For many students, summer is the time to hit the beach, hang out with friends and simply enjoy a break from the grind of the school year. A summer vacation, however, can also provide an opportunity for enterprising students to gain valuable work experience in the form of an internship.
While internships typically offer little in the way of compensation — and many are unpaid positions — they allow you to sample a career that interests you. You can also make great professional connections that benefit you throughout your career. Most of all, you’ll receive hands-on-training that can make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers upon graduation.
Landing the perfect internship, however, isn’t always easy. Depending on your field, the competition can be intense, especially if you are set on interning at a prestigious company or want one that comes with a paycheck.
If you are serious about pursuing an internship, an important first step is to work hard in the classroom, as many employers favor students who have strong academic credentials. What follows are a few additional tips that can assist you in your search process.
Don’t Wait Until Summer to Get Started!
If you wait until June to begin your search for a summer internship, you might be out of luck. Just as finding a regular job takes time, you probably won’t find an internship immediately.
According to Internships.com, the summer internship application season actually begins during the preceding fall and continues until late May. Keep in mind that the earlier you begin your search, the better your chances of landing a suitable internship.
Check the Career Center at Your School
Virtually every college or university has some type of career center that can help you locate internships with local businesses in the area. Vista College, for example, offers students access to a Career Services Department that can be an invaluable asset in your search.
Explore Online Job Boards
The Internet can be an excellent resource for finding an internship. Leading job search sites such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com typically list thousands of paid and unpaid internships that are available with companies in all types of industries. There are also a number of internship-specific sites such as Internships.com, Experience.com and Idealist.org.
Tap into Your Network
As the saying goes, it’s often who you know, not what you know, that really counts. Think about the people you know who are already in the workforce and may have contacts that can help you land a summer internship.
Relatives, your parents’ friends, teachers and coaches are just a few examples of individuals who may be able to at least point you in the right direction. And if you already know someone who is working in your desired field, don’t hesitate to let them know you are seeking an internship. You can also use social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to broadcast your availability and outline your credentials.
Join Professional Associations
An extension of the networking concept is to join a professional association pertaining to your field of study. Many of these organizations have student chapters that can give you access to internships. Joining a professional association is also a great way to make valuable contacts who can benefit you later on.
If you’re the bold, assertive type, taking a more straightforward approach can also be an effective way to land an internship. Make a list of the “dream” companies in your field and contact them directly to ask about internship opportunities.
One student had success by phoning companies and asking to speak to the “internship coordinator.” Another student contacted small businesses in her chosen field and volunteered to be the company’s “first intern.” You just might come across someone who is extremely impressed by your initiative as is willing to give you a chance!
Preparing for the Interview
Just as when searching for a regular job, once you’ve found a company that is interested in having you work as an intern, you can expect to have to go through an interview process. This also gives you the opportunity to ask questions so you can ensure you have a full understanding of what the internship actually entails.
Will you be performing tasks that actually provide meaningful work experience, or will you be spending most of your time answering phones or fetching coffee and donuts? Vista College’s Career Services Department can help you prepare for your interview so you will be able to present yourself and your accomplishments in the most favorable light.