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The UnCollege Blog

Why You Need an Internship and How to Find One

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What can an internship do for your life, learning, and career?

C’mon you’re smart – you can guess the answer to this one. An internship can give you valuable on-the-job training, help you figure whether you want to work in a given field, and help you make new connections, mentors, and friends in the industry. All this adds up to helping you land a full-time job in your field, gaining experience, and meeting influential people who could open doors for you in the future. Sometimes internships even have things like “Free Bagel Monday”, which is good because…the bagels are free...and who doesn't love bagels?

 bagel.png yum... Anyway, you get it, and know the real question should be: What can’t an internship do for you?

And the answer is: Make you rich. While there are exceptions, the vast majority of internships offer very little pay or no pay at all. So, it’s important to consider an internship a learning experience or stepping stone, because you’re mostly going to be living off those free bagels.

Still as you can see, the pros immeasurably outweigh the cons. So, we’ve designed this guide to help you land an internship. Here’s how:

pick-a-field.pngPick a Field:

Naturally, the first step to getting an internship is figuring out where you want to intern: It is time to pick a field! If you’re at that point where you know with certainty what you want to do with your life, then this part is easy. You’ll be looking there for your internship.

If however, you’re not 100% committed to a single job or industry, that’s fine too. An internship is a great way to figure out exactly how much you’ll like an actual job. Sit down, have a long think, and try to come up with three different occupations you might like to try. This is easier said than done, but you should start by asking yourself questions like What’s always intrigued you? What do you like to read about? What skills do you think you have? Then, order them from favorite to least favorite. As you go through the next steps, start at the top and work your way down.

 noun_256970.pngFinding Internships:

Now that you know what you want, how do you find those precious opportunities? If you’re currently in school, it’s best to start there.       

Most schools and colleges have people or programs specifically designed to place their students in internships. Figure out exactly who those people are, and schedule a chat with them. They’ll help you understand what resources are available to you, and may even be able to place you directly in an internship program or position.

But don’t rely solely on your school or even your local community to find you an internship: The best resource for finding an internship is the internet. (This shouldn’t be a surprise as the internet has everything). Of course, knowing where to look can be a bit harder. If you have a group of favorite companies, you can check their websites for a job page and see if they’re currently looking for interns. If there are a few companies in particular that strike your fancy, reach out to them via email even if there appears to be no openings—sometimes companies just don’t advertise the need for interns.

For a wider search, you’ll want to use an internship search site such as InternshipProgram.com. Here, you’ll be able to search all internships currently available in your area, and filter based on field and job requirements. Seeing as internships often get a large number of candidates, you’ll want to improve your odds of landing one by applying to multiple internships at the same time. So, as you go through the listings, create a document where you can save all the internships you qualify for and are interested in.

(It’s worth noting as you look through these postings that “job requirements” are often a wish list of skills, rather than 100% required. If you meet a majority of the requirements and are only missing 1-2 skills, then it’s still worth your time to apply.)

narrow-it-down.png Narrowing it Down:

How do you know which companies are the best to work for? Nothing beats talking to an actual company employee, so this is where you need to be proactive:.Check around to see if your friends or family know someone who's worked there, and see if you can talk to them about their experiences. Think about the skills you want to learn and if a company can help you develop those skills. Do you want a startup atmosphere or something more corporate? Maybe add more detail here: Do you want to get academic credit for it? Do you have a certain amount of hours you want to work? Ask yourself the right questions before you make your move.

Following an information session with an employee, the second best thing is the internet (big surprise, right?) A great site to check when trying to learn more about a company is Glassdoor.com, a website where a company’s current employees can post anonymously about how much they like working there, what the average salaries are, and other useful tidbits about the company. Take any single extremely positive or extremely negative reviews with a grain of salt, as those could be planted by the company or a disgruntled employee. However, pay attention to the majority: If most reviews are positive or quite negative, then you have a good gauge of what you’re getting into.

As you take your list of potential internships and start to narrow it down based on word of mouth and reviews, you’ll hopefully end up with a manageable list of places to apply to. There’s no magic number for the right amount of internships to apply for. As long as you think they’re a good fit and you have the time and energy to meet the application requirements, feel free to apply to as many internships you can!

Then one more...just in case.

Job Exploration Guide

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