Finding an internship usually goes one of two ways for college students. The first is having a specific internship in mind and spending all your time working towards it. The second path has students finding themselves scrambling a couple of days before the deadline, having no idea how to go about getting an internship that they will get something out of. If you’re in the first group, thats great! But if you’re like most of us, you have no clue how to get the perfect internship that will start your career off on the right foot. Fortunately, finding a great internship is easier than you think.
When you start to look for an internship, you have to get to know yourself first. Like any design project, think about what your goal is and how you want to achieve it. Ask yourself, “What do I want to do? How do I want to work? Who would need my talents?” Most people want to dive into a place that has a name people know, and while name recognition is good, you’re better off looking at internships that will allow you to do what you do best (Would you rather fetch coffee or do simple design work for a small mobile studio?) Think about your answer, and you will have a good idea about what you want.
Next, look at the environment you’re in. How competitive is it to get into the place you want? Are their tons of different variations for what you want? Is there a profession that could use my specific set of skills? All these questions can help you become realistic about your expectations, as well as help you expand your horizons to a different type of internship. As an example, I wanted to do logo work for my internship, so I went to all the big ad agencies – but the spots were limited and I couldn’t get in. So, instead, I took an internship with a minor league women’s soccer team. Although they were looking for a marketing person, I sold myself as a creative and soon I was designing their logo as my internship project. I was able to make it exactly what I wanted. Never be afraid to offer your best skills.
Finally, know your competition. Look at others in your class, where they are going, and how they are looking for opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask people where they got their internship and ask professors what you can do to make yourself more attractive to internship employers. Something else to consider: being involved is a BIG help when it comes to internships. Most employers want people with a good resume backing them up, so if you can’t fill up that resume with work experience, do it with organizations you belong to, activities you do and charities you volunteer for.
Taking all the above information into consideration, you have to know where to begin to look for that perfect internship. Please bare in mind that a good internship can come from anywhere, these are just some places to start looking and making connections.
Cruise the Internship Boards
This applies to both digital and the good ole‘ fashion internship pinboards that are up in almost every department at a school. Usually these are places that take interns from that program every semester and they have a good relationship with the school. This is a great place to find an internship but the competition is fierce and slots usually filled up very quickly.
Ask Professors and Teachers
This one seems obvious, but its amazing to me how little students use their teachers as a resource for getting an internship. Most professors at the college level have worked in the private sector and have established quite a few contacts in the field. Always ask if they know anyone who can use a good intern (If anything you will get points with your professor for being pro-active).
Surf the Net
No, I do not mean put “Internships in my area” into Google, but rather, look up local businesses around where you live. Contact them and see if they need interns. There are tons of companies that would gladly take free help, and if the company is a little smaller, you will more than likely get to help with real world projects and help solve real world problems. If you’re a web designer, rather than looking at the larger agencies, checking out the small studios in your city will be a safer bet for landing an internship.