One thing college students hear over and over again is how critically important internships are to finding and succeeding in your dream job. However, people are less likely to tell you how exactly to find an internship.
Related: What Are Internships Really Like?
Are internships even that important?
The simple answer is yes. Students are graduating with high GPAs and honors more frequently, so employers are looking for new criteria through which to judge a job applicant’s suitability for employment. Internships demonstrate your ability to work in a professional setting and illuminate your work ethic outside of school assignments.
Internships also give you the opportunity to figure out what you enjoy. While you may be set on entering a specific field, chances are there are many job titles and subtitles within that area. Working through your duties and observing coworkers and supervisors can give you an inside view into your future job preferences. Additionally, the networks you create in a professional setting frequently become valuable in the job hunt.
Finding an internship
Now that we’ve established that internships are worth the hassle, how do you get one in the first place? There are a few avenues open to exploration.
You probably already know of the first resource: LinkedIn. Your college or university may also have a similar network exclusively for students, professors, alumni, parents, etc. At Southwestern University, we have PirateLink, which is basically the same as LinkedIn except everyone attends or graduated from the University. This can be a valuable resource if you’re looking for an internship that isn’t local or is in a highly competitive field.
Another website that bears mentioning is Indeed.com. Indeed is a job and internship search site that’s customizable and easy to use. You can filter by location, salary estimates, job titles, companies, experience level, and more.
One important and overlooked method of finding internships is asking students in your major where they’ve interned before. Your peers may have a knowledgeable perspective on one or more companies. They may also be able to put in a good word for you if they’re still in contact with people in their former workplace. Similarly, your professors can be invaluable in connecting you to local businesses and community members and in providing references.
Related: Video: How to Land an Internship
Another interpersonal way to seek out internships is to attend campus job fairs. While every school calls them something different, they’re all essentially the same: local businesses and larger national companies send representatives to campus to find competitive and able students to fill their positions. This method of internship hunting is extremely valuable because it gives you the opportunity to speak with people of relative importance in local businesses, plus it allows you to be memorable.
Dress professionally, make eye contact, and bring several résumés. Walk around and speak to as many people as you can, being friendly and interested. If you receive any business cards or other contact information, send an email the following day that consists of a greeting, how glad you were to meet that person, and a hope to speak with them soon.
Later on, if you decide not to apply for an internship with a certain company you’ve been in contact with, be sure to respectfully notify your prospective employer. Whether you take an internship or not, remaining memorable and interested is a fantastic way to build networks that will help you in the future.
Related: How to Stand Out at Career Fairs
The bottom line with any of these internship search options is to be respectful, professional, and available. Whether you find an internship online, through a peer, or directly through a company, your relationships with the people you contact are critical to your success. Keep your eyes open over the following months for any opportunities that might come your way, and remember that networking is key.
Find more job search tips in our Internships and Careers section.