August 10, 2017. By R. Anthony Norris:
Imagine you are projected to graduate with all the ingredients to land the job you have always wanted. However, you are missing one critical component….work experience. In this competitive job market, experience is paramount. The solution – an internship.
Your ability to obtain a full time position upon graduation increases significantly with at least one internship under your belt (whether paid or unpaid). Here is why. Despite the common notion that interns spend most of their time doing coffee runs or filing, internships provide an avenue for discovery. This includes experiencing work life, functioning in a professional setting, developing your strengths, identifying your weaknesses, and finding out what you really have a passion for.
An internship also provides you the opportunity to try something new, build relationships (with coworkers and mentors), potentially receive college credit, acquire new skills, and gain a real world perspective on a position. Gaining experience early on will result in being more prepared when your desired job opportunity presents itself.
Firms also greatly benefit from having an internship program. Employers can observe how an individual reacts in the actual work place without having to make a hiring commitment. If an intern performs well, the employer can make a much more informed and confident decision on offering a full time position.
Finding an Internship
As mentioned before, when looking through a list of internship opportunities it is important to keep an open mind and not shy away from unpaid positions, as the purpose of an internship is to create opportunities and gain valuable experience.
Your first source for finding an internship should be through your school’s Career Services. These programs offer a wind range of assistance such as career advice, resume writing, interview preparation and much more. You will greatly appreciate the guidance and support that you will receive, so take advantage of these services before it’s too late.
Another common source for internships is through the web. Online databases, such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Internship.com, and even Google are invaluable sources. Of course, when using LinkedIn it is crucial to maintain an updated and professional profile page.
Networking is also one of the best ways to find internship opportunities. Spend time talking to professors, family members, friends and other contacts. In some cases firms will even create an internship position just for you.
Another source for work experience may be through work programs offered by your school. These positions are generally unpaid but translate to work experience and most likely academic credit. It is also important to keep in mind that such internships are not only available in the summer. Some companies and universities offer internship opportunities throughout the school year which will provide you more time to find an internship and may even result in fewer competing candidates.
If you find yourself in an overly competitive environment, you may need to become more aggressive in your search by contacting firms or even executives directly. This is a bit of an extreme measure and you have to be able to back up any claims you make about yourself. However, this tactic can open doors that can define your career indefinitely.
Acquiring an Internship
Once you have your list of potential internships it is now time to nail the interview. Taking the time to prepare is crucial to being able to make a good first impression and stand out.
To begin with, it is necessary to have a strong resume that is clear and clean. Ensure that you have thoroughly proofread your resume and have had someone else take a look. Consider having your school’s Career Services review your resume. Make sure that you do not have any exaggerated statements that stretch the truth. Not only does this increase the probability of you not performing as expected on the job, but if a lie is discovered your application will more than likely be thrown away.
Experience is an extremely valuable portion of a resume and any relevant experience should be either at the top or in an area that can be easily seen. Although you may not have direct work experience you can include any related clubs or organizations of which you have been a member. If you are lacking that as well, consider emphasizing marketable skills such as public speaking or writing.
Next is the dreaded interview. We have all heard the tips and tricks in interviews but it is worth emphasizing a few. First off, make sure to look presentable and are timely. Also, thoroughly research the firm. Study their website and get familiar with what they do and who the people are. You may find that your interviewer and you have common interests. Furthermore, consider asking questions about the firm and the position, as this demonstrates your interest in the job and the company. It also may be helpful to ask the interviewer for advice or ask about their experiences within the industry. It is also necessary to be prepared to answer open-ended questions such as your future goals, past decisions, your skill set, and so on. In addition, try to emphasize that you are not afraid to do grunt work and are flexible to the firm’s needs.
How to Maximize an Internship
Once you have locked down an internship it is important to get the most out of your time in order to boost your resume and propel your career ambitions.
When beginning an internship, always strive to challenge yourself and take on new assignments with initiative. As this is a learning experience, it is acceptable to ask questions and suggest ideas.
Along with the valuable experiences, building relationships is crucial. Making connections with people in order to learn and become a contributing member goes a long way in creating your image and receiving high recommendations. From those relationships, you can find one or several mentors which can provide additional advice and guidance.
It may also be helpful to ask for regular feedback from your supervisor. This allows you to better define your strengths and work on your weaknesses, along with building a stronger connection with your boss.
As you take on new challenges and develop new skills consider documenting what you have learned and maintain an updated resume. These entries will allow you to reflect on your experiences and find out what interested you and whether you are pursuing a fulfilling career.
Finally, do not be afraid to ask for a full-time position, as it conveys interest in the company and provides time for the employer to consider.
Acquiring the right internship takes time and patience. However, the benefit of gaining valuable experience is paramount to future career goals. It is also worth noting that internships don’t necessarily have to take place in an office setting. Feel free to apply for any line of work that interests you.