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Hunting Down an Internship

By Aimee Whitenack

Finding the ideal internship can be difficult, but by correctly using such tools as your college career center, networking, the Internet, and cold-calling, the task is certainly surmountable.

If you do create an internship, assert your interests early on, suggest projects you'd like to undertake, and find a mentor to help you set long-term goals.
The value of internships these days is unquestionable. For starters, an internship gives you the opportunity to build skills, make contacts, develop knowledge of a company and industry, beef up your resume, and decide whether the job that seems so flawless is truly all you've dreamt it to be. So how do you go about finding an internship? And is any internship a good internship?

The Career Center

While the best way to find an internship will vary a bit from industry to industry, visiting your college's career center is always a good place to start. Government agencies and private companies post internship opportunities with college career centers, and often companies in the financial or consulting fields conduct on-campus recruiting through the centers. Also, your career office may ask its students to fill out surveys assessing their former internships, which might shed some light on the quality of specific internship programs. These surveys can provide useful contact information as well.

The same networking skills you need in a job hunt are useful in an internship search as well. Talk to your friends, your friends' friends, your parents' friends, your professors, and the alumni of your university who are in the field (whose names also can be found at the good ole career center). Even if a phone call just leads to another phone number to call, that's great-you're expanding your network! Ask your professors specifically about opportunities to assist with research projects.

The Internet
The value of the Internet is twofold when it comes to hunting down an internship. Many companies and organizations have web sites where they provide information about their internship opportunities. Furthermore, job posting sites like Experience allow you to search for internships, usually by location and/or industry.

Go Straight to the Source
If you know the company or organization for which you want to intern and you've already searched its web site, go ahead and call the company directly for more information. Many large corporations have competitive internship programs which have protocols for applications (like strict deadlines). If a company or organization doesn't offer a formal internship program, however, don't be afraid to create your own opportunity. An offer of free labor can be difficult to refuse.

If you do create an internship, assert your interests early on, suggest projects you'd like to undertake, and find a mentor to help you set long-term goals. You are likely to find that start-ups and companies with small budgets (prevalent in human services, the arts, and environmental organizations) are able to give their interns a high degree of responsibility.

Wide Eyes and Open Ears
It's never too early to apply for an internship. While formal internship programs may be limited to college juniors and seniors or recent grads, there are plenty of opportunities out there. Once on the job, don't be afraid to ask for more responsibility. And remember, even if there's more stapling and coffee-fetching than you were hoping for, keep your ears and eyes open for learning opportunities just the same. At the very least, you'll be exploring your career options, and when it comes time to tackle the full-time job search, you'll be an even more attractive candidate.

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