The Ultimate College Internship Guide Part 1: Start with Research
It’s almost summertime for college students around the country, and that means it is time to start thinking about getting an internship. Internships can be a great way to get firsthand experiences in the field you may want to pursue after graduation. They also look great on resumes for new graduates, and many do pay, so you can have some spending money. Finally, it can be a good way to start building your professional network and start making industry connections for after graduation.
If you’re thinking about getting an internship this summer, here is your guide to nailing the process!
Start with Research
At the heart of any internship is the research that you personally put in to making sure that it is a fit with your goals. Some people choose internships to test the waters of various industries (that’s what I did for my first two summers). I found that my desired industry really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Others want an internship to get their foot in the door—this is almost a necessity in some industries, like finance and accounting. The bottom line is that you need to know exactly what you want to get out of the internship.
After you know what you want, you need to look at what companies have to offer for internships. Some companies have very structured intern programs that are designed to accomplish different tasks: get an overview of the company, learn industry specific skills, or more. However, some companies have no structured programs and the interns end up as glorified assistants and get nothing out of it. Do your research, see what is out there at each company, and begin making a list of where you may be interested in interning.
If you’re looking for something in your field, your college department’s office is a good place to get some information. This is especially true for the liberal arts majors and science majors. Many departments can pair you up with individuals or firms doing specific research, and they usually have a tally of businesses in their field that want or need interns.
Talk to Your Favorite Professors
Your professor can also be an excellent source of information when it comes to internships. Many professors, especially in science and engineering fields, maintain close industry contacts and may be able to point you in the right direction. Plus, many professors have also heard reviews from students on past internship experiences, and so they can be an excellent resource when it comes to what different companies have to offer.
Parents and Family Friends
Don’t neglect your personal network when deciding on an internship either. Your parents or their friends may be working for local companies and have insights into whether they have internship programs and what to expect at their firm. This insider knowledge can be useful for making a decision.
Career Services and Alumni Networks
Most colleges and universities have great career services departments that specialize in internships. Make sure that you stop by, as most compile a comprehensive list of internships available. Also, most career services offices leverage their school’s alumni network, so you have a better shot of at least getting an interview by making a connection through the college or university.
Finally, once you have a list of companies you may be interested in, make sure that you stop by their booths at the next career fair. This is a great time to make a first impression, get to know who you may be working with, and ask relevant questions about the company and the internship program. You can usually see right away if the company will be a fit for you or not just by that initial first interaction.
Don't miss The Ultimate College Internship Guide Part 2: Getting Prepped, to learn how to prepare your cover letter and resume and get ready for the big interview.
This article was reposted with permission from The College Investor.
Robert Farrington is the founder and chief editor of The College Investor, a website dedicated to personal finance for young adults and college students. Robert earned his MBA from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, and his B.A. in Political Science from UC San Diego.
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