Your college years are just as much about preparing for life after college as they are about learning, exploring activities, making friends and having fun. Landing an internship can help you stand out from the pack in job applications at the start of your career and may be required by your program of study. Future employers will be interested in knowing that you are able to apply your skills and studies to situations at work. Bonus: Many (though not all) internships are paid, so you can boost your bank account as well. These tips will help you get started.
Set yourself up for success
Take the time to build an appropriate LinkedIn profile before you start applying for openings. Even if you don't have a lot of applicable experience, you want to show potential connections that you are prepared to enter the professional world. See LinkedIn's tips for students at students.linkedin.com. Remember that many organizations now filter applications and resumes for keywords; include these words in your application materials as well as your LinkedIn profile.
While you're at it, ensure your other social media profiles don't disqualify you for other opportunities.
Cast a wide net
This is your opportunity to explore careers and employers, or experience a dream job, before settling down to your permanent career. As you research opportunities, consider organizations like the FBI, Disney, MGM, Marvel Comics or the Jane Goodall Institute — chances are, your dream organization has an internship program. Reach out to professors, check online listings, research organizations in your field of interest and contact professional organizations about opportunities. Used LinkedIn to find and connect with people in that field or who work for companies you're interested in.
Combine two of your goals
Many college students gain a global perspective through a study abroad program. Similar work abroad programs can help you gain a new perspective on another culture as well as apply your studies in new ways. Start with your campus study abroad office to learn about reputable organizations and needed documentation or other requirements to work in another country.
Know what you want to gain
You can use an internship to define or affirm existing goals, set new ones, earn money or academic credit, meet potential contacts or mentors, gain entry to a coveted employer, or all of the above. Define your goals for your internship so you know which potential employers and workplaces to focus on.
Know what you offer
Internships, especially paid positions, can be competitive. Be prepared to treat the search and acquisition of an internship just like you would a job: prepare a resume and cover letters, interview professionally and sell your skills and enthusiasm.
Ask for help
Try not to get frustrated if you have trouble finding the right internship. The process can take time and effort, and getting comfortable tweaking your application materials and interviewing will help you when it's time to find a permanent job as well. Besides searching for internships online and through your campus career office, let family and friends, former employers and teachers, and others know you're looking for certain types of internships. Building your own personal network now can help you find opportunities and open doors after college. These connections can help pave the way with their acquaintances if needed.
Be flexible and reliable
Some internship providers will have set projects that will help you gain important skills, while others may not know exactly what to do with you. Other employers you have a strong interest in might not have openings that align with your current goal but may be willing to work with you to provide at least some exposure to the work you’re interested in. Be prepared to accept projects or tasks others don't have the time or desire to complete. Use the opportunity to learn more about the inside workings of the organization, make connections and develop suggestions for improvement.
Meet the requirements for credit
You may be able to earn academic credit for an internship. Work with your campus career office or the related academic department to determine if you need to meet certain prerequisites, complete required paperwork or turn in a project or report to earn credit.