Internships are more than just summer jobs for college students. A well-chosen internship can open doors for you, now and in the future. Before you start sending out resumes for summer jobs, however, take some time to plan your strategy for finding an internship that will help you get a leg up on your future career — and provide you with a summer of learning and fun. Of course, standard tips for finding summer internships are everywhere. You know the traditional drill: buff up your resume, reach out to professors and contacts for letters of recommendation and apply early.
These five tips aren't on the usual menu, but they'll help you land a summer internship that's tailor-made for your career path.
Look for an Internship In Your Chosen Field
Quick sidetrack here — have you checked out Passion Planner's new Game Changer videos? If you haven't, start with this video — 10 Tips After You Graduate, featuring Passion Planner CEO Angelia Trinidad sharing her top 10 tips for life after college. It's in this list because Angelia's fifth tip is — surprise! — take an Internship...but not just any internship. Instead, look for an opportunity to work in your chosen field. This will give you a close-up look at what it's actually like to work in publishing or filmmaking or whatever field it is that flutters your heartstrings. Even better, it will bring you into contact with people who have already started climbing the career ladder you want to climb. Those contacts will be invaluable in the future when you need personal recommendations for jobs. Plus, that internship will look amazing on your resume.
Use Your Planner
It's no real surprise that Angelia's first tip is to Use. Your. Passion. Planner — but it makes perfect sense. It's hard to find a summer internship in your chosen field if you haven't quite figured out where you're going with your life. That's where the Passion Planner Roadmap comes in. You start by figuring out where you want to be in one or three years, and then work your way backward until you've got a set of actionable steps to get where you're going.
There's more to Passion Planner than its Roadmap, though. It will also help you with priority and focus setting, staying on schedule and meeting those all-important deadlines for summer job opportunities that interest you. Nothing worse than losing out on the perfect internship because you forgot to schedule time to write a personal statement or missed a deadline because it fell off your radar.
Do Your Research
Treat your internship search as seriously as you would any job search — and that means starting with some serious research. Make a list of the top companies in your field and check out internship reviews to find out what those companies are really offering their interns. Way Up, an industry leader in recruiting for paid internships and entry level jobs, also suggests that you make a list of skills you want to hone and celebrities or acquaintances you admire, then research them (or talk to them) to find out how they got their start. While you're at it, make a list of cities you've always wanted to visit or live in, and check out internship opportunities there, too. After all, there's more to an internship than what you learn on the job.
Check Out: This article on the Top 100 Companies for Internships for some other things to consider when you're searching for that perfect opportunity.
It might never occur to you to look for an internship at, say, a food bank if you're planning a career in public relations, but this local food bank recently filled a position for a Communications & Development Associate, with more than 50% of the job dedicated to developing its PR strategy and capability. Almost every industry has hidden opportunities where you can develop skills and make contacts that will further your career...and many are easy gets for a college student looking for a summer job because — surprise! They're not high on the target list for college students looking for summer internship opportunities.
What if you could tailor your own summer internship opportunity? Where would you work? What would you do? While most college students scour lists of available internship opportunities, many institutions are willing to work with students to create their own summer internships. A select few, like the University of Chicago, even have some funding available to help underwrite unpaid internships. The list of internship requirements on the University of Utah's website is pretty standard, and most colleges have a similar list.
Check with your internship office or academic advisor to find out if creating your own internship is an option for you. Some institutions will do the legwork for you, but chances are you'll have to sell the idea for your internship yourself. If that's the case, get proactive. Reach out to local companies and nonprofits that may be interested in having an intern for the summer. Be ready to explain why you want to work with them, and what their responsibilities will be in the partnership. Be prepared with your resume and letters of recommendation, as well as any paperwork your college requires. It's a little more work than stepping into a readymade internship, but it can pay off in creating exactly the internship experience you want.
Finally, once you get that internship, make time to reflect on what you're learning and feeling. A few minutes at the end of the day will help you take stock of where you are and whether you're learning what you hoped to learn — and serve as useful notes when you start looking for your next internship or your first job.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer living and working on Massachusetts. She writes frequently about health, wellness and lifestyle topics.