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Internships: The Ultimate Career Tryout

When finals are over, three out of four college students will take on internships. "Exploring various career fields to see if they will give you what you're seeking is a process you'll use again and again in your lifetime," says Barbara Reinhold, director of Smith College's (Northampton, MA) career development center.

Reinhold offers 10 tips for turning an internship into a great first career experience from her office's "Internship Survival Kit."

1. Don't assume you can't intern because you need to earn money. Many internships pay, and some schools have funds set up for defraying college expenses when internships don't offer income.

2. Don't expect to be taught as if you are in class. You will learn things in the workplace that aren't in a textbook. Take responsibility for what you learn.

3. Do ask questions. Your thoughts and opinions, as well as your work, are being analyzed.

4. Do pitch in. You can learn a lot by answering phones and filing. Increased efficiency at these tasks will lead to spare time for special projects.

5. Do take your internship seriously. Set assigned days, daily hours, and request vacations in advance.

6. Do call your career development office if the "intern-ship" isn't sailing along as you had hoped. Good negotiating skills are required for real-world survival. Ask for assistance when approaching your boss with concerns.

7. Don't expect to land a job after an internship. Most likely you'll have to pound the job-search pavement.

8. Don't write off your internship as a failure if you didn't end up loving your selected field. This test run has helped you narrow down your career search.

9. Do ask for recommendation letters and work samples. This portfolio can make the difference at a later job interview.

10. Do send thank you notes to the internship supervisor and any other helpful co-workers.