Many college students overlook the value of an internship, but I cannot stress enough the importance of having one, especially the summer between your junior and senior year. The right internship can give you the type of training and industry exposure you wouldn’t otherwise find elsewhere. However, the key to a successful internship is finding the right internship, which can be a very difficult thing to do. As someone who has gone through the search for an internship as both a sophomore and junior and landed the right one as a rising senior, I know how stressful the search can be, but with a good plan, your search doesn’t have to be stressful. There are some key things to note in order to find the right internship.
Establish you career goals. You won’t know what type of internship is the right one for you until you figure out what type of career you are looking for. If you are a political science major, consider interning in a local government office; if you are a finance major, intern with a bank; if you are a marketing major, an advertising agency or marketing firm might be the right fit for you. There are so many internship opportunities available for students across all majors.
Your internship experience is not merely something to put on your resume, nor should it be viewed as just another summer job. Your time as an intern should be the time for you to gain worthwhile experience in your chosen industry and to make the critical decision regarding whether or not it is the right fit for you. You should also view your weeks as an intern as a summer long job interview. Your goal should be to excel at the highest level and to hopefully be offered a full time position once you graduate.
Know what you want to get out of an internship. Firms with formally established internship programs will outline your role in the company as an intern, and you have to make sure that your role aligns with your goals and what you want to get out of your internship. The best thing you can do for yourself is to secure an internship with a firm that will work with you in ensuring that you learn as much as possible. If you know that your goal is to have as much hands on experience as possible during your internship, look for the firms that can offer you that. If your goal is to network, look for a firm that hosts events for its interns and gives them the opportunity to interact with everyone throughout the firm. It is important to establish goals and to know what you are hoping to accomplish at the end of your internship. If you do, you are more likely to have a successful internship experience because you will have goals that you will spend your time working toward.
Consider the details. There are other important factors that you need to take into consideration such as location and compensation. You have to decide whether or not you are willing to relocate for the internship. If you are willing to relocate, think about how far you are willing to move and travel, and where you will live if you move out of state. When thinking about where you will live, it is also important to consider what the area is like and what the cost of living is. As tempting as it might be to move to New York City for the summer, consider what the cost savings would be if you commute from home. You might want to accept an offer from a firm in San Francisco because it gives you the option of going straight from the office to the beach everyday, but take into consideration if the move is worth it if it forces you too far from home.
Also, think about the type of environment you prefer. If you’ve always lived in a suburb, search for firms with locations in a suburb, but be willing to travel to get there either by car or public transportation. If you have always lived in a fast paced city and cannot see yourself anywhere else, you might want to avoid suburban or rural areas because the adjustment might be a lot to handle. However, if you have always lived in one particular type of environment for all of your life, a change of pace, even if only for the summer, might be a good thing. It will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and to try something new and unfamiliar. You might find that you actually like the new environment style.
Compensation is also an important factor. Although you are working primarily for the experience, your time it valuable, and you should be compensated. Although you shouldn’t let money be the driving force behind your decision, it doesn’t hurt to look for firms that will either cover upfront or reimburse you for your moving expenses. It is also an added bonus if the firm pays its interns an hourly wage.
Seek advice. Don’t feel that you have to go through the process alone. Speak to family, professors, advisors, and especially your career services department. Discuss your list of potential firms with counselors or advisors from career services and listen to any advice or feedback they might have for you. They might be able to suggest firms that might be a good fit, and more importantly, they might be able to put you in contact with some people at the firms.
Research the firm. Once you have narrowed down your list of firms, be sure to familiarize yourself with each one. Know what the firm does, how it operates, and what its values are. This research will help you ensure that the firm is aligned with what you want to do both as an intern as well as long term in your career. Also, having this type of knowledge will help you prepare for any interviews you might have.
An internship is a great opportunity for college students to gain real world experience in an industry in which they could potentially work in the future. It is not to be taken lightly because it is a chance to get one foot in the door and to secure a job post graduation. There is nothing more freeing than having the peace of mind senior year knowing that you have a job waiting for you after graduation.