An increasing amount of schools are requiring students to complete an internship for graduation, and it seems as if everyone has advice on how to find the perfect internship. Sometimes, however, it feels like no matter how many resume revisions you make, or how long you practice for an interview, you’re still nowhere closer to the internship of your dreams.
While getting lost in all the details of an internship search is easy, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the big picture. Here are five habits that can ensure your attitude, intentions, and actions are all working together to land you a fulfilling internship.
The first hurdle you have to jump in searching for an internship is understanding what you are looking for. Opportunities for experiential learning exist everywhere, and it takes some narrowing down to find the right one. Patrick Sullivan, Associate Director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, recommends, “instead of saying, ‘I want an internship’, consider developing a goal that incorporates your skills and interests. Working towards a goal [like] that is more … realistic and more manageable.”
Maintain an open mind
Even after narrowing you’re search, it’s still important to consider other possibilities. According to Tara Shishmanian, a senior who is majoring in business communication at Stevenson University and who has completed four internships, “Even if somebody mentions something that doesn’t sound interesting, I’ll still research it, because you never know where it could lead.” The point here is that you should learn as much as you can about an opportunity before pursuing or dismissing it. This extra effort could make the difference in finding an internship that fits your goals and needs.
Don’t go it alone
Always recognize the social side of any organization you’re applying to. Don’t discount the importance of talking to and learning from people; it’s an everyday practice that can be a deciding factor in finding and landing a position. Jeff McGuire from Rowan University’s Career Management Center says, “Knowing where to turn when you need something is just as important as having what you need in the first place. If resourcefulness is a measure of value, then knowing where to turn might even be more useful than possessing the knowledge first hand.”
End on a high note
As your internship comes to a close, go out with the same intensity you had coming in. “Finish at a sprint; don’t coast to the end. Even if you’re finished with your summer project, walk around and volunteer to help anyone else,” Bob Bruner, dean of business administration at the University of Virginia, advises. This is your chance to leave a good last impression with your employer – you don’t want to be known as the lazy intern who gave up during the last week. Also be sure to maintain the connections you’ve made with your coworkers; they may be the people helping you get your next internship.
Lastly, remember to take something from each opportunity that comes your way. Reflecting on internship experiences will give you an idea of what you’ve accomplished, the challenges you faced, how you overcame these challenges and, most importantly, how all these factors will translate into your professional life in the future. “So many people get caught up in leaving their internship that they don’t take the time to reflect on their experience, their likes and dislikes, or their transferable skills,” says Jen Wheeler, Experiential Learning Coordinator at Stevenson University.
Conventional internship search strategies focusing on interviews and resumes are important, but a broader shift in attitude is going to make a more meaningful difference. Combined with standard advice, following these five steps will have you interning in the perfect place.