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So Few Internships, So Little Time

Getting into a good college, declaring your major, making the dean's list, finishing all the necessary hours, graduating. This used to be the start-to-finish guide of successfully completing college; today, the pattern has changed. Now it's recommended you get hands-on, "real world" work experience (a.k.a, an internship); too. But, as internships are becoming more competitive, college students have to find ways to stand out from the crowd and land the internship of their dreams. CollegeBound.net talked to internship experts Leighton Hendrick (Jobgusher.com), Jeff Taylor (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and Dr. Randall Hansen (QuintCareers.com) for some tips to increase your chances of landing an internship.

Determine Your Goals
Before you start thinking about finding an internship, spend time brainstorming on your goals for obtaining one. Dr. Hansen offers up some questions for thought:

What are your specific career interests? Why do you want an internship? Where do you want to have your internship? Will you consider both pain/unpaid internships?

After you answer these questions, you can begin to search.

Where To Look
Ok. If you've gotten this far, you're about ready to pound the pavement. But where will your internship stroll begin?

First, stop by your college career services office. They can provide you with a list of internship programs, important application dates, and other sources of to-know information. Also, some of the offices have an internship coordinator to help out.

If you have a big mouth, use it! According to Taylor, "Students really need to take advantage of networking opportunities." Attend fairs, panels, and events sponsored by various organizations, he urges. "It will give you a chance to show your maturity level and communication ability." In other words, find a connection by telling everyone you know what you are looking for.

Of course, don't just go through the college motions, be aware of all career-related school events. Most colleges will hold one internship/career fair a year, which you should plan to attend. Even if the fair is not focused on a field you are studying, get in there, network, and get your ears wet. You never know who or what you may stumble upon.

Remember, not all internships are found in flashing lights; sometimes digging is required to hit the jackpot. "Non-profit agencies often get overlooked because they are not the big names. However, [many] have diverse programming, and are great for almost any major," explains Taylor. Not only are there multiple internship opportunities with such organizations, but it's also an excellent way to gain experience.

Another excellent strategy, says Hendrick, is to be creative. For example, if you are a marketing major, returning home for the summer, think of all your hometown companies. What are their marketing needs? Draft a plan of what you can do in the next three months for them, schedule an appointment with human resources, and discuss your proposal. "It is not guaranteed to promise you office space," says Hendrick, "but they would be more likely to let you prove yourself to them."

Be a Stand Out
Once you are finished searching, the official introduction will start with your resume and cover letter. "Send your resume and cover letter via mail and email," says Hendrick. Even though most recruiters prefer mail, an email version will remind them of your qualifications. According to Taylor, "Employers are looking for skill sets (i.e quantitative, leadership, communication); therefore your descriptions should focus on showing that you have developed those skills."

Translation? When you apply, the employer will send you a description of the position. Follow the guidelines of what they want and match up the skill sets listed with your qualifications. "And don't forget to follow-up with the recruiter and provide any additional information," instructs Hendrick.


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