Internships are a proven way to explore career options, make strong professional connections and gain experience and industry skills. In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employers recently published updated research showing the connection between internships and positive career outcomes after graduation, including higher salaries and shorter time between graduation and securing a job.
Successful internship searching is all about people. In previous generations, students could submit a resume or job application and that would be it. Now with the rise of web and social media resources, interpersonal relationships are the key to gaining internship experience.
Start in your comfort zone with the people that know and care about you most, and then expand out to people with shared experiences or connections. When you reach out to people, show interest in their story. People like sharing about their experiences and giving advice. Learn about their career journey and ask them for tips and recommendations. These are people who have gone before you in the journey and have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Even if that conversation doesn’t lead directly to an internship, you will have learned more about the working world and how God might be calling you into the next step of your career journey.
Here are five tips to help you start your internship search by leveraging connections and resources around you.
1. Start close to home
- Begin with your family (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). These are the people that love you the most. They may be able to hire you as an intern themselves, or they can connect you with someone in their company.
- Next, tap into the friends of your family. This can be your parents’ friends and coworkers, church members or even people in your neighborhood. These are the people that have probably seen you grow up, so be sure to present yourself professionally and give them an update on where you are in your academic and career journey.
- Family of your friends can be a great way to expand your professional connections, especially if you have a smaller family network yourself. Be sure to ask your friend for their permission since these are their people.
2. Visit the Career Center
- Career advisors on your campus have relationships with local recruiters and can connect you directly to the source. It’s part of their job to help you and the best part is they will coach you through the process!
- Start early! Meet with a career advisor every year to explore potential career options and plan your strategies for making connections and gaining experience.
3. Attend career fairs
- There are internship opportunities available even for first-year students. At the very least, attend a career expo in the fall or spring to learn more about companies and practice presenting yourself professionally to employers so that you are prepared for when you start your internship search.
- Don't limit yourself. Be open to talking to recruiters from across industries. You never know where an opportunity will present itself.
4. Build mentor relationships with alumni
- Utilize the Biola University page on LinkedIn to find alumni doing things that interest you.
- Conduct an informational interview to learn about their career journey since college.
- Connect with new alumni each year and stay in touch regularly.
5. Use LinkedIn, Handshake, and other online resources
- LinkedIn is a social media site with the primary goal of connecting professionals, which includes students. It is the main tool that employers use to find interns and employees. After creating a strong profile that highlights your skills, education and experience, connect with recruiters and other professionals in the companies where you would like to intern. But remember, it is about going beyond the technology and developing a relationship. Be sure to message people about your interest in their company. Request a meeting off-line, either by phone or in-person, to get to know more about their company.
- Handshake is also a great tool to find additional internships with companies that are familiar with Biola. Often you can find reviews from other students about their internship experience or even get the contact information for the hiring manager.
- Use job search sites like Indeed.com to expand your internship search, research internship titles and descriptions and identify key skills to highlight in your resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter.
By using these tips, you will set yourself up well for a career after graduation. As always, feel free to reach out to the Career Center for more career planning help.
Tiffany Lee is the director of career development and success. For more information, email Tiffany at firstname.lastname@example.org.