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Five tips to help you find the perfect internship

Story by Danielle Castonzo

With today’s competitive university application process, it’s more important than ever to seek work experiences before you start college. An internship or job shadowing stint can really make your resume stand out. Taking on an internship also provides insight into types of jobs you might like and what you might want to study in college.

Kelsey Karum, assistant director of career services at the Indiana University School of Informatics, emphasizes that any work experience is valuable, and summer jobs build soft skills that employers value. However, she highly recommends seeking opportunities in your field of interest before your first year of university.

¨These give students a great opportunity to become exposed to what a day in the life of a professional in that particular field can look like before ever setting foot on a college campus, and possibly even expose them to new careers,” she says.

So if you’d rather not spend another summer lifeguarding at your local pool, sunburnt, sweating and blowing your whistle at elementary schoolers, try these tips for finding an awesome internship.

fitting wood

Reflect on your interests. What classes do you love? What after-school activity makes time fly by? Pursuing internships that align with your interests is a great way to discover what kind of work you enjoy. You learn something from every experience, even if you realize within your first week of ER job shadowing that you can’t handle being in the same room as someone who is bleeding.

If you have no idea what you want to study, Kelsey recommends focusing on your strengths rather than on a specific major or career.

¨The key is figuring out what they like, what is meaningful and what they are good at,” she says. ¨We often refer to this as VIPS, or values, interests, personality and skills. I encourage students to approach college by initially looking at what they like to do and what they’re good at. Then figure out what majors fall in those areas.”

Consider summer internship programs. Some programs train you and pair you with an organization – usually for a fee. Be wary of programs that are overpriced, but if the internship really interests you, it could be worth a reasonable investment. Many of these programs also offer scholarships.

Use your connections. Ask your parents if they know anyone who could use a summer intern. Talk to teachers of your favorite subjects about opportunities in those fields. Having a personal relationship with someone who has inside knowledge is the easiest way to find a job, especially if you’ve never had work experience beyond occasionally babysitting your younger cousins.

¨In terms of getting your foot in the door, there is absolutely no shame in utilizing those connections,” Kelsey says.

Teacher and student working on computer

Reach out to places that interest you. If the organization doesn’t offer a formal internship, offer to create your own position. Send a (grammatically correct, proofread, professional) email to someone who has an awesome job: Introduce yourself and ask if the two of you can meet. Taking initiative and expressing genuine interest will set you apart in your internship search.

Market yourself. Once you’ve established a connection, reflect on how you can be valuable to this company or person. If this is your first employment experience, use your volunteer work, extracurricular involvements and personal projects to show off your talents and best qualities. The sooner you learn how to talk about your passions and accomplishments, the more luck you’ll have finding an internship.

Additional Resources: 

5 steps to find an internship during high school

10 ways to get a high school internship

Top summer programs for high school students

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