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The Right Internship - Can Make Your Career

Many college students, even before nearing the end of their studies have thoughts about where they want to intern. They worry that they may not find a company to accept them or that they will end up at the wrong company. To minimize these worries, there are ways graduates can go about selecting and short-listing the best companies to contact.

It is important to keep in mind that internship does not mean free or almost free labor. While there are paid and unpaid internship, the main aim is to provide the intern with knowledge of work situations in the real world. Unfortunately, many companies have lost sight of this fact over the years. Many now see interns as temporary labourers and nothing more. While working as an unpaid intern is fine, make sure that the placement will see you gaining useful job knowledge and experience.

In certain industries, such as finance and technology, internships are a good way to get your foot in the door. When applying for jobs, an internship will count as work experience. As such, make sure that you select the right one as this is useful on your resume when you look for fulltime work. According to a 2011 US News report, “Only 30.7 percent of graduating seniors without internship experience received a job offer after graduation compared to 42.3 percent among those with internships, according to a 2010 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Interns got higher salary offers, too—former interns were offered a median $45,301 salary compared to $34,601 among non-interns.”

Choosing an Internship

For the graduate who truly wants to get something out of an internship, the following steps will help them find the right program.

Determine Which Field You Want to Work In

Some people make the mistake of accepting any internship they are offered, seeing it as just a means to gain experience. This is a big mistake as you will not benefit from the training. When looking for a company, select those in the industries in which you want to work.

Do the Research

To get a head start on where to go for valuable work experience, start doing some research. Find out if the companies you are interested in have internship programs. If they do, find out what they look for in interns and how you should go about applying for that position. One good source online for finding these positions is internship.com.

Use Your Network

This is good source of information as family members, friends, and your college advisor can point you in the right direction. If you don’t ask, you will never know.

Attend Job Fairs

Career fairs offer the opportunity to meet people from the companies or industries you are interested in. Make sure to take copies of your resume and be prepared to sell yourself on the spot if you are lucky enough to meet the company’s representatives.

Send Out Letters/Emails to Companies

Find out which is most appropriate for the company you are interested in and start applying. Your contact letter or email must be memorable in a good way. You can also call to find out if the company is taking interns or holiday workers. Contacting companies shows the kind of initiative some employers look for.

Find out Who will be Your Supervisor

Knowing your supervisor or supervisors is also important. The kind of experience you gain will to a great extent rest on the person under whose wings you are placed. If possible, try to find out if the person is one who likes sharing information and creating challenges. This can be difficult, but you can get useful tips from past interns. If you get called for an interview, don’t be shy about discussing this.

To ensure that the internship experience is the right one for you, don’t hesitate to ask questions during the interview. Questions you can ask include:

  • Will I be allowed to work on projects alone
  • What level of supervision will be provided
  • How much experience does my supervisor have with working with interns

You may have to ask yourself these questions to refine your search:

  • Can you afford to relocate
  • Can you afford to work for free
  • Will working with that particular company help your career
  • What do I really want to do

If you really want to get the best experience in a field that interests you, some or all of the above steps will be helpful. In the final analysis do not take an internship because the offer comes from a company with a ‘big name’; select one that offers learning opportunities. An internship is a valuable opportunity, don’t just settle – go for what you want.