Internship Basics

Getting Your Internship Questions Answered

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There are usually many questions that students ask when they are thinking of doing an internship. It's often hard to navigate the internship process if you do not understand some of the basics when applying for an internship. Below I will discuss some of the most common questions that students ask.

Are Internships Required for Students Looking to Get Hired into Full-Time Jobs?

In years past, earning a college degree has been great cause for celebration.

Not only is getting a college degree a major accomplishment, but it also opened the door to getting full-time jobs and lucrative career opportunities not available to those who did not choose to get a college degree. Consequently, if you received a college degree after 4 years of study; it was pretty much guaranteed that you would get a job pretty quickly. Today it is not so simple; a college degree does not necessarily guarantee full-time employment or even getting some job in your career field of interest.

With the number of college graduates continually increasing, it’s not hard for employers and graduate school programs to find tons of recent graduates who have high GPA’s.  What I always tell students is find something that’s unique about yourself plus look into additional things you can do both on and off-campus that will make you a more competitive candidate in today’s job market. 

One of the best ways to set yourself apart from other candidates is to get the relevant experience you will need to enter a particular niche in the job market. Relevant experience is something that employers look for when hiring interns as well as when they are seeking new candidates to fill full-time positions within the company.

When comparing applicants for internships and jobs, employers look for the best candidates to fill the job, and that includes identifying if they have some relevant experience in the field.

What Kind of Internships Should I Look For?

Many students begin looking for internships based on their college major. Although this may lend some direction to the types of positions you will want to look for; it’s also important to identify your interests when seeking employment. Your ultimate goals should be in finding something that will make you both successful and happy.  Your college major is not always the best predictor as to the type of job you will end up with. So it’s important to do some career research to identify potential career options as well as making an appointment with a career counselor in the Career Development Center at your college.

How Do I Apply for an Internship?

Students applying for an internship will usually need to submit a resume and potentially a cover letter as well.  Some internship applications can be completed online when accessing them through internship sites or directly from a company website. Depending on the internship, some employers may ask for a transcript or writing samples, a portfolio, etc., to give the employer a good sense of the work you are capable of which may be included in the application process.

How Do I Start a Resume?

Many students procrastinate when they think of getting a resume started.  I suggest that you get your personal and educational information down on a piece of paper and you will be a third of the way to getting your resume done. Then begin to jot down previous coursework, internships, jobs, community service and volunteer work, as well as any leadership positions you’ve held and begin placing them in some order.  You will want to have the most relevant experience at the top of the resume. 

Since you may have a couple of areas of interest and different types of internships you are applying for, you may need to create more than one resume. Within each heading, you will want to put your previous experience in reverse chronological order – with most recent experiences at the top.

Before you know it, you will have a resume ready to take to your Career Development Center at your college to have them make some additional suggestions.  You will also want to check to see if the company requires a cover letter.

Can I Expect to Get a Paid Internship?

There are some internships that are paid and some that are unpaid.  A lot depends on the type of internship you are looking for.  For-profit companies will often pay their interns while nonprofit organizations often do not have the financial resources to pay students. Be sure to read the Department of Labor’s Internship Guidelines to make sure that the company is abiding by the law.

How Do I Get Course Credit for My Internship?

You will want to check with the Career Development Center at your college to see how college credit is awarded. Most likely you will also need a faculty sponsor that will make sure that the internship is credit worthy.  Faculty may assign work to go along with your internship, such as a course paper, a journal, or perhaps they will have you do a presentation in one of your classes. You will also want to check to see if you are doing a summer internship and you want to do it for credit, will your college charge tuition to do the internship and how much?

How Long Will My Internship Last?

There are all kinds of internships available, and the length often depends on the amount of time the employer would like a student to stay. There are some internships that take place during winter break which may only be for a few weeks while others that may last 10 – 12 weeks during the summer or even throughout a full spring or fall semester.  If you are dong an internship for credit, you will need to meet a minimum number of hours to qualify.

The True Value of Internships

Hopefully, this article has confirmed the importance of internships and the value they bring when searching for a job upon graduation. Employers want students with relevant experience, and more often than not, these are the students that will be selected for future internships and jobs. So if you are debating about getting an internship or not, I recommend that you seriously consider the value of relevant experience and how not having it can negatively affect your future.

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