Saturday, March 6, 2010

Internships: The Preparation

There seems to be a common sentiment going around college campuses concerning interning as part of the college experience: Who has the time? Certainly no one wishes to extend their college years beyond the expensive years already spent on a campus. And at the same time those students are either cramming more classes in the summer or reluctant to give up the precious time off. Why work for practically no pay (and often for free)?

Unfortunately students tend to forget the benefits of taking the time to intern. This is a crucial experience that gives you insight into the possibilities within your major. Internships can also help you narrow down your job preferences and determine the best career path for you. While you work you gain a hands on opportunity to practice what you have learned in the classroom and learn the settle techniques professionals in your field use. If you travel away, even to the next state, for your internship there is the invaluable challenge of learning to move and adjust quickly to a new area and circumstances, making future moves to new jobs less daunting. And on top of it all if you are successful you will walk away with great resume references, letters of recommendation, and sometimes even future job offers.

But what about the difficulties of finding an internship? With the internet this step has become so quick and easy it no longer works as an excuse for putting interning off. Going to such websites as have lists of available internships to check out. Websites that provide job listings will often also list internships from companies. Just type internship into the search engine and see just how many companies list internships there. Check with the professors within your major. They have been watching students do internships for many years and will likely be able to give you advice of where past students have had success. Older students or alumni from your college are also useful in your search. Go to Career Services on campus and ask them to help; after all, you are paying for their services in tuition costs.

The next step most students groan over is applying. Most internships require paperwork, a well written resume, letters of recommendation, and an interview of some type. That is a lot of work. Luckily it is a lot easier in practice. Resume writing is an art, but anyone can put one together. Go back to the internet and seek some advice online. Your best bet is to seek out others in your field and ask their advice on laying out your resume. For a template, Microsoft Works and Office have them available. Usually it is good to include three references. These can be professors in your department that have worked with you. Be sure to ask before including anyone as a reference. And do not forget to put your expected graduate degree and date under the heading "Education".

Letters of recommendation should not be too challenging, but there is a lot of courtesy involved. Mentors or professors that have been particularly involved in your college years or your adviser are good places to start asking. Be sure to ask well in advance of when you need the letter. At the very least provide two weeks for the your recommendation to write the letter. When you ask it is advisable for you to have any information you need included in the letter. This information is often provided in the requirements listed for the internship you are applying for and should be provided to the individual you ask. Other information you need to provide is how they are to submit the letter. Sometimes you are to include it in your application and other times it is to be sent directly to the company by mail, fax, or e-mail.

When you fill out your application double and triple check every field before you fill in the blanks. Be sure to write neatly and in black or dark blue pen. Carefully read the instructions included at the top of the application and follow them exactly. And most importantly send it in before the deadline. Good internships are hard to come by and the biggest mistake could be waiting too long to send everything in. Think of the given deadline not as the "send in by" deadline, but the day the company will make their decision. The sooner and longer your application is in their hands the more likely they are to think of you for the position.

About a week after you have sent in your application I would advise calling the internship coordinators to confirm your information has been received. This call is also the ideal time to set up an interview if one is required so have your schedule sitting in front of you in case the coordinator asks when is best for you. Do not worry if the internship is far away because most companies are willing to do interviews over the phone.

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