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What's a College Internship and Why Do You Want One?

Let’s start with a definition: Internship: noun The position of a student or trainee who works in an organization, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification.

The typical goal of the position is to provide the student with exposure to and experience in the work related to a future career. Some internships are paid, others are not. In the case of non-paid internships, some states require that the student receives college credit for the internship.That does it for the small print. Now, on to the why and the how.

What are the benefits of an internship?

Here are some of the reasons internships are worth pursuing:

  1. If you have little or no work experience on your resume, this is your chance to add some.

  2. The experience will provide you with exposure to a potential career. While you may not get to do high level work, you’ll have a chance to absorb the vibe of the type of place you might choose for future employment.

  3. The experience will provide a potential employer with exposure to you. This is a unique chance to show a potential employer what you’re made of. Many times internships lead to full time hiring after graduation. In fact, for some employers, the internship program is a direct conduit to post college hiring.

Participating in an internship shows your commitment to making informed decisions about your future and willingness to put the time in to do so. Once out in the work force for the first time, an internship shows that another organization was willing to hire you. How will I find an internship? Finding appropriate internships can be hard work. Here are some ideas on how to approach the search:

  1. Use your college’s employment and career resources to their fullest.

  2. Narrow your search by targeting specific companies. Learn about the companies, call HR to see if they offer internships, and craft your inquiry to what they are looking for.

  3. Look in your own back yard. Your college may have internships available, and as a student, you may be a prime candidate.

  4. Ask your professors for recommendations and introductions.

Use online resources. There are at least half a dozen useful search platforms for internships, covering corporate as well as nonprofit and research opportunities. Check out websites such as WayUp and YouTern. Cast a wide net. Apply for 15 to 20 positions. These are highly competitive opportunities and you’ll want to increase your odds for success. When should I intern? Typically, college students look for internships for over the summer. This makes sense given how jam-packed the school year can be. However, there can be a few advantages to securing an internship that is scheduled during the school year.

  1. Since fewer students are looking for these opportunities, the competition is bound to be less intense.

  2. You’ll be able to complete more than one or two internships while in college when you add a school year experience to your summer options.

  3. Doing an internship during the school year may help you realize that a particular field is not for you. In that case you can shift your summer internship search to an alternate environment. One caveat for school year internships: Be honest with yourself. School work still needs to come first. Be sure you have the organization and study skills to juggle work and school obligations before committing to an internship during the school year. One last thing. Internships are not for everyone. They usually take place in business environments. If your future plans don’t include a traditional business setting, talk to professors at school about participating in research projects that might better support you on your career path.

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