The Ins and Outs of Internships
Summer internship season is nearly upon us. In a few short weeks, college students around the nation will be doing daily coffee and dry-cleaning runs for their higher-ups (while also gaining valuable job experience). Whether you’re starting your third internship of the semester or have yet to put together a resume, it’s always wise to stay on the up-and-up when it comes to career opportunities. Though entering the grown-up world of networking, professional attire, and long workdays may seem daunting, these tips can get you started on the path to success.
Use Resources Wisely
“Having a career office on campus, it just baffles me why every student doesn’t use it,” says Mike Cahill, director of Career Services at Syracuse University. Regardless of where you’re at in the job-search process, Career Services can guide you in the right direction. If you’re looking to have your resume reviewed, want to practice your interview skills, or just need some leads on employment opportunities in your field, the career office is your go-to spot. The staff there can also assist you in working on the logistics of obtaining proper credit and faculty advising for internships. Landing a job might seem confusing and overwhelming, but Cahill explains that utilizing the resources at Career Services will allow you to take a shortcut through that process. “If you can cull off a few mistakes along the way, it’s well worth it,” he says.
You don’t have to go it alone! Stop by the career office in Schine during drop-in hours to meet with a counselor and get your questions answered.
Learn How to Play the Game
The path to finding the right internship is a learning experience in itself. But don’t be discouraged: “There are always opportunities available,” says Cahill. It’s a matter of finding something that best matches your aptitudes and interests. Cahill finds that students are often too focused on raking up as many internships as possible instead of considering quality vs. quantity. “They don’t put enough thought into the groundwork of, ‘what would be the best internship for me that would progress me along in my career?’” he says.
So take it slow. Do your research before you dive into the frenzy of fledgling professionals eager to boost their resumes. And when you do find an opportunity, take advantage. Cahill advises students to define clear learning objectives with employers before starting any job. Interns must be proactive in ensuring that they get the most out of their experience.
It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know
Networking is the magic word here. Even the best resumes won’t make it to the top of the pile if they don’t wind up in the right hands. Your professors are a great starting point for getting your foot in the door. They often have connections to industry insiders and may be able to send along references or recommendations. Make it a point to get to know professors in your major and seek out their advice.
Social media is now an indispensible tool for job hunters. Set up an account on the world’s largest professional network— LinkedIn—and start making connections with peers and employers in your anticipated career field. Also remember to adjust the privacy settings on your personal tweets and profile. You will be Googled, and you don’t want last weekend’s sloppy drunk pictures to ruin your chances of landing your dream job.
Explore Your Options
If you’ve put off making your resume or haven’t been able to pull your shit together just yet, there are still other options. Cahill says that for underclassmen, a good old summer job at a local business or camp is still a fine alternative. Many students can’t afford to spend a whole summer working at an unpaid internship. In that case, Cahill suggests looking for an internship that requires attendance for only one or two days per week and then working a part-time job to save up some money.
Freshmen might also have trouble finding a summer internship, as many employers only hire students with at least sophomore standing. Cahill’s advice for first-year students is to “spend a summer doing the exploration process”—make connections with professionals and ask if job shadowing is an option. Offer to volunteer at company events and interview
employees about their responsibilities. “Doing these things can help you get a foundation together that can prepare you for an internship in the next year,” says Cahill.
For seniors who are still searching for a job after graduation, the key to success may be re-strategizing your approach. Cahill explains: “What you really need to do is to get a better understanding of ‘what is it that I have to offer in this job market? Where are the places out there in the job market where what I have to offer is most valued, could be best used, and what am I most interested in?’” Don’t get caught up in the minutiae of titles or company prestige. An entry-level job may not always be ideal or glamorous, but it’s an important step towards moving up the corporate ladder.
Cahill constantly reminds students that it’s crucial to maintain a positive outlook: “If you can learn how to manage the job-search process, you’ll really maximize your chances of getting something that is going to start you a little further down the road in your career development.”