If you're in the market for a summer internship, now's the time to get moving. Internships are a great way to gain experience and set yourself apart from your fellow college grads. As you get your resume and cover letters in order, here are a few things to look out for when choosing where to apply.
1. A role that aligns with the career you're hoping for
Some people seek out internships at random because they want something to stick on a resume. But if you land an internship at a law office and you're hoping to pursue a career in fashion, that stint won't serve as much of a stepping stone. It may require some extra effort on your part, but focus your search on openings that might set you on your ideal career path. You may need to be willing to travel a longer distance or work longer hours to make that happen, but in the end, it'll be worth it.
2. An opportunity to actually learn something
While it's true that any type of experience can make you more marketable after college, if you really want to kick-start a solid career, aim for an internship that gives you a chance to do more than just general office work.
Say you're hoping to become an accountant and land an internship at a local firm. If all you'll be doing during the day is filing documents, you really won't end up getting much useful experience. On the other hand, landing an internship at a newspaper where you actually get to help edit articles is not only something impressive to put on your resume but a role that will help you hone your skills for the future.
3. A long-term mentor
In internships and in life, it's always helpful to connect with people you can continuously learn from. As you seek out an internship, try to get a vibe from the people you're interviewing with, and gravitate toward those who seem open to the idea of serving as your mentor.
4. A chance to do something meaningful
Just as full-time, post-college workers aren't always passionate about what they do, so too might your internship lean toward the mundane. But what if you could find something that makes you feel good about your contributions? An internship that serves as not just work experience but also a means of personal fulfillment will make you feel all that much better about putting in an effort. So if, for example, you're looking for any role that will teach you IT skills, consider seeking out charities in need of computer-related assistance. This way, you can learn new skills while contributing to a good cause.
If you're in the market for an internship, you may be resigned to the fact that your stint won't earn you a dime. But we all know how expensive college is, and that every little bit of income counts. So, as you search for an internship, keep an eye out for opportunities that actually pay, even if it's just a small stipend. That money will come in handy for things like books and food during your semester, and if you already have those things covered, you can bank your earnings and use them to help pay off your student loans once you graduate.
6. A shot at full-time employment
Just because you do well at an internship doesn't mean you're guaranteed a job there after college. On the other hand, it pays to scope out openings that might lead to an actual full-time job. This could mean setting your sights on medium- to large-sized businesses, which are more likely to need additional hands on deck than smaller shops. But mostly, it means having open, honest discussions during the interview process and aiming to get a sense of what opportunities might be available once you're no longer a student.
Go the circuitous route if you're shy about asking the question outright. Ask the people you're interviewing with what the future holds for the company or what goals they have for their teams in the coming years. From there, you'll have a clue as to how likely you are to snag a full-time role post-college.
If you're going to put in your time at an internship, you might as well get the most out of it. Focus on these key factors, and with any luck, your internship will set the stage for a successful career once you graduate and enter the working world.