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Ten Ways to Land an Internship

Lifeguarding this summer will be great for your tan.

For a career, maybe not so much.

In a rough job market, summer internships may be the best thing that college students can do for their futures. Especially when many employers today use their own internship programs as their primary entry-level recruiting tools.

In fact, more than one out of every three new hires from the college graduating class of 2007 started with the same company as an intern, according to a March 28 survey of employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Are you gearing up to land the perfect internship this summer?

To help you out, MainStreet talked with Peter Vogt, a personal career coach with College to Career, which helps college students identify their skills and talents, as well as Randall Hansen, the founder of Quintessential Careers, which provides career and job advice.

Here are 10 smart moves for internship seekers:

1. Talk With Your Teachers

Some organizations that are looking to hire interns go directly to professors or college advisors because they assume faculty will already know which of their students are best equipped for the job.

2. Use Your School

Most colleges and universities have a career services department that can help students trying to find an internship. In addition to providing students with advisers and counselors, these career centers often hold job fairs with employers who are looking for full-time employees and interns.

3. Network With Friends

Talk with friends at school to find out what types of positions may be available at their parents' companies. Your roommate's mother could be the vice president of communications for American Express (AXP - Get Report), and you may never know unless you ask. Fellow students may also have contacts from past internships.

4. Go Straight to the Source

Sometimes approaching a company yourself is the only way to get in the door. Ask to speak with someone in the human resources department. Many companies have information about internship programs, along with contact information, on their Web sites. Other companies may not have an internship program but would be willing to build one around you.

5. Update Your Resume

It is important to keep your resume current -- even if you don't have that much to put on it. It can also help to add an objective statement at the top to identify which positions interest you and include the name of the company where you're applying. It sounds simple, but recruiters like seeing the name of their company at the top of a resume.

6. Practice interviewing

Aside from a resume and cover letter, the only thing an internship employer has to go on is your interview. So, practice until you're confident that you can out-interview your peers. Most campus career centers offer "mock interviews." Practicing with family or friends will also improve your interview skills.

7. Choose the Right References

Due to the competitiveness of the positions, employers check an intern's references just as they would a full-time job applicant. Choose a diverse group of people, including previous employers, professors and coaches. The best references can talk about your work-related skills and abilities.

8. Look Beyond Your Comfort Zone

The fact that your home is on the East Coast shouldn't stop you from applying to positions on the West Coast or anywhere else in the world. Although some internships do not pay, if it means moving away from home, some companies will pay for living arrangements.

9. Don't Rely On Just One Source

Ideally, students want to be offered two or three of the internships that they apply to, so they can choose the best fit. Do not just apply to one internship and hope for the best. Use all the resources available.
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