Internships are a great way to gain real-world experience in the workplace.
For those who don't know what an internship is, It's a short-term job (usually about 10 to 12 weeks in duration) where you get the opportunity to roll up your sleeves and learn some real-world skills at an employer. And the company gets the chance to try out some new talent without the long-term commitment.
An intern may or may not be paid for their time at a company, but real payoff for the intern is obtaining academic credit and some hands-on work experience they might not get in a seasonal job flipping burgers (which I did several summers - I probably should have done more internships).
There's written that says you need to be a wet-behind-the-ears college kid to get an internship, although it helps. In fact, this year Robert DeNiro starred this year in a movie as a 70-something intern in the fashion industry.
If you're serious about pursuing an internship, you'll need the following:
- Availability when the internship is offered. It's usually a full-time or part-time gig taking place during standard business hours.
- A healthy sense of modesty. The office intern holds a prestige level somewhere below a recent graduate hire. Often below the janitor or receptionist, too. You need to be willing to do whatever is asked of you, no matter how mundane the task. Without being insulted.
- Eagerness to learn. Most of the time an internship will offer meaningful work that enables you to build real-world experience. Be open to new assignments. Ask for new ones when you've completed the first round. The goal is to learn not just technical skills, but how the office environment functions, and excellent work habits.
- Willingness to work for peanuts. The pay you would receive during an internship will often stink - or be nonexistent. Remember, the work experience is the true compensation, as it will help build skills and potentially prepare you for that full-time job after graduation.
- Academic credit. Most companies offering internships are willing to do so if you can get some sort of credit for your work, or if it at least contributes toward your learnings.
- A clear sense of what type of internship you seek. Don't pursue marketing internships if you're an accounting major - unless you plan to change career paths. Seek an internship that will give you the experience and skills you desire.
Okay, you're good with everything an internship entails. How do you snag an internship, even if you have more than a few gray hairs?
- Enroll in an academic program related to your area of interest. It doesn't necessarily need to be a full degree-bearing program. Sometimes participation in a certification program may be sufficient for an employer to take the plunge.
- Set aside the time you need to do the internship. You need to be available when the internship is offered.
- Visit company websites and apply. Often, major corporations will post internship positions on their corporate sites. Or, they will post them with college career centers. Start submitting your resume!
- Find corporate recruiters on LinkedIn and send them your resume. A well-worked cover letter stating your reasons for applying may put you into consideration.
- Learn the lingo. This goes equally for college students and older folks. You need to understandthe terminology used in their workplace. You want to speak their language when the recruiter calls you to learn more about your interest.
- Demonstrate the value you can add. Do you have particular skill sets which the employer may find valuable during your internship? Make sure to sell the heck out of them.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).
Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.