This is a guest blog post written by, Kristina Hipolito from Virginia Commonwealth University.
As a Career Ambassador for VCU Career Services, I meet plenty of students who wait until their last year of school to begin the internship search. Many think they’re not qualified for internship positions because of their lack of experience or their class year. It’s actually completely possible to obtain an internship as an underclassman or with minimum to no previous experience. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to get a head start in finding an internship:
1. This is your chance to explore/test your career. Internships allow you to explore your career field and other fields as well. There are a lot of people who realize they picked the wrong major after completing an internship in that industry. This real world experience can help you decide if this is really what you want to do after graduation. It’s important to discover that early on so that students can switch majors before any time or college credits are wasted. It can also determine the type of position you want to hold in that industry.
2. Internships help you network. Internships create important relationships that can be beneficial to your future. Employees, other interns, supervisors are all significant connections and potential contacts. They can also be great references that can vouch for your work ethic and skills.
3. You can build a better resume and skillset. Internships will help you develop more skills and enhance your resume. You will also be more knowledgeable of the kind of candidate employers are looking for. By the end of senior year, you should be preparing for job interviews, not internship interviews. Not to mention, having multiple internships before graduation will ease the job searching process. It’s important to show that you have experience relevant to the job you’re applying for.
4. Interning early gets you ahead of the competition. By interning as an underclassman, you will be more qualified for competitive internships once junior or senior year of college starts. A lot of programs require students to get an internship for college credit and if you wait until the last minute, it might be difficult to land one. Students are increasingly learning the importance of internships so it is important to apply ahead.
Finding an internship early on can be difficult, but it is possible. The first step is to join organizations relevant to your desired industry. For example, if you want to become a journalist, write for the school paper. If you want to become an engineer, join an engineering association. Utilize your university’s career center as a resource when searching for internships. There are professionals out there whose work is to help you find an internship. Also, contact companies in your area and inquire about any internship or shadowing opportunities they might provide. By the time you graduate and begin the job searching process, you’ll be much more prepared and qualified because you did obtain various internships during your collegiate years.