Start Working Before You Start Working: The Importance of an Internship
There is no question that the competition is fierce for the new graduate, regardless of industry. More than ever before, candidates are competing for the same jobs regardless of experience level or relevance. Unemployment is high, so candidates toss their hats into the ring whether that ring is a fit.
What can you do to stand out from the rest? Sure, an impactful resume focusing on your skills, experience, extra-curriculars are hugely important, but does your “junior” resume contain some crucial elements that position you ahead of the pack? Did you have an internship or real-life work experience that can be included in your resume and profile? Do you know how to find one?
To be successful in landing an internship, you must first treat it as a “job search” which, in fact, it is. Begin with narrowing down industry as it pertains to future career relevance; be mindful that this internship will provide you with a compliment to your studies (and very often school credit and/or payment).
How do you begin? First, are you a member of professional associations within your industry of choice? If you aren’t, now is the time to join some! Very often, internship and ‘contract’ opportunities are listed in professional organization newsletters; they are eager to include new members to train and develop. Look at the membership applications and join as many as you can – very often, fees are waived for the college student which is a bonus.
You can also use internship “finders” which are websites dedicated to internships only – you won’t have to worry that a full-time accountant position is included in the mix. It is easy to set up a profile, complete with alerts, so you can apply to opportunities as they arise. Additionally, these websites provide important information and can open you to a myriad of choices you never knew existed.
Are you able to tap into the alumni connections at your college? Very often, alumni are more than willing to hold out a hand for new graduates. Alumni often provide opportunities at their current employers or provide a space for a possible shadowing or mentorship experience.
Along with working with your school career counseling center, be sure to go to career fairs and employment events. The recruiters who attend these events are recruiting for all levels of openings in their organizations, and sometimes showing up -resume in hand (not on your phone) might provide you with the chance to sell yourself in person and create an internship where one might not have existed.
Are you using social media as a professional networking tool? Now is the time to beef-up your LinkedIn profile with an intentional background and some “internship-focused” buzz words strategically placed throughout. You should be posting articles, updates, asking questions and making yourself known. Be mindful of the rules of proper networking on LinkedIn and send professional notes and messages of interest instead of just hitting “forward profile” to a potential employer. There are many Internship
Groups on LinkedIn, and you should join as many as possible. You also need to be active in these groups; join in conversations, like posts, thank people for sharing information.
Don’t forget about company websites. Do you have a few companies on a “Wish List”? Look at their websites, craft an interesting “Letter of Interest” and send it to someone in Human Resources (which is either listed on website, or can be easily found with a few clicks in the LinkedIn search bar). If there is no internship opening listed, perhaps your “pain letter” will create a need and you can fill it – be always creative and intentional in your correspondence.
Finally, do not hesitate to tell everyone you meet that you are seeking an internship. Exciting opportunities often show up where one least expects it, your neighbor might have an exciting lead that you can uncover quite naturally. Networking is key to landing an internship – start early and be focused, and before you know it your resume will develop before you even graduate!