Regardless of what college you go to, how old you are, what your major is or who you know, you need to get an internship. Not tomorrow or next week or next semester- now.
The most useful tip I can give while in the process of looking for an internship is to branch out. Look for internships in unexpected places. Newspapers need finance interns just as much as they need journalism interns. Doing this will set you apart from the pack and provide you with less competitive opportunities because applicants who have a background similar to yours probably never think to apply.
I used this theory to land my internship with NBC Universal. My skill set is in digital, and NBC Universal is a TV and film company. But, because an internship at NBC Universal isn’t the traditional kind of opportunity that people with digital skills look into, I could distinguish myself more from the applicants I was up against.
Use the People Around You
If branching out isn’t helping and you are still having trouble getting an internship, keep the people around you in mind.
Make friends with your professors. They were probably once big shots in their respective industries. They can point you in the direction of companies or places where they know people. Many professors also have consulting businesses on the side, which could be an asset to your internship search.
Visit the Career Center. They are paid to help you find jobs and internships. They know people in your city and they often have internship boards where companies post their internships.
Utilize Your Alumni Network. Former students at your school were once in your shoes- they took the same classes, lived in the same places, and studied in the same library. Talk to them; ask them for help on your resume and tips on finding internships and jobs. They can probably help because they’ve done it before.
Mix it Up
Some of the best advice I received is to intern at companies of various sizes. I’ve worked at companies with as little as five employees and as large as NBC, where I was one of 500 interns.
Interning for a smaller company usually affords greater opportunity to do hands-on-work in many different roles. Internships at larger corporations tend to be more formal with little room to learn broader skills and branch out of your assigned role.
If you don’t have the time for an internship or can’t find one that suits you, volunteer. If you are interested in public relations, for instance, try volunteering for a political candidate or a non-profit organization.
Many industries also have trade organizations- check these out. They often have events at which you can volunteer or networking events that you can attend. These are great places to be because everyone shares your interests and knows a number of people in your desired industry. This can help you find that elusive internship or some face time with a professional in your field.
Remember, it is never too early to start interning. My first internship was during my freshman year in college. Starting early was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it allowed me to discover early on that I wanted to change majors to reflect my new interests- something that may be harder to do the further into college you get.
Start the search now!
Shannon Reed is a senior at Boston University majoring in Advertising in the College of Communication. She has experience working for NBC Universal in New York City as well as PJA Advertising and Marketing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She loves clean functional digital design. Digital is the future of advertising and marketing and Shannon likes to say involved and on trend. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter.