You don’t have to look far. It won’t take long to find those five perplexing words: Must have five years experience. It’s an odd concept. How does one obtain that type of experience when you’re fresh out of college and your diploma hasn’t even gotten cold yet? Well, the key is to start way before graduation with an internship.
Most college students don’t really think about internships. There are exams to study for, group projects to present, mountains of homework to climb, and let’s not forget that part time job. I know I didn’t think anything of doing an internship until two summers ago. I stumbled upon an article about how students can prepare for the workforce, and one of the tips was getting an internship.
Internships can be paid or voluntary. If you aren’t getting a check from your internship, they’re paying you with their knowledge. You’ll spend at least fifteen hours a week working on site, or communicating via skype or email. You get to do the exact type of work you’ll be looking for when you graduate. This is the type of experience you can put on your resume to set you apart from the rest or your peers. It also helps you explore your career options.
There is a catch though. Before graduation, you’ll need more than one internship. Now, you don’t have to go all out like fellow intern Lauren Berger, known as the Intern Queen, who logged in fifteen internships before she graduated college, but you will need at least three to add to your resume.
The real question seems to be, “How do I get the most out of my internship?” You’ve sent in your flawless cover letter and resume, they’ve hired you as their intern, but is it your job to only do the tasks you’re assigned? I thought it was. I figured I’d go into Wayne State University Press, learn to edit, read a few manuscripts, and add the experience to my resume. I was wrong. Here is a list of ways I’ve learned how to get more out of your internship:
- Dress to impress. This is one of the key tips on making the most of your internship. Even though you might not be getting paid, you should still treat your internship like a job. You’re working with real professionals who might one day become a reference.
- Check in. This is a tip I learned from the Intern Queen herself. Pick a day, maybe once a week, and go to your internship coordinator or whoever you’re working directly under and ask them how you’re doing and what you can do to improve. This makes you look like you’re really taking your job as in intern seriously. When I went to the managing editor and asked her how I was doing, she was taken aback. She had never had an intern ask her that before and was glad to tell me how I could improve and see if I had any questions about the business.
- Always ask questions. The key to success is networking. I wrote questions for each member of the editorial staff (about four for each person). During my down time, I went through the office asking each one about their education, their experience in publishing, and why they loved their job. This is good for getting to know more about the industry you’re interested in. Remember you’re amongst people who have gotten where you want you to be. Pick their brain!
- Use your downtime well. There are times when there is nothing for you to do (trust me, there will be moments like this). My advice to you is: Do not waste your time! It would be so easy to spend those moments scrolling through Facebook or taking Instagram selfies. I was constantly asking if there was anything for me to do during down time. I filled that time with editing book jackets, organizing files, and proofreading manuscripts.
- Use your last day wisely. Take this day to go around asking any last minute questions, and be sure to thank everyone. You want to make lasting impressions that will be beneficial to your future. Lastly, don’t forget to keep in touch. Remember, it’s all about networking.
Whether it’s your first internship or your third, each experience is going to be different. Not every internship will be beneficial, and some might be down right boring. But you will learn all about the industry and how professionals function day to day. Make the most out of your internship so that it will become more than just words on a resume. Make it a lasting experience.