How to Search for an Internship Job You'll Be Satisfied With
Internships are becoming more popular as ways for students and young adults to enter the workforce. Some people look for internships to help them refine skills and build a resume within a certain field, while others spend years trying out different internships to learn more about themselves and their career interests.
Whatever your motives are for pursuing an internship there are definitely some pros and cons to being an intern that you should be aware of. You’ve probably heard a lot over the last few years about employees exploiting their interns and the struggles that young inexperienced interns are faced with as a result.
If you’re aware of, and assertive when it comes to your dream internship though, chances are you can avoid the scary statistics and get what you want career-wise out of an interning experience. We’ve got some tips for how you can make your dream internship become a reality, no matter the field!
Step 1: Figure out what you want to do
Why are you looking for an internship? Are you trying to build a resume? Are you looking for experience with a specific company in hopes that they’ll one day hire you? Do you just want to get your parents to stop nagging you about still being jobless 8 months after graduating? Defining what you want out of an internship is a vital step to identifying the perfect place for you. It’s better to apply for positions with specific goals in mind rather than aimlessly apply to a bunch of different places hoping to hear back from one. Not only will you come off as a stronger candidate, but you’ll also be far more likely to get what you need out of an interning experience and not be exploited by your employer.
Of course there are some necessary questions that you should be asking yourself in this quest: What field do you want to work in? Maybe you want to be a journalist but you’d settle for a great writing position with a marketing company? Is there a company that you have your heart set on? Would you be okay working for someone else in the meantime if the experience makes it worth it? How much money do you need to make? Can you do an unpaid internship (this is something we’ll discuss more later!)?
Again, knowing exactly what you want out of an internship will certainly make your application and interview stronger, and most likely by identifying your objectives early on you’ll set yourself up for happiness down the line.
Step 2: Sell yourself to potential employers
You’re good at a lot of things, so figure out what those things are! An important step to getting your foot in the door at any internship, job, or even graduate program is developing the ability to sell yourself in a cover letter.
Before you even start applying for any internships write down a list of your strengths and potential contributions to a team in the form of a generic cover letter. By doing this first even before getting your heart set on a position, you’ll already know what you are capable of and you’ll have the chance to refine your cover letter for specific positions as they come up.
Organizing your strengths is an important early step to getting your dream internship. Not only will doing so allow a company to identify whether or not you would be a great addition to their team, but you’ll know ahead of times what kinds of positions you should be pursuing.
Step 3: Don’t be selfish, contribute!
Don’t be selfish in your pursuit of an internship– think about what you can contribute to the company or organization! Sure, internships are a great opportunity for college students and recent graduates to dip their toes in the corporate world, but it’s not all about you.
Thinking about your potential contributions ahead of time is a great way to ensure that you end up doing what you want with the internship. If you want to be a contributing writer that helps improve a company’s blog you should be explicit about that so that you don’t end up doing paperwork for them instead. Sure, you’ll probably have to do some dirty work that you’d rather avoid, but most people start at the bottom before making their way to the corner office.
By knowing ahead of time what you can contribute to the company you’re looking to intern with your application will come across stronger. The people in charge of hiring you are not nearly as interested in what you can gain out of interning with them as they are in what they can get out of your contributions as an intern.
Step 4: Consider finances
Many internships these days are unpaid and you need to decide even before applying whether or not these sorts of positions are an option for you. Don’t convince yourself to just “go for it” if you cannot actually afford to take an unpaid internship, just apply for paid positions only! If you have savings or parents that can support you for a few months while you pursue a dream internship that’s unpaid, and you think that the experience will be worth it in the long run, then go for it.
For those that cannot afford to work at an unpaid internship rest assured that there are still plenty of paid internships and entry level positions out there, you just might have to search a little harder and cut your losses when it comes to some sorts of experiences. Another option is to look for internships will flexible hours and work a part-time job at the same time if there’s an unpaid position that you really want.
My personal rule with unpaid internships is to only take one at a place that literally cannot afford to pay you, and for good reason. For example, I’d never take an unpaid position doing paperwork at a successful law firm. I would do an unpaid internship at a non-profit that uses its little income to benefit society though. I personally believe that it’s worth my time to contribute to a good cause and gain work experience through that rather than work for free at a successful business that could afford to pay me but chooses not to. That’s not to say that this is the golden rule, every intern is different!
By being clear about your objectives and goals during your internship search process you’ll be sure to find a match that is perfect for you! There’s no need to settle for a random unpaid internship unrelated to your interests, it just takes a little planning and organization.
What were your problems in your quest for an internship?
Let us know in the comments below!