Our conversations make me wonder how many college students truly seek out professionals in their field of study for the purpose of gaining insight on what they should do in college to make their educational experience as meaningful as it can be.
An internship is the way to go. This particular student landed a great internship with a local magazine.
You can, too. Here are my recommendations for landing an internship that will be a meaningful learning experience:
Determine Your Game Plan
Try to narrow down the field you're most interested in and track down some professionals in that field. Sure they're busy, but let's face it- everyone feels a bit flattered when a novice comes to them for guidance and advice.
Some questions to ask include:
- what skills should I master to make myself marketable after college?
- of those skills, which ones will I get from my courses, and which will I need to learn during an internship?
- what companies would you recommend I approach for internship opportunities?
Don't React Too Quickly
Once you know the types of internships you're going to seek, don't accept the first offer you get, just because you've been offered it. Make sure it's the best fit. You can accomplish this by asking questions during your interview.
For example, if you know you want to write for a newspaper after college, you will need to learn the AP Style Book like the back of your hand. On an internship interview, ask them if they use AP Style. If they don't, you might consider seeking an internship with a publication that does.
Make sure your internship will be a learning experience for you, and not an opportunity for the company to hire an errand girl/boy for little or nothing. A good internship will allow you to get some hands-on experience. If the job description includes an overabundance of making copies, getting coffee, filing records and answering phones, you might want to consider looking elsewhere.
Don't thumb your nose at the unpaid internships. Now is the time to gather the most knowledge and experience. The internship that doesn't pay could be the one that gives you a portfolio full of clips. And those clips are sure to help you land a job after graduation.