An internship is like a job. Students take internships to get experience within and exposure to their chosen field. Although some stereotypes of internships include getting coffee and doing mundane tasks such as faxing and photocopying, others are much more. Interns may get to assist on projects, attend planning meetings, or develop a marketing campaign.
Regardless of what you’ve heard about internships, you may be considering applying for one. However, is this path the one you really want to take? Do you even need an internship? Here is how you can answer those questions and go about finding an internship.
If your college requires you to get an internship for your major curriculum, then it is fairly obvious that you’ll need one. Learn about where other students in your major have done their internships; you never know who can help you out. Also, check with your academic advisor and career placement office. Not only may the people in those capacities have connections, they may also be able to provide hard copies of job listings or give you links to relevant websites.
If you are planning to enter a competitive field such as sports or entertainment, an internship will give you an edge over the competition. It is harder to break into these fields if you don’t put your class work into practice in a working environment. Some students may even have more than one in these hard to enter industries.
Make sure you are taking the most advanced classes possible in your major, whether they are requirements or electives. Read up on your chosen industry and find out ways to start making connections in the field, such as joining a professional association.
Now that you have the general questions answered, here are some company specific questions to consider.
What impression do you get from the people working at your prospective internship site? Your possible co-workers should be supportive of your educational and career goals rather than looking down on you and only willing to give you menial tasks. If they appear to talk down to you or to doubt your abilities when you are confident about yourself, you probably don’t want to work there.
What kind of work will you be doing? At some point, everyone has to chip in on the not so fun duties such as sorting mail, making copies, and filing. However, you do not want this to be your whole internship. Ask about any training you will receive and what kind of projects interns have done in the past. Intern programs do change, but you can at least get a sense for what you are in for over the next three months or more.
Will you be working with other interns? You need to start building relationships with not only those above you, but also those who are your own age. How well can you work with others in your own age group? Respect your fellow interns, but remember they will be your competition for a possible full time job opening; so figure out what you have to do to separate yourself from the rest of the back.
To recap, a college internship is right for you if:
You can’t graduate without completing one.
You want to get into a hard-to-enter field and don’t have any connections at this point.
You have taken the necessary courses in your major that will give you the foundation to succeed.
Your possible co-workers respect your working towards a degree and will get you the best training possible for further success.
You work well with others your own age.
Good luck in your internship search!