College Internships

               The benefit of college internships really can’t be overstated. These days, a college degree is an essential part of starting a career that requires one. True as that is, what not enough people talk about is that the degree alone is not enough. Most businesses/companies list their entry level jobs with a requirement of prior experience. I know what you’re thinking: how can it be entry level if you have to have experience just to “enter?”

               Perhaps you are familiar with the movie “Kung Fu Panda?” In said film, there is a scene where Po, the chosen dragon warrior with absolutely no kung fu skill, begins his training and asks to start at level zero. His master tells him there is no level zero, sets him up with a punch-inflatable and watches as the inflatable recoils and puts Po on his back. He then tells Po, “There is now a level zero.”

               Well, welcome to level zero. Internships are the “experience” before experience. They are the jobs that employers expect to have taught you everything so that when you apply for their entry-level position to begin your career, they won’t have to actually teach you how to be an employee and do the base level stuff. Without this level zero, applying for jobs often feels like getting thrown down by a punch inflatable—rejected for the entry-level position because you’re actually at entry-level, and don’t have prior experience.

College internships, finding internships, internships for college students,

               While it may seem somewhat unreasonable that the workforce operates this way, that’s unfortunately how it is. Can you achieve a career without college internships? Absolutely. But it may take a few more steps post-graduation than you had hoped. Internships for college students are the way to gain experience and education at the same time so that when you graduate, your degree and prior experience are both listed on your resume.

               College internships also provide students with somewhat of a “sneak peek” into what sort of a career their major offers. It can show you what the work looks like, how it’s done, and what sort of options there are for someone with your degree. It can also help clarify for you what sort of specifics you want in your environment, your focus, and so on.

It’s also great if you discover through your internship that this isn’t the path for you. Sounds negative, I know, but here’s the thing: at least you found out before you graduated and committed to that degree. Now, you still have time in college to change your major, try a different internship, and don’t have to start all over again. Of course, even after you graduate you can change your mind, but it means going back to school and investing more tuition into getting a different degree.

So, we know internships are key in catapulting us into our careers right after college and helping us determine this is the right path for us. Now, how do we find them?

Finding Internships

               There are a couple of options for finding internships. The first and most highly recommended is using your college’s career services.

Career Services

The career services department at any college is equipped to help students determine what sort of career is good for them based on their interests, their skills, their goals, and some other factors. Beyond that, though, they are also great for finding internships, jobs, and providing students with the tools to help them acquire those jobs.

               Career services have access to a college’s network, any partnerships with businesses, churches, or companies, and any alumni network. That means that you get the benefit of being associated with your college in any internships or job opportunities that those connections can offer. That alone can land your resume a spot on top of the pile.

College internships, finding internships, internships for college students,

               Helping you create a resume that is tailored to the internship or job you are looking at is also a great benefit of using career services. They know what companies look for on resumes and in interviews, so they can help you craft an appealing resume and prepare you for interviews with practice and advice.

Your Community

               Your college community is a treasure trove for finding internships. If you can talk to some upperclassmen in your major, ask about internships. Ask what worked for them, where they applied, and if they know of any place currently looking. Ask them about their experience and where they interned. Talking to the people who got the internships that you are looking into can provide you with vital tips to getting the internship yourself.

               Talk to your professors. Your professors often have connections outside the college, and their networks can be incredibly valuable and deep in the industry you may want to go into. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they know of anyone looking for interns or offering internships or even entry-level positions. You can even ask them for a letter of recommendation, which will go a long way when applying to someone in their network. The same is true of talking to department heads, coaches, and mentors about internship opportunities or their network. Use the connections that you have at your college.

Job Fairs

               Colleges often hold job fairs, where companies and businesses can come to the campus, put up a booth or table, and talk to students about themselves and the jobs they offer. This is a great opportunity for finding internships. You can talk to representatives, who are often employees at the company, and get information about their company environment and culture, what the work is like, and what they look for in future employees.

Take business cards, exchange emails, fill out applications, and make sure you express interest and make a good first impression, even if the person at the table isn’t the hiring manager. Starting a conversation with whoever is present gives you a contact at that company, someone you can ask questions of and who will know your name. This is called networking, and it is key for finding internships, and getting interviews.

Internships are the “experience” before experience.

Company Websites

               If you know of some companies with great internship programs, or just places that you may already be interested in, visit their website. First, do your research on them. Make sure you have a clear picture of what they do, who they are, and what their mission is. Get a feel for the identity that they put out, and then check to see if they list any internships or job listings on their website. They may, or may not, but if they don’t, not to worry.

               If they have a “contact us” button, make the most of the invitation. Send them a message or email, however their website works. Indicate interest, express why you are interested in their company, and why you would like to work with them. Ask to be considered or informed of any upcoming opportunities that they may have. Then wait to hear back. When an opportunity does open up, having prior contact with them can be a gamechanger in getting your application noticed.

Other Websites

               Finding internships online is also a great way to go. There are many job-search websites that are great for finding internship opportunities or even entry-level jobs. Some of them may require you to build a fleshed-out profile, much like social media, and in those cases, you’ll want to be as thorough as possible in creating a professional persona with as many details that would appeal to employers as possible (but don’t lie, they’ll find out). Other sites will just have you upload a resume and fill in some basic contact information.

               Here are some great job-search sites for finding internships:

There are many other great ways of finding internships, but these are some of the first places you should look, especially since some of them are readily available to you through your college. So, now that we have a solid idea of where to find internships, when should we start?

When to Start

               There are a couple of ways to answer when you should start looking for college internships. Part of it really depends on the internships that you want. But let’s start with when in the timeline of your college years should you start an internship.

               The end of your sophomore or junior years of college are the prime time. The reason is at this point in your college career, you’ve established yourself in your major, you’re learning the key things you need for your specific degree, and you’re starting to look forward to what’s coming next, post-graduation. So, starting an internship at this time is when you can take what you’re learning in classes and start to see how it’s applied to your ideal career.

College internships, finding internships, internships for college students,

               Additionally, many college internships are not actually open to all college students. Because Juniors and seniors are closer to graduation, companies can use internships to recruit future talent and offer full-time positions to the students they like who interned with them. So, many companies offering internships will restrict them to only upperclassmen.

               It’s important to note that while the internship may only accept incoming juniors and seniors, the application should be submitted several months prior to the start date of the internship. That means that if you plan to start an internship at the beginning of your junior year, you’re applying for it as a sophomore.

               You should aim to apply around 6 months in advance for an internship if you can. Each company will present their own timeline for applications, so the one thing you need to be absolutely sure of is the deadline. A late application is an immediate rejection. Also, be aware that some bigger, more popular companies for internships (and companies in certain career fields) will start accepting applications for their internships over a year in advance. If one of these companies is your ideal college internship, prepare for that early deadline, and absolutely seek out career services at your college to make sure your application is as good as can be—it will be competitive.

Conclusion

               College internships are absolutely worth the time and effort. Trust me, when you finish your degree, you’ll be so grateful for any experience that an internship gave you as you begin looking to start your career. And not only do you get the experience, you get the contact too!

College internships, finding internships, internships for college students,

               It’s not uncommon for post-graduates to inquire at their previous internships for a job. They know you, they trained you, and you know their company and have experience with their methods. And if they aren’t hiring, not to worry; ask them if they know of anyone in the industry hiring, and if they can give you a letter of recommendation.

               Internships provide more than just padding to your resume. They can also give you confidence that reflects well in post-grad. Having that kind of confidence in your ability to work and excel in your desired career can do wonders for you in interviews and future promotions.

               Trust me, you should make getting an internship during college a priority. Even just one internship can add so much to your resume and your experience. The process can seem intimidating, but I promise the benefit is worth it!

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