College Students: Get Organized Now to Nab an Internship

Given the dismal state of the economy these days, internships are becoming an increasingly important part of student life. In fact, some colleges, like Northeastern University in Boston, have made internships part of their four-year curriculum.

Not only do they offer students who may be unsure of their ideal career path insight into a particular occupation and company, but they also provide an invaluable opportunity to learn and hone ‘real-life’ skills, like how to communicate effectively to a manager, that aren’t always a part of college curriculums.

Internships are also a great way for companies to get insight into you, which gives you a real leg-up when it comes to getting hired after graduation. Many interns are offered permanent positions. We should know, we hired Hollie, Buttoned Up’s design director because of the great work she did as an intern for our company. Internships are often unpaid, but don’t be short-sighted and pass one up because of that. Consider it as a worthwhile investment in your future. Even if you’re not offered a job with the company, it still is a very effective resume-builder.

If you start as a freshman, you have the potential to complete up to eight internships during the course of your college career. That’s eight ways to differentiate yourself from the other students who will be graduating at the same time you are. So, what are you waiting for? We have put together some pointers for organizing yourself to find (the right) internships.

1. Brainstorm.

All internships are not created equal. You should start with jobs that are at least within your career consideration set. This is especially true if you are working for free! After all, an internship in the field of marine biology won’t help much if you’re really planning on getting into the field of international business down the road. If you’re not sure what you ultimately want to do, head over to your school’s career center. They are there to help you land a great job (and make your college look good by getting a high percentage of graduates jobs). They will often provide career assessment tests for free and they always offer a wealth of advice and pointers to their students.

2. Identify.

After you’ve made a list of all of the fields that interest you, start doing some research on the companies in those fields. Consider a few different lists: the biggest, the most profitable, the startups, the most innovative. Look at the companies in each list and ask yourself which ones have cultures that seem like they would be a good fit for you? Don’t just go for something that looks good, but select an internship based on the fact that you might be an employee at that company one day.

3. Network.

You’ve made a list of fields and zeroed in on some companies. Now’s the time to call everyone you may know. Tap into your friends, neighbors, family members, etc. – and specifically ask who they might know in the industry you are hoping to get into. Everyone knows somebody and that somebody might just be the ticket to your internship. Rather than asking for interviews point-blank, just ask for an informational interview – you’ll get farther faster with those.

4. Get Your Money’s Worth Out of that College.

This is where that tuition bill can pay off. Tap into your college placement office and see what internships they have listed and then research alumni that work in the fields that interest you. Many colleges offer programs that place interns with alumni – it’s one of the best ways to find an internship.

5. Don’t Waste Your Time.

It may be tempting to look at job boards and classifieds, but in today’s market, do you know how many people blindly send their resumes for those positions? Too many! It’s not worth your time crafting a new cover letter for those jobs since they are virtually impossible to score and you’ll just end up being frustrated.

Did you ever intern? Where, and what did it lead to? Have you ever helped anyone get an internship?