By Megan Burkhart, a professional writing student at Taylor University
There are many times during college when you can feel the real world creeping up on you. One of those times is applying for internships. After all, internships have the potential to turn into a job, and you want to be doing something you like that also brings home a paycheck.
I think there’s a lot of pressure in this, but it’s important to remember that internships are all about getting experience. The experience may be good or bad, but that information already puts you one step closer to finding what you truly want to do.
As you search for an internship, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. An internship is a stepping stone, not the final destination.
Don’t get too stressed about finding your “dream” internship. I’m sure they exist, but it’s important to focus on the opportunities that will give the best experience for the field you want to go into. Sometimes the opportunities that come your way will challenge you and make you uncomfortable. These often produce the most growth, and as a result, provide you with a direction to go.
There are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to seeking an internship: those who overthink it and those who don’t care. Don’t be either. Aim for somewhere in the middle. Those who overthink it will research themselves to exhaustion and still find they can’t make a decision. But those who don’t care will simply bite at whatever they see without thought of whether it’s the best place for them or not.
Research can provide good answers to the questions you may have about your internship such as how long it is, whether it’s paid or not, what kind of work you will be doing, and so on. It can also give you information on the company and what they value. Is this the kind of environment you want to work in? These are important things to consider, so do enough research to get clarity on your questions, but not too much to the point of indecision.
3. Find names.
Along with researching the company and information about the internship itself, try to find the name of the person who will be receiving your cover letter. Address your letter to this person. This is essential because it shows you did your research. No one likes to be addressed as “To whom it may concern.” Make it personal. The person reading your cover letter will notice.
But whose name are you looking for? Typically, you want to find the Human Resources contact because HR deals with hiring new people in a firm/company. If this doesn’t work, you can try to call or email to find out who to send your material to. People respect initiative, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
4. Recommendation letters are always beneficial even if they aren’t asked for.
Not every application for an internship will ask for a recommendation letter. However, you might see a place to add “other materials” if you’re applying online. This is a great place to add a recommendation letter because it’s not just you showing you have the skills for the internship, but someone else is confirming your work ethic and skills for the job. Professors are a great resource for this, but be careful not to ask last minute. Be respectful and professional about it.
Overall, just be excited to learn new things. Any employer would be happy to have an intern who brings a positive attitude and works hard. This is one of many stepping stones. Don’t limit yourself to a single internship. Try multiple ones in different areas or concentrations of your field. This way, when you graduate, you have your foot in more than one door. With these things in mind, you will be well on your way to finding an internship that works for you.