There’s a lot more to college than all-nighter study sessions, frat parties, and football games. College is also the time to prepare yourself for the real world you’ll have to face after graduation.
One of the best ways to prepare for a post-college job is to gain experience through an internship.
But what type of internship should you look for?
How do you go about finding one?
How should you prepare?
We’re about to answer those questions and more with our full guide to finding your first college internship.
Finding an internship is a lot like finding a job, so it’s important to take advantage of your college’s career services office. This is the best place to start, especially if you want to find a company that routinely hires interns from your school.
Another way to find companies that are hiring is to talk to your professors. Reach out to people in your network, including your parents and their friends, who may be able to set you up with an interview.
If you can’t find any personal connections to get you in the door, that’s okay.
There are a lot of search sites, such as Internships.com, that list internships for college students. Traditional job search portals, like Indeed and SimplyHired, also list internships on their sites.
LinkedIn is another great resource for finding an internship. Connect with alumni from your school that work in companies you’d like to intern with, and they may be able to set you up with an interview.
As with any job, the more flexible you can be in your search, the better.
Some internships are seasonal. Some are year-round. Some may only require your participation in the summer while others may coincide with the school year. The more flexible you can be in when you intern, the more opportunities you’ll have.
It’s also important to be flexible when it comes to salary. Some internships are paid, while others are unpaid or pay only a small stipend.
If you are open to both paid and unpaid positions, you’ll find more opportunities.
Remember: the real value of an internship is in the experience you’ll gain!
While it’s important to be flexible with salaries and schedules, it’s also important to seek opportunities that actually interest you.
Look for openings related to jobs you would truly want to have after graduation or companies you would want to work with in the future.
The point of an internship is to gain valuable experience in your field.
Narrow your search and focus on the companies and industries that you genuinely care about.
You can learn important soft skills and transferable skills in any position. But if you can intern in your specific field, you might find it easier to get a real job after graduation.
To apply for an internship, you’ll need to have a strong resume and cover letter.
Create a resume that highlights any experience you have that may be relevant to the company you’re applying with.
Include a list of classes or detail any courses you’ve had that apply to your specific industry or field of focus. Course work does not belong on a professional resume, but it’s perfectly acceptable to include it on a resume for an internship.
Before you send your resume to potential employers, take some time to clean up your social media pages and online profiles. No one will want to hire you if your online presence is unprofessional.
Identify a few companies that have open opportunities that interest you and start applying for those positions. Many internships have application deadlines, so don’t wait until the last day possible to submit your resume. Apply as soon as you see the listing.
The trick to getting an internship is to be as diligent as you would be with a regular job search. In both cases, you’ll need to interview to get accepted.
So make sure you prepare, practice for the interview, and follow up afterward, just as you would with a regular job.
Depending on who you know, where you look, and how much experience you have, finding the perfect internship can be tricky.
But there is one other thing you can do that can make the process a little bit easier:
Volunteering can help you learn strong skills. Having those skills may help you land the internship you want next semester or next summer.
It’s important not to get discouraged if you can’t find an internship this year. Instead, volunteer and add that experience to your resume so you can get a great internship next year.
When searching for volunteer opportunities, look for non-profits that relate to your career path.
Here are three examples:
- Business majors – look for a non-profit that might allow you to work on financial documents or help with budgeting funds.
- English majors – try an organization that will allow you to write newsletters or handle other forms of communication.
- Biology majors – seek opportunities with ecological organizations that will allow you to spend some time out in the field.
Volunteering shows that you care more about the experience than you do about the money. And that’s a quality that most employers appreciate.
There are two main reasons to do an internship as a college student: to gain experience and to gain an understanding of what it will actually be like to work in the real world.
To get that internship:
- Reach out to people in your network, use your school’s career services office, and research companies that are hiring.
- Narrow down your search to positions in your career path yet be flexible regarding when you can work and how much pay you’re willing to accept.
- Create a strong resume, volunteer as a way to build your resume, and prepare and practice for the interview as you would with a real job.
Getting your first internship can be tricky for many college students, so be aggressive in your search and be professional at all times.
If you excel in your first internship as a college student, the company just might decide to hire you after graduation!
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