If you’ve just graduated from university or college, there’s a good chance that you’ll have difficulty finding a full-time, paid job in your chosen career path. Part of the problem is that employers want candidates to have proven that they have the necessary skills, and a lot of grads just don’t have enough relevant experience to satisfy such requirements.
This is why an increasing number of young professionals are turning to internships—they get valuable experience that will help build their resume, establish a network, and possibly result in a job offer. But the key is to gain the right kind of skills and experience—that’s why it’s important to find the right internship, not just any internship.
Here’s how to do it.
Make a Plan
Your main purpose in taking an internship should be to advance your career. So before you even start looking for internships, you should have at least a tentative career plan in mind. In fact, you should start laying plans before you graduate.
First, consider what your ultimate goal is for your career—do you want to become an executive, a consultant, be self-employed, or start your own business? All those options will involve different paths to take through your career, with different types of jobs and promotions along the way.
Second, think on what industry you’d prefer to work in—if you want to be an account, for example, you could work at a bank and handle individual people’s finances, or you could work for a big business of various industries to run their corporate accounts, or you could work for a non-profit organization. Marketers, human resources, and programmers are other professions that are useful to many different businesses and industries.
Finally, find out what type of entry-level jobs will serve as the best springboard for your career plan. Do some research and find out what types of skills and experiences will give you the best chance at getting those jobs, and pick an internship that best helps you get them.
Search for Internships
Now that you have a plan in mind, start looking into the various ways in which you can find internships. Here are some of the more common methods:
- Search on major job boards like Indeed or Monster.
- Use job boards specializing in internships, like YouTern, TalentEgg, or College Recruiter.
- Search on niche job boards focusing on specific industries, like Culintro or IT Job Pro.
- Check your university or college’s career center for listings.
- Ask friends, family, professors, and classmates if they can recommend good internships.
The advantage of internship or niche boards is that they’re also sources of quality information to help you get your career started. Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone and everyone you come across for advice.
Narrow Your Search
When you start to find internship opportunities that you’re seriously considering, and even when you’re interviewing for them, there are a few things you should keep firmly in mind:
- Remember your career plan and narrow your options to those that will help fulfil it.
- Check the company’s reputation with interns and make sure you won’t just be getting coffee for everyone.
- You have rights as an intern and the company should not take advantage of you because you’re “free labor”.
You should constantly be reassessing the quality of an internship opportunity throughout the process. Research the internship on job boards and company websites and ask questions about your role and tasks in the interview to make sure it’s a good fit for you.
Be prepared to walk away, even during the internship itself, if you think you’re not being given a fair chance or the training and skills you need.
Learn Everything You Can
When you get an internship that suits your needs, do not be afraid to ask for advice and training from your supervisor and co-workers. Your internship should be a learning experience in everything you do there—you can learn how to interact with your co-workers and bosses, and the more subtle inner workings of the industry and the jobs within it.
Most importantly of all, you should learn how to network during your internship, so you’ll have lasting relationships that can serve as sources of advice, references, and referrals throughout your career.
Good luck, and happy hunting!
Originally posted on iGrad.com