In today’s competitive job market, it’s imperative for students to find that “special something” that boosts their resumes, gains them worthwhile and relevant experiences, narrows their career search, and ultimately lands them their ideal entry level job. In this case, that “special something” is an internship. More and more schools and programs are mandating, or at least strongly recommending, summer internships. While to some the idea of an internship brings to mind fetching coffee and mindless data entry, internship programs are proving to be more informative and valuable than ever. As you begin your internship search, there are a handful of considerations to keep in mind to help you find, apply for, and select the perfect internship.
Presumably you’re searching for programs and experiences that appeal to you and your specific interests. As much as I would’ve loved to earn tons of money right out of college to pay for my lavish lifestyle choices (including bi-monthly brunch and Time Warner Cable), economics was never my forte and I have merely a baseline knowledge of computers (sorry, Deloitte and Google!). Instead, I considered my academic background (Communications) and personal interests (music and entertainment) and sought out an internship position that combined the two (marketing at a nearby concert amphitheater). There’s a likely chance you have an idea of a potential career path, so now is your time to gain practical knowledge and get your feet wet in your field of choice.
Let’s say you’re a Turtle Studies major at Sandy Beach University and believe that you have everything figured out as you prepare to become the country’s premier turtle specialist. You may have talked the talk—taken all your requisite courses, started a new swanky leadership position in the collegiate Turtle Club—but it’s time to put those skills to the test in a real work environment. When choosing a specific internship to sink your toes into, it’s important to consider how the program will allow you to prepare for a real world job. It’s easy to assume that a university lab position will lead you in the right direction, but you may want to also consider an internship at a hands-on non-profit turtle rescue that might steer you towards an alternate path. As your introduction to the world of post-grad opportunities, your internship should provide you applicable experience and help you determine what you want from a career. An internship will help you discover what sort of working environment you thrive in, so it’s useful to consider how particular programs may influence your career development.
As you begin your internship search, it may seem like there are an infinite number of possibilities out there. But before you start sending your resume to every position under the sun, consider the finer details. For example, you can filter positions by location. Do you want to live at home or do you long to work in a big city? Company size is also a factor. Would you rather be a part of a large intern team at a national corporation or the sole intern at a small company? Size and location play into company culture as well. Do you prefer networking with a younger crowd or are you striving to learn the tricks of the trade from older professionals? These are also useful criteria to consider when selecting between multiple internship acceptances (you lucky dog, you). Just like when choosing where to attend college, you should take into account your environment when making a tough decision.
As a college student, you will likely take your paycheck into consideration when choosing an internship. But you’ll quickly find that a majority of internships do not offer monetary compensation like a traditional job. These unpaid positions still have their merits, though! You can often use your internship for college credit and, of course, experience is invaluable. Sometimes you have to prioritize paying your bills, so certainly keep your eye out for paid positions during your internship search.
Good luck and happy hunting!