you’re applying for.
- Attend job fairs. Job fairs aren’t always about landing full-time work. Some recruiters also look for candidates for internship programs.
- Research job hiring sites on the Internet for internship opportunities.
Now that you have a few tips on how to land an internship, here’s a story to inspire you to get cracking right away:
In an earlier blog, I told you about a student who was accepted into one of the nation’s top journalism schools. Here’s the rest of her story: The student performed well in her program, wrote for the student newspaper, and interned at three newspapers over the course of her college career. Immediately after she completed college, one of the nation’s top ten newspapers offered her a six-month internship with the promise she’d be hired full time and for great pay if she performed well in the internship.
Ultimately, the student did a great job and was hired at the end of the six-month program. Right away, she found herself working alongside Pulitzer Prize-winning writers. She was only 23 years old. She got that far, that fast, in part because she had interned for other newspapers from the time she was 19 years old.
The moral of her story: If you want to expedite your career journey, doing well in an internship is one way to achieve that. Your experience may not be exactly like this young woman’s, but you should reap results that will help you do well in the future.
Heed the advice here about how to land an internship, and start working on getting one today! Remember, it’s never too early to start careering!