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5 Tips for Scoring Your Perfect Internship in College
August 3, 2022

5 Tips for Scoring Your Perfect Internship in College

Maybe you’ve read that internships are an important part of the college experience. Research suggests that 55% of college graduates with a paid internship receive at least one job offer. In contrast, only 27% of graduates receive an offer without any internship experience. An internship can help you learn and understand your goals as you map out your future.

Keep reading to find out: 1) why an internship will give you an edge in the job market and 2) how to find the right internship for you!

What is it?

An internship is an opportunity to “try on” a certain job or career field. It is a form of experiential learning that takes classroom knowledge and skills and applies them in a professional setting. If you plan to do an academic internship or an internship that counts as college credit toward your degree, you will work with an academic advisor who will help you reflect on your learning while you work for your organization.

Why Do It?

Employers agree that having an industry internship is one of the most influential factors in deciding between two equally qualified candidates. An internship is an opportunity to expand your network while gaining that coveted experience in your field. Internships also give students a leg up in the job market because they allow a peek behind the curtain of the real world. Students can experience careers they are interested in and better understand their goals with short-term commitments to organizations and more flexibility to try out different roles. Internships also help students apply their classroom knowledge in a real-world setting, ultimately building confidence in their abilities. 

Great! How Do I Get An Internship?

If you are headed to college and you know you want to have an internship experience, Berry’s Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) suggests getting connected early and often, but maybe not in the ways you might think.

1. Get to Know Yourself

Do you have a career or organization you dream of working with? That’s exciting! But Marc Hunsaker, dean of personal & professional development, says to begin by getting to know yourself better: 

“The journey of personal and professional development should start with a focus on enhancing one’s self-awareness. We strongly recommend setting aside some time to explore your primary skill and abilities, passions and interests, and personal and professional values.

“Ask yourself thoughtful questions: What kinds of activities most give (and drain) your energy? Which kinds of activities and environments engage you most deeply? Which types of populations and social issues do you care most about? Knowing more about these aspects of yourself will help you find a good internship experience to further explore a wide range of ‘good fit’ career options for you.” 

The Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) uses the analogy of an explorer as a starting point for new students. An explorer cannot chart a journey unless they know the starting location. To begin mapping out goals like an internship, students at Berry have access to free, helpful assessments to “explore” their interests and values. 

For example, Berry's PathwayU and the free Myers-Briggs Personality Test are two of many tools the CPPD often encourages students to use. Additionally, through Berry’s Career Development Network, each Berry student has access to a personal career consultant who can help them identify the best resources to explore a wide range of meaningful life and career goals.

2. Chart a Course

Once you have a sense of where you are, you’re prepared to chart a course or find an internship. At this point, it’s likely you’ve chosen a major and have a realistic sense of your academic requirements or semester-to-semester schedule. Having a clear path to graduation will help you understand what type of internship you want to have and where it might fit in. 

Are you considering a minor? Is studying abroad important to you? If so, when and where you get an internship in your degree matters. If you are doing an academic internship for college credit, you will also have to plan with an advisor. Once your classes are sorted out and you know what type of internships fits in your academic plan, then it’s time to start preparing for the journey.

3. Put Your Knowledge to Work

What classes have you taken so far? What campus experiences have taught you something? Can you put those experiences into words on your resume or LinkedIn profile? What did you learn about yourself that uniquely equips you to do a job? Critically thinking about your experiences and knowing how to talk about them will prepare you to explain to your network why you might be a good fit for an internship.

4. Get the Word Out to Your Network

You may not feel like you know a lot of professionals in your field, but by choosing to attend college, your network has already grown! Think about professors, work supervisors and other mentors you have met on campus. Consider who has experience or knowledge about the area you are interested in. Then, reach out! They expect to hear from you. Don’t forget to also think about your hometown or area where you attend college. Who do you know that might know someone in your industry? Does your uncle or your mom’s friend work in your dream career field? Lean on people who have seen your work in and out of the classroom. They will have insight into who you are and places or people you might not have considered.

5. Don’t Be Shy

You will also be able to take stock of what organizations have specific hiring needs as you meet them. Career fairs offered by offices like the CPPD and other online job/internship boards are excellent opportunities for engagement with potential employers. Sometimes organizations that come looking to hire seniors might meet younger students and decide to offer internships. Consider every conversation as an investment. And once you meet someone, ask for their business card and follow up. 

The right internship will be the sweet spot between meeting your academic needs and schedule, your interest and goals, and meeting the needs of an organization.

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