Avoid Common Internship Mistakes
In today's very competitive hiring environment, employers
are looking for graduates who are goal-oriented and have already
built a resume of coursework and work experiences related
to their career direction. Internships provide students with
the opportunity to gain that valuable real-world experience,
making their textbook learning and classroom discussions come
The best internships give students a practical preview of
a career, company or organization, and/or geographic area.
Exposure and experience help students clarify career goals
and make better course selections. Internships give students
important exposure to work environments, diverse co-workers
and supervisors, office operations, business terminology,
and professional behavior. Participating in meaningful project
work lets you show your skills and network with employees
across the company. Often, the longer the internship, the
better the project.
Students may participate in internships during the summer
or during the academic year. They can range from 4 weeks to
a year, depending on the academic program. Most summer internships
are 6 to 12 weeks long and typically take place the summer
between junior and senior year in college. Proactive students
are opting for multiple internships, beginning their resumes
freshman or sophomore year. In fact, Shell, the energy and
petrochemical company, and KPMG, the accounting and consulting
firm, are just two examples of companies with early identification
programs for high potential college sophomores. Companies
commonly use their internship program to attract and develop
talented individuals who are desirable full-time hires upon
Sometimes academic credit may be earned for internships.
Sometimes they are paid. Sometimes they are strictly voluntary.
An internship is not just an activity to check off your list.
Determine what you want to learn or gain from the experience,
and how you can contribute.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when looking for an
1. Don't wait until the last minute. Do visit your campus
internship or career services center four to six months
before you would like to begin your internship to investigate
what resources they offer to secure internships.
2. Don't rely solely on someone else to find opportunities
for you. Do take the initiative by identifying companies
and organizations you are interested in, and then search
their websites to see if they have internship programs.
If you don't see a formal program mentioned, call the company
3. Don't underestimate your talents. If a company doesn't
have a formal internship program, don't let that fact deter
you. Do ask them if there are any short-term projects that
need doing. Developing your own proposal plants a seed that
can turn into an internship equivalent.
4. Don't skip career fairs offered by your college or your
community to meet company recruiters. These professionals
may also be sourcing candidates for their internship program.
Do ask them about company and industry needs.
5. Don't overlook government departments and agencies.
Remember to look at federal, state, county and city government
6. Don't neglect telling your network what you are looking
for. Do the work to clarify what you are looking for and
be able to articulate it to others.
7. Don't be unprofessional. Do treat the internship search
like a formal job search. Take advantage of the resume writing,
interviewing and job search workshops at your college career
center to learn how to present your best self to a potential
employer. And do treat the internship as if you were a full-time
8. Don't get upset if you have been turned down for an
internship. Do look at opportunities to stay on the company's
radar. Send a letter expressing your continued interest
in a position if one opens up later. Sometimes students
offered internships do not accept, or plans change as summer
approaches and they withdraw.
© Copyright 2009, Career Vision. Article may be reprinted