WARNING ABOUT INTERNSHIPS! If you wait until graduation to begin your job hunt, you will be sorry. You will be competing for career positions that are being fought over by people with a lot more experience. You are too big of a risk to a prospective employer, so finding a job can be difficult without first having done an internship. Once you graduate you will need to be earning entry level money for that career, so an internship at this point will be useless. Just as you worked to get into college while you were in high school, you should be working to secure your career while in college. Don’t wait until it is too late.
An internship would be another great way to show your parents that you are working your plan to become financially independent. Even if you do not get a job offer from the company that you interned with, you have gotten something on your resume. When applying for entry level positions, you need to be aware that your competition has probably done internships, so businesses expect to see it.
Some colleges give college credit for internships. The general rule is that when getting credit you cannot get paid, so you will have to decide if college credit is more important than pay. You will need to set this up through your career office at your college if you want the credits. Since not all jobs qualify as internships in the sight of colleges, they will need to follow guidelines in order to be sure to get credit. BE VERY CAREFUL to do your research. Ross Perlin in his book Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy found that 18% of interns were getting neither college credit nor pay. You should be getting one or the other. Part of the research prior to signing on to an internship is checking out what you will be doing and networking with past interns. If you poke around Facebook, I’ll bet you can find someone who can give you the scoop on a potential internship. You want to be learning meaningful things and not doing meaningless tasks. Some “meaningless” tasks can actually have an educational element, so take all feedback with a grain of salt. Once you sign on to a company, work hard because you are being evaluated, and your performance could be shared with future employers. I share this because if you do a poor job for whatever reason it can hurt you. When dealing with people who have authority over you remember: obey if unreasonable, disobey if immoral. Not all internships are quality programs, so do your homework. You don’t want to waste your time.
Another really cool benefit of an internship is that you will be building the size of your professional network. It is important to build this because getting a job is often a function of knowing people who may know of positions or know of people who do. Do not feel ashamed to utilize your family or friends in order to land a job, because this is how the system works. If you were a total deadbeat, then even your family would not recommend or hire you, so you aren’t corrupt. Most of the jobs out there are not posted to want ads, but many companies are always on the lookout for good people. They do not trust people who walk in cold with no direct recommendation from someone they know. It’s that risk thing again, and companies are in the business of minimizing risk. An internship allows you to get to know powerful people who can help. My wife did an internship with a government agency. Her father found the opportunity and she went after it. Each summer while in college, they would fly her out, pay for room and board, as well as provide a nice salary (this is rare). Because her needs were met she was able to save this money each year to offset her college costs. She was able to complete school debt free. Her graduation coincided with the end of my service in the Army, and her plan was to get the full-time position she had been doing as an internship and I would then complete my college. Unfortunately, the government began a hiring freeze and we got notice right before her graduation that they were not going to hire her. This was a very scary point in our lives. Fortunately her former boss was able to pressure a contractor to offer a position to her. My wife had developed good reputation as a hard worker who showed promise to get even better. He boss went to bat for her, and although was not able to offer a position, pulled strings to make sure she was taken care of. As the government hiring freeze was lifted, my wife was quickly transferred to a government position carrying better pay and benefits. Learn this lesson from my wife. Work hard, learn, be respectful and things tend to work out.