How to Get an Internship (And Love It)
no matter what your major is, finding that perfect internship is one of the most important things to do in college
By Ashley Mungiguerra, Hofstra University
As the fall semester winds down and winter break approaches, many students are asking themselves- is it time to start thinking about internships? Many schools (including my own) require certain majors to have an internship at some point during their time in college, often receiving credit that is necessary to graduate.
Even if your university doesn’t require an internship, it is impossible to stress how important an internship is to your future career. It provides invaluable experience and priceless networking opportunities that can help you get your foot in the door. If you apply for jobs after graduation, without having interned, you have missed out on experience, connections, and real-life skills that translate to the real world. There is only so much that can be learned in a college classroom- sometimes, you have to get out there and learn from the best. I gained invaluable experience from my first internship, and most of it couldn’t be taught in school.
So now you’re thinking, how do I get an internship? First off you have to know- this is going to take time and effort. It’s just like applying for a job, and you need to make sure that your application stands out from the (potentially) hundreds of other applicants. If your school has a career center, go visit them! They can help critique your resume, write a cover letter, help you search for internship openings, and even offer mock interviews! It’s important to know your strengths, weaknesses, skills, and what you could potentially bring to an internship.
I got my first internship the summer after I finished my freshman year of college. I am in my third semester and I’m currently on my second internship (thanks to the lovely College Tourist). This isn’t the usual case, as many of my friends didn’t even think of applying for internships until their junior year. But I was determined to get a head start- not to mention I knew I’d be bored all summer while most of my friends were working.
I landed my first internship with Newsweek and The Daily Beast in a very unconventional way- through Twitter. Unable to find an application, I tweeted at them, as it was the only way I knew how to contact them. Within a few minutes, I was in contact with their social media editor and had set up an interview. While this obviously isn’t the way to land every job interview, it showed the company that I had taken the initiative to reach out to them in an unconventional way. This is important- find a way to stand out from the crowd, to make your potential employers say, “This person really wants this job, and they could be a good fit for our team.”
If you don’t know where to start, head to Google and use it as a jumping off point. Search for internships in your city, your field of study, or even search for listings with specific companies that you want to apply to. Somebody is bound to be hiring, so keep searching! Don’t be discouraged by a slow internship search, and definitely don’t get disappointed by rejection. It won’t be the last time, so learn from it!
However, if you’re lucky enough to land that internship, there are a few things you need to know before you start. First of all, know how you’re going to get to and from work. If you are commuting to your internship, make sure your method of transportation is reliable. If you have a car, know the route and where to park. If you’re taking public transportation such as a bus or train, triple-check the schedules, and possibly even take a trial run to ensure you aren’t late on the first day. If you have a virtual internship, like I do this semester, make sure you have everyone’s contact information. It is important to know exactly when articles are due, how to submit them, and anything else you may need to know, since you won’t be seeing them in a physical office every day.
Second, dress professionally (unless your internship is virtual, of course). Even if your office environment is ‘casual,’ dress in business attire, at least on the first day, until you figure out the lay of the land. If you have been working for two weeks and everyone has worn nothing but jeans, it is probably safe to wear jeans. But don’t break out your sneakers right away!
Finally, one of the key things to know when you are an intern (other than getting your tasks done promptly and efficiently) is the importance of networking. The people you work with have an untapped number of connections and friends who can hook you up with other jobs, internships, and advice. Don’t be afraid to talk to that editor in the elevator or chat up a co-worker on your coffee break. Also, don’t be afraid to pitch ideas to your boss; they will be impressed by your initiative and might even ask you to do extra tasks!
The most important thing to remember is that you are there to learn. You may not know everything on the first day and that is okay. Take a few days to learn as much as you can about your internship so that you can get things done well and impress your boss. You have an entire semester or summer to learn and grow, and you get the opportunity to gain an inside view of what your career will look like. Many people never get this opportunity, so take advantage! Even if it is unpaid or the work is hard, it will all be worth it in the end.
There is no way to stress the importance of getting an internship while you are in college. It not only looks great on your resume- especially if you have several internships- but you gain so much experience that simply cannot be learned in a classroom. You are going to spend the rest of your life doing what you love to do, so you might as well get an early glimpse into your career. Get out there and find that perfect internship!