SECURE THE JOB YOU WANT & EXCEL
Increasingly, major companies and non-profit organizations are offering summer internships to college students, especially in the U.S. Information on these programs is posted on the websites of these organizations and is available at college career centers. Some colleges are starting to offer grants to their students who are doing summer internships.
The actual work performed by interns varies significantly from make-work and grunt tasks to projects that are fun and challenging, depending on the employer and the initiative of the intern. The benefit of an internship is that it gives you an opportunity to learn first-hand about a field or organization where you may want to work after graduation and to establish contacts there. If you make a good impression as an intern, it definitely enhances your chances of gaining a full-time job with that employer after graduation.
Many internships do not offer any paid compensation, especially those with non-profit groups and some highly coveted “glamorous” employers in the arts, fashion and media. If you are particularly interested in working at a certain organization, send a letter to its president, executive director or division head expressing your interest in having a summer internship there and follow up afterwards with a phone call to demonstrate the seriousness of your interest.
Before you commit to any summer internship, do your homework to make sure it is likely going to be a worthwhile experience, regardless of the pay. Ask for a written job description to determine if the work is going to be meaningful. Try to gain exposure to different parts of the organization. After you have been interviewed and offered an internship, ask to speak to individuals who were interns previously and to meet the person you would be working for, if that is at all possible, before you make a final decision.
Two major factors will heavily influence whether your internship is a worthwhile experience – first, having the right mentor or key contact person responsible for overseeing your internship, and second, the extent to which you use initiative in seeking tasks to perform when you have nothing to do. For example, ask if you can research some issue that is demanding attention and prepare a memo on it. Or, see if you can join a TEAM that is already working on a project. Be resourceful in finding ways that you can contribute to the success of the company or organization.
Depending obviously on whether you can afford to do so, taking an exciting summer internship even if it does not offer any pay will look much better on your future résumé than taking a low level summer job doing work that is unrelated to your future career. When your internship is finished, remember to send a handwritten or typed letter of appreciation to the person who hired you and also to anyone else who played a major role in your internship.
Three excellent sources of additional advice on how to be successful in finding the right job are the books The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction by Nicholas Lore, "Where Have I Gone Right? – The Right Mountain Guide to Getting the Job and Life You Want" by Jim Hayhurst and What Color Is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles. More information about the latter book and its author can be found at the website www.jobhuntersbible.com.
Appendix 1. Personal Worksheet Sample
Appendix 2. Résumé Sample
Appendix 3. Covering Letter Sample
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