Along with academic learning that takes place in the classroom, college should be utilized for hands-on professional development. Internship programs offer students the opportunity to test their interests in real-world settings. For students hopeful to transition from college into thriving careers, capitalizing on internships is a must.
Studies find that students who participate in well-structured internship programs are twice as likely to be recruited for full-time employment as students who do not. The perks of internships include access to thought-leaders, executives, and potential employers for hands-on training. Internships instill professional discipline and problem-solving skills that catch the eye of hiring managers.
Knowing where to start to secure meaningful internships can be difficult, especially first-generation college students, many who are minorities. Much as I mention in Education Wednesday: Empowering First-Generation College Students, young people benefit greatly when mentors and parents offer guidance through application processes. Each of us can play an active role in preparing more minority students to secure these necessary positions.
Aundrea's Tips for Securing Internships
"Work" your network: Finding an internship (and job) is all about who you know. Start with your own place of employment for possible opportunities. Likewise, ask friends and family members if they know of any internship programs. Be diligent about finding an “in” that can lock down a position for your student.
Students should network too: Joining organizations such as young professionals clubs are great ways to start positive new relationships, much as I discuss in Education Wednesday: Continuing Support for First-Generation College Students. Networking through social activities can help students build career contacts that can lead to internship positions. Hint: Important resources not to overlook are school alumni networks. It was a Howard University alum who helped me land my first internship.
Increase online-presence: Personal and professional online profiles can help or hinder a student's chance of selection for an internship. Hiring managers often research all social media channels to gauge a candidate's fit with company values. Inappropriate selfies and other postings, even on what you believe are personal sites such as Facebook, are a Don’t. Instead, students should take time to build profiles on websites such as LinkedIn or Monster.com that descriptively convey their talents and interests as an individual. Also, immediately "clean up" all social media.
Do not limit the search: When applying for internships, students should prioritize their choices. Positions in a desired industry will be at the top of the list. However, students should not overlook positions that can offer similar work experiences. Hint: Check leading industries near college for internship opportunities. Also, students must be flexible to travel to a good opportunity. All too often students pass on quality internships because the location is far away from the comforts of home and the familiarity of friends.
Apply early: Internships are generally offered in trimester-like cycles during the Fall, Spring, and Summer. Students should be aware of relevant deadlines and submit applications as soon as possible. This will allow time to thoroughly edit applications and spend extra time preparing for interviews.
Students must take every opportunity they can to adequately prepare for life beyond college. Entering careers where minorities continue to be underrepresented takes hard work in the classroom coupled with a resume that demonstrates specialized knowledge. While securing an internship is the first step, next week I will share tips for ways students can make the most of these important work experiences.
An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.Is your student applying for top internships?