Navigating the Internship, Start to Finish

Emily Rood is a Class of 2014 graduate from the University of Washington Tacoma. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, with a Marketing concentration. Always keeping up a busy schedule, Emily filled her college career with plenty of classes, student leadership, club activities, and part-time work. She is currently Seattle-based, and working in the corporate offices for Alaska Airlines. Now living full-time in the working world, she likes to fill her free time with friends and family, reading new books, and traveling as often as possible!

Participating in an internship can be one of the most exciting parts of your college years. It allows you to gain hands-on work experience, while learning in a way that can’t always be taught in a classroom. But with so many options for prospective interns out there, how should you navigate the search? And what needs to be done after you land your dream internship? Luckily, your internship can be broken down into three major stages.

The Search
When you decide that you want to pursue an internship, the next step involves answering a lot of questions for yourself. Would you like to do a summer internship, or one that goes on while you’re in school? Do you need to be in a paid internship, or are you able to participate in an unpaid internship? Would you like to get some experience closely tied to your area of study, or take the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a different field? Would you like to do your internship near your school or home, or travel elsewhere?
When you begin your search, remember to keep an open mind throughout. While having a general idea of what kind of internship you would like can greatly help you narrow down your search, don’t allow that general idea to let you become closed off to other opportunities. You can’t predict what may be just around the corner, or how different opening doors may prepare you for different career paths. You may just discover something you didn’t even know you loved!

The Interview
Take a deep breath, and be yourself. Employers understand that you don’t have much prior experience in this field, which is exactly why they are speaking with you. The learning opportunity for you is a teaching opportunity for them, and they are excited to share their business with you. Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer(s) questions about the work the company does, their personal experiences with the company culture, and what kind of knowledge you can expect to take away from the internship. A few well thought out, pre-planned questions will make your genuine interest in the company evident to your interviewer(s).
How do you know what kind of questions to ask? One word: research! Read up on the company before stepping foot into their building. While knowing some of their basic history, it is even more important to be well informed on their current news. Check out their social media pages to find any recent announcements, accomplishments, campaigns, etc. This information can help you formulate the perfect interview questions, but also gives you more content to discuss in your responses to their questions.

You’ve got the internship…now what?
Congratulations! While an internship will keep you busy, you will have an opportunity to meet new people, gain new experiences, and expand your knowledge of the field or industry. However, it is important to remember that your work at promoting yourself does not end after the interview. Whether your goal is to land a job offer after your internship, or just a couple shining letters of recommendation, it is vital to leave a good impression. While you are completing top notch work and absorbing new information like a sponge, be sure to make connections with a variety of people. The network you take away from your internship may have some people from your department, some people from different departments, and even a few vendors that worked with the company.
At the end of your internship, make a list with all of your new contacts. Include each person’s name, work email, and job title. Group contacts by the area that they were in, to allow for easy reference. Therefore, if six months after your internship, you would like to reach out to a person at that company from a certain area (HR, accounting, etc.), but may not be able to remember specific names, you can refer to your groupings to determine who you would like to reach out to. Utilize your network-you never know who may be able to link you to the next step in your career!

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