Internships: How to Open the Gateway to a Career

Maybe your advisor is trying to persuade you to get one. Maybe your parents too. No matter who is pushing the internship experience towards you, realize how important they are for your future. With more than 40 percent of college graduates unemployed after graduation, according to Reuters, the job market is competitive and the more experience the better.

Keep in mind that an internship can be a gateway into a career. Stuart Lander, chief marketing officer at said, “You have a 7 in 10 chance of being hired by the company you interned with.” According to a 2012 survey, 69 percent of companies with 100 or more employees offered full-time jobs to their interns during that year.

You should also become an intern to gain direction. If you study education through books, sure, you’ll know the psychological and physical stages of a child’s development, but can you handle a classroom of twelve first graders running around, hitting each other and throwing paper airplanes at your face? Being in the job field can completely change your mind about what career you seek out.

Depending on your field of study, internships may be more or less easy to uncover. However, here are a few tips I learned from my internship experience search:

1. Look beyond what’s advertised. Don’t limit yourself to only companies that list internships on their website or locations. Two of the internship locations that called me back were places that didn’t even advertise they offered any. The best way to do this is to create a list of your skill set and then brainstorm locations that would hire based on that list.

2. Find your niche, but relate it to your major. If you’re a biology major with strong writing abilities, you could intern at the Smithsonian National Zoo magazine. If you’re political science major with an interest in international affairs, you could intern at an embassy. Don’t limit yourself to one of your areas of expertise.

3. Taylor every resume and cover letter differently. When you apply to an internship, the company wants to know why you chose them and what sets them apart. If you are enthusiastic about their internship, you provide the impression you would be a decent worker. Also, if there are internship requirements or preferences, be sure to list these within your resume or cover letter where appropriate. Show them you are the right one for the job.

4. Apply to dream locations, as well as achievable locations. This distinction is a little murky because of the word ‘achievable.’ Just like jobs, internships can be difficult to find or achieve one at all. However, when I say a dream location, I’m mostly talking about large, well-known companies. Examples of this could be Disney, NASA, or The New York Times. Companies or organizations, such as these can be competitive because they aren’t just your dream internship, but other student’s as well. Local, smaller companies tend to not be as competitive and could serve as a backup if your dream internship doesn’t work out.

5. Know your limits. This mostly deals with money and location. If you can’t afford to move to Georgia for seven months, you probably shouldn’t apply to that internship. Some internships do provide low-cost or even paid housing, however, be aware that others don’t. However, don’t be completely close-minded about out-of-state locations because family or friends might let you couch-crash. Find out the answers to those questions before you take the time to apply.

6. Apply, apply, apply. Realize how incredibly large the internship pool is. Most employers are looking for graduates with experience in their field outside of the classroom. You need to stand out from these graduates by having as much experience as possible.

Whether you’re close to graduation or not, remember it’s never too early to build up your portfolio and resume. Standing out from other graduates in your field and networking with professionals will ultimately help you reach your future career. If you’re going to be a statistic, be a part of the 60 percent of employed graduates.

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