Student Internships: A Great Way to Start Building Your Resume Now
Internships are a great way for students to learn important business skills, build a more impressive resume, launch critical networking relationships, and even open doors to land a permanent job after graduation. AOL Jobs turned to Bob Franco, assistant director of the Career Center at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., for some tips on landing an internship during your college years.
Q. When should students begin looking for internships?
A. It is never too early to look for an internship. Depending on your major, most juniors and seniors look for paid internships. This gives freshman and sophomores the opportunity to look at unpaid roles, which often provide extremely valuable experiences. Do not frown upon unpaid internships -- even as a senior. You can also get a part-time job on the side if you need money. Internships are an investment in your future and will most likely have an impact on your starting salary. You should be thinking about possibly one internship after your freshman year, three internships (fall, spring, summer) in your sophomore and junior years, and two as a senior (fall and spring). Realistically, few students will have nine internships, but it is reasonable to expect three or four over a college career.
Q. What's the best way to source an internship?
A. By far, the best way to source an internship is through the established inroads at your college/ university. First and foremost are alumni contacts. Many alumni stay connected to their school and will seek job candidates from their alma mater. Many schools have alumni social networks on Facebook and LinkedIn; it is a good idea to join these early in your college career.
Second, each college/university has longstanding and profound relationships with specific employers -- these are not the same at every school. Students should take advantage of these relationships with employers, especially if the school is designated as a "target school." Frankly, it is foolish not to seek internships with these employers as a primary source while targeting other opportunities. Colleges also have job/internship posting systems.
Q. How can a student convey their value proposition on a resume when they have limited experience in a company setting?
A. Do not think about ANY position as to being too small. If you were a waiter/waitress, explain how you helped achieve the goals of the establishment you worked for -- creating the customer experience, setting the tone for repeat business, and cross-selling products. If you were a lifeguard, demonstrate how you were in compliance with safety standards, created an environment of customer satisfaction, and helped build a positive reputation for the establishment. Employers do not expect a student to have a lot of experience -- it is not about the task, but how one thinks about the task in a larger context. Also, resumes need consistency. What you say in the objective must be emphasized throughout. If a student's goal is in accounting, then mention the reconciliation of the cash drawer at that supermarket cashier position.
Q. What type of internship should a student look for if they are undecided about their major or not sure if their major directly correlates to the type of work they would like to be doing in the future?
A. Never make things appear unfocused! If a student is undeclared, simply put the degree, the school and the year (anticipated). A good, clear objective and a results-oriented (context-oriented) approach to dealing with work experience (internships, part time jobs, etc.), is the key.
Q. How do you recommend students build upon an internship to open doors for them, especially if they are headed into their senior year?
A. Many large companies look to "convert" interns into full-time hires. Given this fact, performance in these roles is important for future considerations. In general, a student should focus on the impact they are making on an internship; if you were able to make an impact for that employer, it is likely another employer will be interested in learning more about you.
It is very important to read the job description of the internship and job descriptions of potential future positions to understand what is expected and valued by employers. This includes a profound understanding of what good performance means and how individuals/ teams are rewarded. Knowing the metrics your role has influence on can really help build a case for the kinds of positions for which you are a good candidate.
Q. Are there any resources/books you recommend for students considering an internship?
A. Get familiar with what is offered by your school in general and your career center specifically. Get help with your skills inventory, career assessment, job search, resume, interviewing skills, networking strategies. You can gain important life skills from your school career professional, which will benefit you throughout your career. Resources outside your school can be used to attain information specific to your area of interest, industry or potential employers. Vault, Hoovers, Riley Guide, Salary.com, O*Net, and Hibberd's List are a few good sources. Job boards are also an excellent source of information on internships.
Next: Five Internships That Will Land You a Good Job
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