Stephanie Landis graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in English from University of Portland. There, Stephanie contributed to the Writers Literary Magazine as an editor for two years. She is currently working as a formatting specialist for documents translated into many languages. She also interns for a online magazine once a week and is working on a book about education with a co-author. Stephanie was raised in Europe, and has traveled around Asia and Africa by herself. She delights in learning languages, cooking and connecting with others who have a passion for writing. Her website is :http://thepdxlitchic.com/.
When I was in college, interning seemed sort of like something I could put to the side since I was focused on earning money during the summer. But summer jobs do not necessarily build solid work experience skills for future jobs these days, unless retail or food service is something that you want to build a future in (and there are successful ways, but increasing pay rate is the motivation for working outside these industries).
The few internships I tried to pursue were through the campus job database and through a local magazine, but neither worked out so I forgot about finding an internship. Once I was in the real world, looking for work and applying to dream jobs, I realized I had no transferrable skills to get a job that would increase my salary.
Only recently, after quitting a job I had for two years to do some traveling, I was unemployed and had the time to look for an internship that would enhance my career goals. But as a college student, acquiring an internship that has to do with your career path or not can give you a headstart in understanding the modern workplace and establishing a path for your career. Here are the top four reasons interning in college is a good idea.
1.) Building skills
I know everyone lists this one, but I am going to say it again to stress the importance of improving social skills and learning to fit into the world of adults. It may not sound exciting, but it really is, because office culture is something you learn by doing, not by studying. Each company, and departments of the company create their own world, or brand in a sense. As an intern, whether paid or unpaid, being thrown into a new environment with people you will see regularly will help establish your identity. Perhaps designing shoes for a sportswear company was the dream, but you find out you don’t like the way the company designs the shoes.
Work environments vary considerably as well. In one, people come to work, do their job independently and then go home. In another, there are more people politics than completing tasks. Depending on your personality, you start to cultivate your own preferences for a work environment. There are many ways to run a business, and starting early, the right path for you will emerge, and surprises are easier to anticipate once you enter the workforce full time. But since the experience has been built, confidence and leadership skills will be developed.For example, you would feel more comfortable conducting a business meeting since you already have been to many business meetings.
After meeting new people in your new environment, building on those contacts is key. As an intern in college or anytime in your career, developing familiarity with your boss and co workers will increase the people you know. A positive personality to match hard work leaves lasting impressions. If theres any office event coming up, like a picnic or holiday party, make an appearance. These people could be your letter of recommendation or reference to work in the same company or for a future job. Many graduating college students lack solid references from a well known company, but interning has set up contacts in the workforce for you already. Continue to keep in contact with the company, even if the internship has ended, because they could be influential in guaranteeing your position inthe workforce. I even casually ask everyone I meet in the professional world if I could add them to my Linked in account, so I remember to stay in touch and build my business contacts. Linked in is a great tool for building your online career presence.
There is a lot of extra time during summer break, and some internships require short time commitments, which is helpful for those working to pay tuition. For example, my most recent internship at a community college worked with me to set my own hours. Other internships, especially artistic ones like writing or photography, are done virtually and involve creating content with deadlines. These both can be continued during the school year, especially as you have less credits to complete, and you can add the experience to your resume.
Perhaps there is a lot of competition for your dream internship. If you don’t mind being unpaid, and most internships are anyways, try volunteering. The ideal situation is that people you know can be a connection to the dream job, or make an offer to let you job shadow at your favorite company. If these options don’t work out, the next step is volunteering. Volunteering can be a lot like interning, but companies are more likely to say yes, help us with additional work! Especially if you are passionate about the organization. Volunteering is most helpful for those interested in the nonprofit sector, social issues, city institutions (like the library or public parks), care facilties (hospitals, animal shelters) or artistic ventures (like photography, video making and writing, where being published matters). After volunteering for a fair amount of time at the company of choice, start asking around for paid positions, or if you are still in school and can’t work full time, positions with more responsibility.
Finding an internship almost sounds easy now, doesn’t it? I’ve recommended some sites below to further help you with your search. Good luck!
1.) www.linkedin.com- A great tool for building your online career presence. Build a profile and start adding contacts!
2.) www.internships.com – Many national internship listings, virtual and in person.