Rules about internships may make it harder for companies to find student workers who can provide services without pay, but the real question about internships is how to make them fit into your career goal and a real, paying job.
Labor department officials have said that internships without pay are going to be difficult, and that’s all well and good. But if you’re looking to gain experience you need to be able to demonstrate that your internship actually helped develop your skills. Perhaps moreso than in a job, you need to put some footwork into ensuring that you pick the right program.
Media companies are some of the biggest culprits in providing a name for a resume without demonstrable experience during an internship. For example, many magazines treat their interns like glorified gophers without teaching them about the editorial, advertising or general business aspects of running a title.
When you look for programs, choose ones that trumpet the ability for interns to work on projects of their interest, or ones that offer clearly delineated roles for students at their companies. Just like a full-time job, you’ll need to be able to highlight the skills that you picked up to future employers.
At the same time, acting like an introvert is not going to cut it at any work experience, least of all an internship. You should be spending at least a half an hour to an hour each day talking to employees about job prospects, about what they like about the job and how to get your name out there. While they need to not seem overeager, interns rarely realize that an internship is often an extended interview and career networking session.
Using the leads that you picked up, you need to go back to your resume and figure out what the most important aspects of your internship were. If you were assigned a special project that took most of your time, that should be the focus of your description. Less important in many cases is the name of the company where you worked, although in some circles it can act as a foot in the door.
If you network well, you can often find a way to get work with the company where you interned. Don’t hesitate to offer your services part-time, or even on a freelance basis if they seem like a good fit. If they aren’t, however, look at their competitors.
It’s a simple fact of human psychology that competitors often have a special desire to stick it to each other. If you can demonstrate your value to a firm who operates in the same space as where you interned, you may have a better shot than other candidates simply because you understand both cultures and can offer insights that others might not.
Either way, treat the work like what it is: an opportunity to learn more about a field and to make connections with those who can help you. Make sure that you ask for projects and assignments that fit what you want to do later, and then highlight them to prospective employers.
by John Sylo