As the end of the fall semester grows near, many of us are starting to think about our plans for the summer; where we will vacation, when we will visit our friends… and where to apply for internships. A college education is not enough to ensure high-paying jobs anymore, we must enter the workforce with experiences and connections already under our belts. The pressure to apply is definitely sneaking up on all of us, but there are multiple hoops to jump through in order to get our names out there. How do we get in touch with employers? How do we narrow down our search? How do we remain confident throughout the process? Putting questions like these out of our minds is only possible for so long, and pretty soon we will have no other choice but to face the music and start making some decisions.
In the midst of our frustration, some of us often question the importance of college internships. It is important to note, however, the reality of these experiences; college graduates who enter the real world already possessing some training and expertise are much more employable than those without these skills. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 63% of students who completed a paid internship received a job offer right out of college, many of whom were offered full-time positions at their place of internship. Those without internship experience had a much harder time finding a job and made 28% less than those who had internships as of 2018. A recent analysis done by LinkedIn shows that 35% of entry-level positions asked for years of prior experience. In the words of an economics professor at Auburn University, “Internships are now the entry-level.”
While the main goal of an internship is to acquire certain competencies, many of us are also trying to make some money. Aside from the competitive barriers that every college student faces in trying to get an internship, women have to overcome an extra challenge: we are underrepresented among paid interns. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that women account for 81% of unpaid internships and 68% of paid internships. This evidence of gender disproportionality is both startling and discouraging, and may raise questions about the reality of success that we, as women, can even achieve in the workforce.
Well, working harder to accomplish our goals may be unfair, but we are all capable of success if we simply prepare and remain confident in ourselves. Here are a few tips to help keep your cool during the application process and ensure that you get the best internship possible!
1. Make sure your resume is in tip-top shape! Proofread yourself, but also ask for feedback from trusted friends, family, and professors. Make an effort to highlight any special skills you possess or experiences that you have had, even if you may not feel that they are relevant to the specific position that you are applying for. It is often forgotten that writing and communicative skills are important when working in finance or information technology. You never know who will be reading your application and may feel a connection towards a particular competency that you possess, so leveraging your talents and abilities may just be the key to making you stand out.
2. Remember to start the internship search sooner rather than later. Waiting until the end of the school year to start thinking about applying probably won’t work in your favor, so start small and start early. Whether it be creating a LinkedIn profile, browsing through websites that list advertisements for potential internships, or utilizing predictor tools to jumpstart ideas about what will be the best fit for you, starting to browse early on will help in narrowing down the search. Take steps in the process so that by the time you start applying, you feel prepared and secure in what you are looking to get out of your internship.
3. Utilize your connections! As college students, we are lucky to have a plethora of resources right at our fingertips. Consult your professors and advisors, ask your parents to put in a good word with their own colleagues, reach out to employers on LinkedIn, and take advantage of the software and data that your school grants you access to. Don’t ignore the notifications that you may get in your email about potential internship opportunities, and try to develop relationships with those around you in order to build your network. You never know if the person sitting next to you knows of an opportunity that could open a door for you professionally, so never rule anyone out and always put your best foot forward when meeting someone new!
The most important thing to remember throughout the entire process is to believe in yourself. Rejections are natural and often necessary in order to learn and grow, and staying positive will make all the difference in the way you present yourself to those with who you are interviewing and connecting with. Allowing yourself time, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, and not ruling any opportunity out will ensure that you are successful in your pursuit of an internship, no matter where you end up.