Where to Start
Most university programs have an internship coordinator in the placement office who will assist students in finding internship positions. Many companies seeking interns will start on-campus screening interviews in the spring for summer internship positions. While the summer internship was common in the past, with more students entering universities from prior careers, internship positions may be available during any time of the year.
If the university recruiting office has not scheduled recruiting sessions for local companies, or if the student wants an internship job in a specific area, such as internship jobs in California or internship jobs in Boston, then it will be up to the student to create an opportunity. The student will need to locate the company, check with online job postings, and then network to contact potential hiring managers who would be interested in recruiting an intern.
Some independent online job services are also helpful in collecting internship positions by region and industry to assist college students in finding the perfect position.
Considerations between Salaried and Volunteer Internships
Companies offer both paid and volunteer internship positions. While the volunteer internship positions may be more common in certain specific disciplines, fields such as engineering internship jobs or marketing and finance internship jobs offer a salary. Paid internship jobs also offer the benefit of being able to indicate that the position was a salaried position. Some employers look at paid internships more favorably. The paid position indicates that the candidate offered a service or skill that the prior employer valued enough to provide a salary.
The Benefits of Internships
The main benefit of an internship position is the experience the intern gains. Since the intern is actually working as an engineer, market researcher, or financial analyst, future employers will be able to see a record of accomplishment when the intern applies for full-time employment.
Additionally, many employers will hire former interns to full-time positions once the intern graduates with a degree. Most employers wish to reduce the risk of hiring an untested employee. Interns who have an excellent work record and who have networked in the company will be able to show the hiring manager that they are a low-risk hire.
Paid internships also allow the college student to earn much needed money during the summer months. Professional fields pay interns at a rate that is comparable to others doing the same work. Sometimes, the weekly or monthly salary is equivalent to a full-time position at that level.
Volunteer internships, while not providing a salary, offer the intern the opportunity to network with other hiring managers within the organization as well as demonstrate skills and abilities to potential employers.
What to Include in a Resume or Cover Letter
Preparation and research will be critical factors for a student wishing to gain employment as an intern. Most hiring managers want to see that the prospective intern has researched the company and knows what the company’s major products are, as well as see an understanding of competitive issues. If the employee is applying for a specific departmental position, understanding the specific skills used in the department and within the specific company will be important in choosing what skills the applicant should stress in the resume and cover letter. This research will also help the applicant prepare interview question answers prior to the actual interview.
Many times the internship position will be the first opportunity for a student to draft and publish a resume. Most university students have limited work experience. However, for university students who are returning to complete a degree or students who have a work history prior to their university career, it is critical to stress skills, as well as show a potential employer a record of accomplishment.
For students who have limited work experience, any volunteer work, team memberships, intramural sports, club memberships, student council positions, or service-related activities demonstrating communication skills, leadership, teamwork, and a desire to improve will be important to document. Also, the intern candidate should include any software applications, special skills, or training on technical devices that may be of interest to the employer. For example, interns who apply for a petroleum engineering position who have experience with geological mapping through class work should list this skill. If the intern is seeking a market research position, documenting skills with statistical packages, as well as designing and deploying surveys as they may have done for a market research class, would also be seen as beneficial.
During the Interview
Most companies conduct behavioral interviews. The hiring manager will ask about situations or experiences the candidate had in the past that relate to the position. Every candidate should be able to think through common interview questions and be able to answer them with sound examples. Most interview questions will sound like this: ''Tell me about a time when you had to work with a tight deadline. How did you handle the experience? What was the result?'' Most successful candidates practice answering interview questions with a friend or colleague.
An internship position is an excellent way for a college student to build skills and show that he or she is motivated to develop those skills before applying for full-time, permanent work. With the challenging economic environment, college students should consider every opportunity to develop skills through any internship available during their undergraduate and graduate educational programs.