It’s easy to overlook the importance of how much a college internship can do for you—perhaps even more so when you’re still unclear about your future. Getting the right internship and making the most of the opportunity can greatly impact how you launch your career after college. In this article, we share tips to help you secure a promising internship and make a good impression once you get there.
Related: Definitive Guide to Internships
How to find a college internship
Internships can provide direction, training and job opportunities—plus college credit and perhaps a paycheck—so it is worth ensuring you have the greatest internship experience possible. Follow these pointers to help you get there:
1. Be practical
You'll get the most from an internship that still lets you balance work, life and school. For instance, you don’t want an internship that requires you to work 25 hours a week if you already have a semester full of difficult courses. If your course load can’t support it, be honest with your limits and consider a summer internship instead. Whether or not the internship pays or how convenient the location is are important considerations as well.
Read more: How To Find a Summer Internship
2. Be open-minded
If you know exactly where you’re headed after college, an internship can provide training and prepare you faster for your career path. If you’re unsure of your post-graduate future, an internship can answer questions as much as it can open doors. An internship gives you the chance to try out the working world in new ways with a lower commitment level than a full-time job.
On the other hand, even if you have your sights set on a particular internship, you shouldn’t limit yourself either. Some high-profile internships can be very competitive and demand more of prospective interns trying to get a foot in the door. Being open to different experiences means more opportunity and less disappointment.
3. Use your resources
Just like job hunting in the professional world, networking can help you find internship opportunities. Friends, family, coworkers and classmates are all valid sources for helping you find one. If you are part of an honor society or Greek life, these organizations are great networking opportunities. Alumni networks can also lead to internship opportunities. Another option is to visit your university’s career services office or try a career counselor on campus. But to truly be resourceful and proactive, find your own internship leads by contacting a company you’re interested in working for and pitch the idea.
4. Be ready for the interview
It’s important to make a good impression on your interviewer. Be prepared to answer questions. Research the company. Leave yourself plenty of time to arrive promptly and show up looking well-groomed and professional.
Read more: 10 Tips To Excel in an Internship Interview
Tips for getting the most from your college internship
An internship can be much more than college credit or a way to boost your resume. It is an opportunity to apply what you learned in school to the real world, gain both job and life experience and to network. Once you’ve found the internship, here are some ways you can make the most of it:
Related: 10 Benefits of Doing an Internship
1. Learn as much as possible
Of course, you want to perform well and make a good impression at your internship. But it could benefit you to see your internship as a much bigger opportunity than just a job. In the role of an intern, most people will be aware that you are there hoping to learn. Take advantage of this time and learn as many facets of your role, industry and even other departments, that you possibly can. As an intern, you get to discover what makes you a commodity in your industry, what separates you from other candidates and what skills you can improve in the future.
2. Introduce yourself to everyone
While there are no guarantees, an internship is one of the best ways to assure yourself a job after college. But even if your internship doesn’t lead to a full-time job, it’s an opportunity to connect with others in your desired industry, and you’ll be able to speak of the job experience when looking for work. Introduce yourself to as many people as possible while on the job. When appropriate, people should know who you are by name. Hustle is always appreciated, but more importantly, the more people who have a positive memory of you, the more potential opportunities you make for yourself. Even if your current department doesn’t end up hiring you, you could be recommended elsewhere within the company and beyond.
3. Track your progress and duties
Interns have core duties and daily tasks, but you may also perform tasks you’ve either never done before or became especially valuable to your team or the company. Take note of everything you accomplish during your internship, as these are potential talking points for future job interviews and skills you can develop further in your career.
4. Set goals for yourself
When you first start your internship, think about what you hope to gain. If possible, speak with your supervisor about these goals. Not only will you establish what you want from your internship—both for yourself and for the company—but most employers appreciate focused and proactive interns. You could leave a lasting impression.
Related: How To Set Internship Goals
5. Get feedback on your performance
An internship may not have the same formal review process that a full-time job might, but you should want to learn as much as possible from the experience. Internships, by design, are learning opportunities, so this is your time to grow. Ask for a review, or if that isn’t possible, seek feedback whenever you can. In addition to learning, you’ll be showcasing yourself as someone eager to grow with people who can perhaps one day offer you a full-time job.