It’s that time of year again!! With finals behind us and the next quarter incoming, winter break is the best opportunity you’ll have all year to get ahead on your internship applications. Here are my top seven tips to keep in mind while you’re looking for your summer internship!
Before you start any internship search, you need a vague sense of what you want to do. Start by picking something you think you’d be happy doing after graduation (this doesn’t have to be definite), and then work backwards given how many summers you have left before graduation.
If you’re in your second year, then think about the dream internship you would want to get the summer before your last year to set you up for post-graduation. Then, think about the kind of internship you would need to get for this summer so that you have the necessary skills to get that internship so you can get that job!
As a college student, you might not be rolling in work experience or practical skills, but the one thing you can bring to the table is energy. Apply to jobs at companies you’d be excited to work for, or positions where you’ll learn something you’ll be excited to know how to do. The last thing you want to do is be stuck in a job all summer you hate, if you can avoid it.
Moreover, if you aren’t excited about a job you’re applying for, you need to learn to fake it or remove the job from your list. Interviewers can usually tell that you’re not enthusiastic about the job, and you don’t want to waste both yours and their time.
Ask Your Friends
Sometimes the internship search process can seem really competitive (I’m looking at you on-campus recruiting). However, talking to friends in your major, especially those a year or two older, can be really helpful in approaching applications. They can talk to you about their internships from previous summers (and might be able to send an email to their old boss on your behalf). They might also have a sense of which internships other students enjoyed, and could point you towards other people to talk to.
Try Something New
Don’t pigeonhole yourself by only applying to jobs that are super specific to your major. If you just do research in a lab every summer until you graduate, how will you know if you’d also love teaching or any of a thousand other jobs. In the same vein, don’t work in the same lab every summer. My friend Katie loves astrophysics and has worked in a couple astrophysics labs, but she took this summer to do particle physics research to see if she liked it as much!
Don’t Discount Nonprofits
It can be easy to focus your search on the companies you’ve heard of, or drive by a thousand times. Sometimes the best internships can come from unlikely places. Although they can’t pay you much, nonprofits are almost always short staffed so your work will be really valuable to them.
I’ve found working in nonprofits has given me the greatest access to organizational leadership and autonomy in my position. It’s also really nice to work in a place where everyone cares deeply about the same cause.
Talk to Family
Sometimes the last thing you want to do is talk to your parents about your career goals, but they tend to have a good sense of what life looks like in different sectors of the economy. It can be worth asking them about what they enjoy in their jobs, and they might know someone who would be willing to get coffee with you to talk about their field.
More importantly, talk to your siblings and cousins! If they go to different schools, they might have a different perspective on the kinds of internships they see their friends applying for. If they just graduated, they might be able to talk to you about the internships they had.
Look for Special Programs
There are a bunch of cool internship programs run by larger companies aimed towards getting students integrated into the field. They tend to be geared at underrepresented groups like minorities, women, and LGBTQ+.
With a strong mentorship component and generally a more robust training process, these programs can be an excellent way to get your foot in the door at one of the brand names you recognize and help you develop skills that will be really helpful in getting your next job.
Use your University’s Resources
Your university’s career department might be lack-luster at times, but the more specific and direct you can be about what you need help with, the better they will be able to actually make a difference in your search process. If you can develop a relationship with a career advisor, then they might be on the lookout for events and opportunities that fit your interests.
Your university probably has an alumni network that could support you through informational interviews and maybe even in the application process for their company. You should also be looking out for emails from career services and your university’s job board, which can help you expand your application pool.
The internship application process can be overwhelming, but with the support of your community you will get through it and hopefully find one you’re really excited about!
How is your internship search process going?
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