College has been an incredible experience and I am glad you are here. I am a double major in Mass Communication (public relations, advertising tracks) and Spanish. As a first generation college student who’s studied abroad, participated in student groups, worked as a resident assistant and has held a few internship positions, I hope to give useful advice on how to navigate these years. Thanks for reading my articles
So you’re in college, congratulations! If you’re anything like me, you’ve already browsed the web countless of hours for lifesaving advice for college students. That’s probably what landed you here. You’re going to class (on time), studying for all your exams, completing all your assignments, and making new friends. The basics are done. Now, you have to look beyond the horizon.
Internships. A well prepared college graduate is not only going to have done well in classes, participated in student groups at an executive level, and held a part time job, but also an internship – or several.
What is an internship? An internship is a learning opportunity. This is a part time, or sometimes full time position that allows you to learn more about a working field. Internships can be found in any industry; economics, communications, medical, etc. The internships are out there, but how will you find one?
Figure out the field
First on your to do list is figuring out which working field you want to learn more about. If you are decided on your major, you’re one step ahead of hundreds of students. However, being an undecided student is very common. Internships can be especially helpful if you’re unsure on your career path. Make a list of the top 3 to 5 fields of your interest and go from there.
Just about every university has a career center. USE IT. The money that you pay in tuition and fees allows for the employment of well qualified career counselors that can guide you in your internship, and career choices. Not to mention that this office usually has books on books of advice, computers to take career placement tests and resume reviews. Schedule a visit with a career counselor today, get your resume reviewed, and get some advice on interviewing.
Keep a file on your computer, or a binder on your bookshelf with all the information you collect during your internship search. You will want to look at companies’ websites, familiarize yourself with their mission statement, their work, their history, and their hiring process. Some companies will have internships posted right on the site. Others won’t; but don’t be discouraged. If the company doesn’t have internships listed on the site, call and ask if they have positions available. Some companies just don’t post internship opportunities, but that does not mean it doesn’t offer them.
Once you find an internship you like, read the application instructions carefully. Are they asking for a cover letter? A resume with references? Work samples? Social media handles? Print out the instructions and highlight the important points. Makes sure you have everything you’re being asked to submit. The application instructions are also a good place to reference when writing a cover letter or tailoring your resume. Use some key words from the application instructions to make your resume and cover letter match what the employer is looking for – but never lie about your accomplishments or skills.
Don’t forget that while companies are looking for the right intern, you are looking for the right company. The best way to find the right internship is to ask questions. At every single interview, the last question you will be asked is, “do you have any questions for us?” the answer is YES. Always have questions. Ask about the culture of the work environment, what previous interns have done that made them stand out, is there room for growth at this company. If it hasn’t been addressed already, ask what the compensation situation is. Is it paid? Can you get college credit? Most internships are not paid, but will give you college credit; which is great!
This is an important step in every part of the internship process. Follow up a couple of weeks later if a company hasn’t responded to your internship inquiry. Let them know you are really interested. If you are contacted for an interview, send a hand written note to the interviewer afterwards thanking him/her for their time and for considering you for the position. After an internship, connect with co-workers on Linkedin, leave hand written thank you notes, ask for a positive recommendation, and stay connected.
Although grades are important in college, someone once told me, “it’s not about the grades you make; it’s about the hands you shake”. So eat well, get a good night’s sleep, study hard, and intern harder.