Internships are the ultimate way to get your foot in the door out of college. In the contemporary market place, it can be especially difficult to find a good job as college has gradually lost its status as the last hurdle to a lucrative and fulfilling career. Internships have become increasingly important in securing your place in the workforce. So how do you go about searching for the right sort of internship? And how do you know when you have found the perfect fit?
1) Try to get an internship where more is asked of you, not less.
Time is money as they say; time is also the great equalizer. No amount of money, effort or desire can get it back once it is spent. Why spend it doing something that you are not interested in? Make sure the internship you do choose exploits your talents and give you a workable skill set in the “real world”. Many companies have their interns shredding paper or licking company envelopes. While these are important skills to hone when running an office, they are not what you should be doing on a daily basis if you want to carry what you learned into a job setting. Ask yourself-is my “employer” using me to clean up the dust in the back room? Or is he genuinely interested in seeing if I can grow with the company? If the answer is the former, consider cutting your losses and moving on. Chances are you are not getting paid anyway, so why waste your precious time cultivating a skill set that is not in line with your future goals?
2) What if I am not sure about what career I want to choose despite my major? What then?
Consider broader goals? What are you good at? What drives you? Have you always been good at languages, but are not sure how to use that skill in the work force? Look for internships where multi lingual applicants get an edge. Good at math, but not sure where to use that skill? Go for internships where a good mathematical mind can come in handy-like finance or engineering. Remember, this is only a tryout, not something that you will be locked into indefinitely.
3) Once you have chosen your area of expertise, network with people that share your common interest
It is always easier to find common ground with people that are similar to you. Social support is an essential foundation for any career path. You may consider joining some online forums so that you can get a better idea of what people that have chosen your future career have gone through. The practical realities of most vocations are usually at odds with our vision of what the field may look like. For example, you may want to get a Ph.D., but it is possible that the market is saturated with PhDs and employers may be hiring graduates with Masters Degrees so that they do not have to pay a larger salary. Maybe it is possible to get a certification and develop a reputation within the field in order to be in demand; perhaps field experience is more important than an academic pedigree. Make sure you get a real world field of what the industry looks like before you make costly commitments.
4) Use websites and ask adults that you know if they know someone in your chosen field
Everyone knows someone that is in a given field. Ask your parents, their friends, the school guidance counselor or your professors if they know someone that is looking for interns. The internet is also a great resource for finding interesting internships. The following are just a few popular websites that are constantly updated with new internships:
– http://www.internshipprograms.com lets you search by employer, field, date, and location.
– http://www.GoAbroad.com shows opportunities in different countries.
– Idealist allows you to search for internships at non-profits.