It’s an age-old riddle: how do you get your first job when all the so-called “entry-level” jobs require experience?
Internships Are the Key to Experience
College internships are the #1 strategy to land a job after college. They present a structured opportunity to “break into” any field and also give you the option to “try on” a career to see if it’s a good fit.
Employers also love internships because they can cherry-pick the most talented college students before they enter the job market. This isn’t so much about the employer getting “cheap labor” (though the pay is often low – if you are paid at all). Employers want to test-drive potential employees to see if they can be a long-term asset.
Any college student that distinguishes themselves as an intern has an excellent chance of getting a great job on graduation – either through the company they interned with or with another company that selected them based on their internship experience.
The Internship Opportunity
The most prestigious internships can be intimidatingly competitive, with acceptance rates of 2% and lower. If you’re a top-of-the-class student, by all means: go for it. Just know that these high-profile internships are not your only—and may not even be your best—option.
There is an incredibly diverse range of internship opportunities for college students, and some will be easier to land than others. It’s a good idea to apply to several. Some internships are paid, some are not…but remember that either way you get invaluable real-world work experience out of your experience.
Finding Your Internship
Most large U.S. companies have internship programs. To get an idea, check out Forbes’ list of top 100 Internships for 2021.
Additionally, online internships are a new category that has exploded since the 2020 pandemic lockdowns. These programs offer the chance to work internationally and also provide more flexibility for their interns. However, online internships are so new that it’s hard to know if employers will give them the same weight as traditional, on-site internships.
Thankfully, for every interest you have, there is an internship out there for it! Partaking in different internships will allow you to try out different career paths that you may have an interest in early on, so you can sift out anything you may not enjoy before moving into the workforce. There are internships for almost any career path, from restaurants to travel companies to entertainment. Check out these 15 search engines you can use to research internship possibilities.
Additionally, you should set up an appointment with your college career counseling office before sending off any applications as they may have special relationships with local companies that can help you get in the door.
College career fairs are also an opportunity to network with dozens of recruiters from different companies, with the added advantage that you can get a “pre-interview” and follow-up contact. Today, virtual career fairs are quickly becoming the standard, so check your school’s calendar for upcoming events.
Create Your Own Internship
Sometimes college students are enamored with companies that don’t have a formal internship program. This is typically the case with smaller companies, but it could be any enterprise that simply hasn’t created a dedicated intern position yet.
Here’s the Jedi move: send a letter to HR explaining what you love about the company, and propose an unpaid internship. This demonstrates authentic interest and initiative – it’s very impressive coming from a college student. At the very least, it’s an opportunity to introduce yourself to the hiring department where you may be applying after graduation.
Applying to Internships
Applying to internships is just like applying to any job – you need a crisp resume and a carefully-crafted cover letter. Empowerly can help you write a winning resume and cover letter.
If you get called for an interview, you have a good chance of acceptance. (In-person interviews are better than Zoom, when possible. Don’t show up in flip-flops.) Practice mock interviews and research the employer well – you want to pose intelligent questions.
Pro tip: ask your interviewer how they came to work at the company, and how they like it. Candidates rarely ask the interviewer questions, and it can create a warmer rapport with the interviewer. Don’t forget a simple thank-you note, as well!
Important: expect any employer to review your social media accounts that are public —especially Instagram.
Not Sure What You Want to Do With Your Life?
Most students who go to college don’t know what career they will ultimately pursue, and that’s perfectly normal. Internships are a perfect opportunity to dip your toe in the proverbial pool and see if a career feels like a good fit.
Empowerly Startup Internships
Empowerly has partnered with many startup companies to provide a Startup Internship Program. You can select from diverse industries, including:
• Communications and Social Media
• Consumer Hardware
These internships are designed to provide you with marketable, real-world experience. Empowerly will even help you with your cover letter, resume, and interviews!
Schedule a free consultation with Empowerly to learn more about how you can find internship programs that provide that critical job experience you will need after graduation.