Internships are such a great way to engage in new opportunities and even explore a geographic area of interest. Internships are available in companies of all shapes and sizes and in most any degree area. Maybe you are looking to intern with big name companies like Google or Walt Disney World, or maybe you have dreamed about studying abroad and combining your experience with an internship. Internships can be found in private, public and government sectors. Perhaps you have a cause that you are really passionate about, but you don’t see an internship posted on their site. Don’t be afraid to reach out and see if they would be willing to create one! Most large employers have pre-established internship programs, but even smaller companies are often willing to take on interns if you reach out to them. Multiple internships go unfulfilled each year due to the lack of applicants, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
Are you planning on taking your internship for course credit? Be sure to check the requirements of your academic program/university. Programs typically vary and may require anywhere from 3-12 credits. Some programs may not even have a credit requirement. It’s difficult to go back and get post-credit for an experience, so be sure to do your research ahead of time. Know your program requirements and whether or not you need to register for a class. Also remember to update your resume and professional social media sites with new internship experiences.
Remember that first impressions have a long lasting impact. Before you even begin your internship, be sure that you are clear on company policies, dress code and call-off procedures. It’s important that you take responsibility and ask about these guidelines ahead of time. This will definitely set you up for success during your internship experience. Internships should be treated as a real job position and, if fortunate enough, your internship might lead to a full-time job offer at the end of your experience.
Internships vary – some have specific, concrete projects and guidelines that are set from the beginning while others may be more open-ended with projects assigned to you as they come. Regardless, be sure to assert yourself. Never be afraid to ask questions. If you hear of an extra project outside of your area, see if you are able to volunteer time to assist, or perhaps there is a special event happening – offer your time and creative ideas. The more initiative you show, the more impactful your overall footprint will be.
Some internship sites are smaller, where others are larger and might result in your ability to interact with hundreds of people. Get to know others at your internship site. These could be fellow interns studying in similar or different programs at other universities, new graduates that can help provide the inside scoop for starting a full-time job search, to established professionals with extensive connections in multiple companies. Look for opportunities to sit in on meetings and attend outside events. Talk to others in the elevator or while at lunch. The more you extend yourself, the greater ability you have to grow your own professional network.
You’ve taken advantage of growing your network but what happens next? Be sure to say thank you to those that have made an impact on your experience. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or costly, even a simple handwritten thank you goes a long way. Remember to gather contact information of key individuals before you leave your internship experience. Connect with people through social media sites, specifically LinkedIn. Also, ask individuals if they might be willing to write you a letter of recommendation or serve as a reference in the future. If interning at a particular site early on in your college career, remember to touch base with individuals periodically. People may not remember you if two years go by in between your internship and graduation, so be sure to check in and update people on key accomplishments and inquire about their professional growth as well.
Often students complete an internship because it is a department or graduation requirement. However, there are many students completing multiple internships during their college career, some even as early as high school. Internships are a great way to conduct career exploration and find out whether or not a company is a proper fit. There is a lot of variation across organizations, whether it is due to size, company culture, etc. Interning at multiple companies and in different areas of a field are great ways to gain experience across the board and to explore your likes and dislikes within a field to ultimately find your best fit. Early internship exploration definitely makes it easier for when the time comes to apply for graduate school or full time positions.
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We asked Beck Askew Chamberlain (Beta Rho Chapter ‘97) to answer some questions that we have received about Phi Sigma Pi and the job search, plus some overall need to know information about interviewing for a position. Check out what she had to say!