Lifeguarding this summer will be great for your tan. For a career, maybe not so much.
As we head into a rough job market, summer internships may be the best thing that a college student 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 to 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 is their distilled wisdom 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 they 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 advisors 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 to friends at school to find out what types of positions their parents' companies may have. You roommate's mother could be the vice president of communications for American Express (AXP) 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 and contact information on their websites. 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 always 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 interested you and the name of the company to which you are 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 have applied to, so that they can choose the best fit. Do not just apply to one internship and hope for the best. Use all the resources available.
10. Remember, it is never too late. Although many of the large organizations begin the search for their summer interns early in the year, you never know what is available until you ask. A recently hired intern may have backed out or perhaps the company decided at the last minute to hire a few more staffers. Do not assume the door is shut until you know it is shut for sure.