If you are a college student and getting ready to graduate in the next few years, you are about to step into one of the most competitive job markets in history.
There are two huge reasons why internship experience can make the difference between a scary multi-month, post-graduation job search and transitioning smoothly into a career that you love.
First, now more than ever, employers are seeking hires that can hit the ground running. Being able to prove to an interviewer that you understand working in an office environment, know how to e-mail, make business calls, contribute at meetings, and use industry specific tools is essential in finding a job.
Second, a 2008 study showed that over 70% of interns are offered a full-time job, so more often than not employers are treating internships like a 12-week long interview. Excelling in an internship helps make you indispensable and in the cases where an employer simply cannot offer you a job, they will be able to introduce you other people in the industry who can.
Where do I start?
Most students aren’t lucky enough to have parents or other connections that can help them get an interview at their dream company. So how do you get ahead in a market where thousands of college students are all vying for the same positions?
It is incredibly important to understand that a lot of positions do result from networking and getting off of campus. In fact, a recent Price Waterhouse and Coopers study showed that 85% of professional success is attributed to people skills with only 15% is attributed to technical skills – learning to network successfully while in college is crucial.
We recommend making business cards, going to Chamber of Commerce events, looking at Meetup.com to find professional groups, and talking to faculty, friends and family, to begin having professional conversations with as many people in your field as you can.
Focus on asking these people questions about their career and the challenges and successes they faced in getting to where they are now (engaging in meaningful conversation is much more successful than directly asking for help – they know what you need!). There are a lot of nuanced tips and tricks that can help you improve at networking.
Aside from networking, you should be applying to 10-15 positions on different online resources. Just like applying for school’s look to include reaches, and safeties. Check out your career center or Intern Match for robust databases of internships.
When applying online you must have an expert resume with no errors and plenty of quantifiable information. You should also remember to always follow-up. Do it at least once the day after an interview, but if you don’t hear back, do so again 7-10 days later!
Finding the right internship, like finding the right job takes time, but there are plenty of opportunities out there if you are proactive in your search.
Contributed by Nate Whitson of InternMatch.com