Sometimes I am envious of people who have known what they have wanted their career path to be from an early age; my friends who have wanted to be nurses, teachers and the list goes on. I however was different. I was always able to rule things out by knowing exactly what I DIDN’T want to do. That worked perfectly when deciding to choose a major, and what classes to take, but using that same technique to figure out what type of job I wanted—not going to cut it. I had to learn how to figure out what certain jobs entail, what the hours and responsibilities are like, and how to get from the ground up, without ever having a “real” job.
I quickly learned that through internships it is possible to learn about a certain field, find out what you like and dislike, and figure out how to get where you want to be in life all in the time frame of a few months. Introducing yourself to everyone can be intimidating, but it is important to get to know every person that you work with, from your fellow interns to the president of your company. It may take a while, but people feel special and appreciate when the effort is made to remember their name and what their job is. Make sure to ask questions. I can’t stress this enough. It is impossible to know what kind career you want to have if you don’t even know what you would be doing in that position. How long do people normally stay in that position? What is the turnover like? What is the time frame from entry level job to (insert dream position you want to have here J)? These are all things you want to know before you apply for that first job if you have the opportunity to find out. By having an internship and being genuinely interested in other people, you have all the tools you need. Another thing to remember -- you never know who you could become friends with that could end up helping you find a job three years from now (if you stay connected). This also works both ways, it is important to show opportunities you know about to friends you might think are interested as well.
The downside of most internships can be working for a company for a period of time and then heading back to school when the experience is over. After you leave an internship, it is important to continue to connect with the people you worked for, especially if you enjoyed the opportunity and would like to work there again, whether it is a full-time position, or another internship. Email is a great way to stay in contact with former employees. Before you go, send out a goodbye email with your personal email address (not through your work account, because how will you get the replies?) and if you feel inclined, attach your cell phone number as well. Be sure to stay in touch with the people you worked with throughout the year, and come time to apply for internships/jobs again, reach out to them for advice or possible opportunities.
Learning the ins and outs of the career and internship world can be tricky. Asking questions, making friendships and staying connected are just a few ways to help you find the job you want.