College Students – Six Steps to Finding an Internship in an Economic Recession
In today’s shrinking job market, you just might need to construct your own internship opportunity.
There is little doubt today that internships are a critical aspect of a college student’s preparation for future work opportunities. Not only do internships create a network of future employment options, a well-chosen opportunity will help you apply your knowledge and skills in a real work environment.
Most often, an internship is considered a trade-off, a swap of your time versus the chance to earn some serious cash. However, in today’s troubled economy, many students are finding that not only have the job opportunities dried up but internships are also exceedingly hard to come by as well.
In tough economic times, you just might need to create your own prospects. Here are six steps to help you secure such an opportunity.
1. Talk to Your Professors: The first step is to let your professors and your advisor know you are looking for an internship. Simply stated, these folks have connections to a multitude of professional people. Not only might they know of a possible option, if these individuals know you well enough they might even lobby a colleague on your behalf. And there is always the chance they themselves might take an intern to help with a specific project or some research. But they cannot help you if they are not aware you are looking for an internship.
2. Talk to Your Parents and Extended Family: Ditto number one. Any working member of the family could have similar connections. More importantly, they could be your strongest lobbying agent for a position. Be aggressive and follow up on all possible leads.
3. Attend a Career Fair: Take the time to attend a career fair to research companies that you would enjoy working for even if they are not hiring. Talk to the key people and introduce yourself, then get their card. Later, construct a letter of interest to the person you met that first indicates how impressed you were with the company followed up with indications that you would welcome an internship opportunity should anything become available.
4. Consider Community Service: Yet another option is to examine those entities looking strictly for volunteers for some form of community service. Here again, think through the options so that you find a non-profit that would also offer you the chance to use your skills to help perform some additional meaningful opportunities. One student we know volunteered at a food bank. While the majority of the time was spent stocking shelves and doing inventories and paperwork, she was given the chance to use her technology skills to help set up a system to automate some of these tasks. While much of her time at first was unpaid, as time progressed the agency began to pay her for the hours she spent automating the agency’s record keeping.
5. Have a Polished Packet Ready: If you are going to pursue your own option, you must plan ahead and be fully prepared to submit a packet at a moment’s notice. Have your resume up to date and polished – use the campus career center to help you put together a quality product. In addition, have a roughed out cover letter that hits the basics about you but leaves room for you to tailor the letter to the company or person you are applying to. Resist using the same cover letter over and over again – to give the impression that you are totally interested in an opportunity with that company the letter must be unique to that business.
6. Do Mock Interviews: Lastly, make an appointment at the career office at your school to conduct a mock interview. Try to get written feedback and go back to the dorm to rehearse further before doing yet another mock up. Try to get the second one taped if you can and again solicit written feedback to help you hone your skills. The bottom line, if there are four people interviewing for a possible internship, the one that makes the best impression will likely get the opportunity. A skilled performance can even overcome an average GPA.
Ultimately, in these tough economic times, be aggressive and prepared so as to seize the right opportunity when it presents itself.