By Elaina Taylor
I remember very distinctly my parents encouraging me to intern back in high school. However, when I found out that most of them were not the paying type, I quickly dismissed them. I have plenty of time for that, I thought. Why wear dress clothes and uncomfortable shoes free of charge all summer while my friends are out and about raking in the cash? Well, let’s fast forward to the present.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am now one pretty broke college kid. Free stuff? Let me at it! Free food? Holy guacamole, where?! Looking back, it’s only after you fly the coop that you realize just how much you depended on your parents for well, everything. Now more than ever, come summertime I want to be making money and internships don’t always compensate for the work you provide. But before you write them off consider their value.
There are many benefits to interning, and the experience yields valuable tools that often cannot be acquired elsewhere. Chiefly among them is experience – this is quickly becoming a critical factor in hiring decisions. A potential employee with knowledge and experience in a given field is a much safer hire because they already have exposure to that line of work and clearly wish to work there. And with experience comes the acquisition of new skills not to mention confidence in your abilities and contributions. In a competitive job market, an internship can give you the boost you need to edge out another candidate with near similar qualifications. Additionally, internships can also provide course credit for some majors (take a peek at the undergraduate catalog to see if this applies to your major).
Lastly, internships give students the chance to network and create more contacts that could contribute to a possible job in the future. Getting a foot in the door can lead to entry-level jobs, if only because of the connections you established in the duration of your time there. But don’t forget that connections you establish with professors and fellow students could also lead to possible internships and later, job opportunities. Sometimes the best resources are right around you. I myself obtained an internship through a church acquaintance that happened to be the president of a non-profit organization headquartered in D.C. My point is that you can always find people who can help you along in your career, however adolescent it may be, and occasionally not in the most expected places. Take care to remember however, that these opportunities don’t always just present themselves, they have to be sought out and you have to be willing to work to earn your stripes.
Now that the importance of internships has been established, how do you find one? To start out, I’d suggest making a list of places you would be interested in working for and contact them directly. Also be sure to take advantage of the school resources available; JMU has job fairs and services that are specifically tailored to help students find internships and jobs. The Career and Academic Planning Center provides a wealth of related information under the Jobs and Internships tab, and beyond the biannual Career and Internship Fair also offers the Recruit-a-Duke service with recent job and internship postings. Check out Eric’s blog post below for a comprehensive summary of the services offered by the Career and Academic Planning Center!
Once you find an internship you’re interested in, send in an application and follow up! Even if you consider it to be completely out of reach you may land an interview, if only based on your tenacity to be given a chance. You may not have the skills they are looking for, but your persistence and willingness to learn just could pay off. Hint, this has happened to me before! Good luck to you all!
Looking for more information or know-how advice with regards to internships? Then be sure to take a look at my sources: Internships – Career and Academic Planning, Internship information – Academic Services Center under the College of Business