College Internship Guide

College is tough. You’re applying for scholarships, dealing with student loan debt, taking tough courses, and all while worrying about the end game – getting a job after graduation.

An internship is one of the best things you can do to help with your job quest. If it’s new to you, an internship is a job opportunity while you’re in college that occurs for a set period of time.

Here is your complete guide to finding an internship and how to make the most of it when you get one:

The Benefits of an Internship

What you’ll gain with your internship is priceless. Here are some of the benefits of doing an internship:

Experience

Of course it will depend on your specific internship, but the hope is that you’ll leave with great job experience. You’ll learn more about your industry while gaining skills and know-how that can make you can bring to your next position.

Building a resume

Besides that experience helping in your next position, it can get you your next position. Having that internship on your resume is the best thing you can do to score a full-time job or even another internship if you’re not ready for a job yet.

The possibility of a job offer

When a company is hiring for a new position, they often turn to interns to fill that void. In fact, a NACE survey estimates that 67 percent of interns are offered jobs after their internship is complete.

Networking

Doing an internship could be the chance for extensive networking. The connections you make at your internships, with your supervisor, co-workers, and even other interns, can lead to other opportunities down the road. It’s also great practice on how to network. The people I’ve met in internships have landed me numerous opportunities throughout my career.

References

Do a job well-done, and it’s the best way to score references and letters of recommendation. These are perfect for your next internship, future job opportunities, scholarship applications, and even if you decide to go to grad school down the line.

Adding to scholarship applications

It’s not just a resume for jobs that is getting beefed up with this internship experience. If you plan on applying for scholarships, which you obviously should be, then adding this valuable experience to an application can help.

Compensation

There is a lot of debate about unpaid internships. If you’re lucky enough, you can score a paid internship. This could also come in the form of a stipend, a lump sum of money at the end of completion.

College credit

Many internships offer college credit. If you need the credits anyways, this is a perfect way to kill two birds with one stone. Keep in mind that your college may have requirements for what constitutes an internship so run it by them first. They also may require additional work. To get college credit for one of my internships, I had to write an essay prior to the internship on what I hoped to achieve and my expectations. Upon completion, I had to write another essay explaining my duties and what I learned while also having my internship supervisor submit a survey on how I did.

Other perks

There can be a ton of other perks with doing an internship. You may have access to company benefits such as a gym, discounts around town, or free food in the cafeteria. Being an intern, you could be welcome to attend company events, conferences, or other beneficial meetings. I’ve had friends who got their transportation costs reimbursed. As a journalism intern, I had an unpaid internship that came with enticing perks. One I had with an esteemed editor in the industry offered to proofread and edit any of my work – including school work, cover letters, or whatever else I was working on.

How to Find Internship Opportunities

Once you’ve decided that you want to do an internship, it can seem daunting to try and find one. Start early. You may come across internships that only welcome Juniors or Seniors to apply, but don’t let that discourage you from searching your Freshman and Sophomore years. The more experience you have, the better!

Websites

There are plenty of websites that can help you find an internship. Keep in mind that any job search website most likely will have internships listed as well. Here are some websites to keep in mind:

Your College

College is a great resource for internships. Visit the career center for internship opportunities. Your school may also offer an online job board and job search database that allows you to search for internships. If your school offers a job fair or internship fair, be sure to attend for a possible opportunity. Lastly, ask your professors. Many times, they are industry professionals who may be able to put you in contact with supervisors looking for internships.

Companies

The same way companies post job listings on their website, they post internship opportunities as well. Even if there aren’t any internship opportunities posted, don’t hesitate to contact companies you’d like intern with directly. I was one company’s first intern because I pitched the idea of having an intern and of course, pitched myself.

Industry-Focused Groups and Websites

Consider your major and your career’s industry while searching for internship opportunities. Professional organizations are a great way to find opportunities. Being a journalism student, I joined the Association of Women Journalists in Chicago at a reduced student rate. This gave me access to the internship job board plus dozens of valuable connections to professionals with internship opportunities to offer. Besides actual organizations, check out specific websites for your industry. For communication students, Mediabistro.com lists opportunities for internships.

Making your Resume

Creating a resume for an internship is somewhat ironic. You want an internship so that you’ll have experience, yet you’re expected to have a resume with experience to land the internship in the first place. Don’t freak out. Here’s what you can add to your resume to land than internship:

Job experience

While you may not have had super relevant job experience yet, if you had any, it is imperative you list it. Even if you don’t think it’s something to brag about, take a second to look back on what you did at that job. The truth is, any job you’ve had proves you have a work-ethic and you’re responsible. Highlight any responsibilities you had during your employment.

Join clubs and organizations.

Check out extracurricular activities you can be a part of at your school. Highlight specific duties you had as a member.

Emphasize your academic achievements.

If you’ve got a high grade point average that’s an easy way to show your stuff. But even if you don’t, there’s still plenty you’ve got to brag about. List relevant classes you’ve had that would make you a great intern.

Volunteer in a relevant field.

Any volunteer work listed on a resume is great, but try to even go one step further. Make that volunteer experience help you get that internship. There’s plenty of worthy organizations that would love to have help with accounting, marketing, or other duties that would make your resume shine.

Start a blog.

Regardless of your goal, opting to create a blog is a good way to highlight experience if your resume is lacking. Keep posts relevant to your industry and what your ultimate career aspirations. Do you want to be a teacher? Blog about activities to do with kids, issues with education, and tips for raising a healthy child. Are you striving to be in the fashion industry? Write about trends, how to save on fashion, and other fashion advice. If you have something to show – a writer, photographer, graphic designer, or designer for example, this is the place to do it.

Join professional associations.

Become a member of your industry’s organization. You may get access to job boards, events, and articles, but it also looks good on your resume.

Applying and Interviewing

Now that you’ve got your resume in order, it’s time to apply. This is what you need to know:

Keep application deadlines in mind.

Internships may have specific dates they start accepting applicants and deadlines. Be sure you know what these are so you’re not wasting your time.

Read the job description fully.

Understand what you’re applying for. Besides knowing if the job is right for you, you’ll be able to link certain skills and experience to the requirements of the job in your cover letter and on an interview.

Clean up your online act.

Go through all of your public updates and photos on your social media outlets. If there’s any hesitation about whether something would be appealing to a potential employer, take it down. If you don’t already have one, make a professional e-mail.

Know the basics.

They’re simple so you may take them for granted, but don’t forget the basics such as spell check, proofreading, knowing who to address your cover letter to, and how they want you to apply. When it’s time for an interview, be early and dress appropriate.

Do your homework.

Before you step foot in an interview, go over basic interview questions so you’re prepared. Research the company you’re applying for and more than just skimming their website. Understand exactly what the company does, what their mission statement is (if they have one), who their clients or audience are, any relevant awards or recent news, what they do that sets them apart, and most importantly, why you want to work there. In addition to their own website, search news articles to see what other people think of them, download their app (if they have one), follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, and Follow them on LinkedIn. This should give you even more insight.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Internship

Treat this like a job.

Once you walk through the door, forget that you’re an intern. Of course, you need to do the basics – dress appropriately, show up on time, and leave your personal issues or school work at home. But also do your best everyday. Take on responsibility, and try to prove yourself.

Learn as much as you can.

What you’re learning at this internship can’t be learned in your classes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for more responsibility. Once you get a vibe of who is willing to help you, ask them for advice and any suggestions. If you can, ask if you can shadow them for a bit to see what they are doing for the company as well.

Meet people.

Next to what you’re actually learning, the people you work with are your most valuable asset. I met a nice woman while interning at a company, and she taught me a great deal of information. She ended up moving on to a new place, but years after my internship, she got in touch with me about a job at her new company.

Keep track of what you’re doing.

Keep a log of what you do every day. This will help you efficiently update your resume when you’re done. You might forget about a certain computer program you used or project you accomplished.

End on a good note.

Once your internship is winding down, ask for a letter of recommendation. Even if you don’t need a letter of recommendation at that time, it is best to request one when your great performance is fresh in someone’s mind. Ask anyone you had a positive work experience with to connect on LinkedIn. Send a thank you note to anyone who deserves one, especially your internship supervisor. If you’re interested in a job opportunity with the company, be sure to close the letter explaining that you would greatly appreciate if they kept you in mind for any future opportunities.