By Jenna Rew
Internships are vital for any college career, providing the meat to a sparse résumé in order to help propel you into the ever-changing job market. Don’t skip out on them; in this economy, they may be the deciding factor between you and an equally well-educated individual. Take part in as many as you can and if possible go for those that span more than a single semester.
Why risk having fewer internships for a longer running one? When transferring your list of experience to a résumé as applicable job experience, you want to show commitment and minimize the appearance of “job hopping”. Further, longer internships give you more opportunities to soak up information and show valuable initiative in an environment that might otherwise be too fast paced for any real contribution from you.
Typically, internships spanning only one semester last just long enough for you to learn how the position works and what you are responsible for but it doesn’t always lend itself to showing your real value, which could result in some very lack luster references. Look for those that are notorious for giving students real work and not just dumping clerical work on a desk, and try to build lasting relationships that could serve you later. If you can’t find a long spanning internship, then look for ways to squeeze out as much potential as possible from a shorter one. Work at home, do your research, talk to colleagues, and listen to conversations.
Always remember as you work, you are trying to build a résumé strong enough to land you a job. Consider what tools are most valuable in the industry you want to work in and look for internships that cater to those. Ask questions of your supervisors and don’t be afraid to volunteer for things that will give you more opportunities to show-off your skills.
When transferring these skills and experiences to a résumé you want to think in terms of numbers. What was the size of the project you helped with? How much money was at stake? How big was the company? For students, sometimes the prestige of the place you intern at can add value to your portfolio. How did you contribute?
Companies don’t care about your job duties; they know what the position they are hiring for does. They want to know what you bring to the table. If you know how to use some particular technical program, include that. If you worked on something difficult or unique, include that. Try to set yourself apart from your fellow entry-level job seekers, because they all need the job equally as bad.
After each internship, don’t be shy to ask if it is okay to list your supervisor as a reference on a job application, or better yet, to ask them to contribute a quote about your abilities for your résumé. Quotes are vital tools, especially for students. They help provide backing to claims that are non-quantifiable. As students, you probably aren’t going to be able to say you boosted sales 400% or reclaimed $30M in lost revenue. You just don’t have the experience, but you can show that prior employers value you and your ability to adapt to given situations.
Remember, this is your career. Do something you are passionate about and use your internships to make sure you are qualified to land your dream job. Don’t put off until tomorrow something you could do today. You don’t want to be that graduate who has to work an internship for free before getting a job because you just didn’t take the time to do it beforehand.
Thanks Jenna, we all appreciate your input and career management tips,
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