While the U.S. economy is back on its feet, finding a job is still as competitive as ever. In order to position yourself as a strong job candidate, having an internship (or 2, or 5) on your resume is nearly imperative. Whether your major is engineering, computer science or communications, there are things to learn in internships that simply cannot be learned in the classroom– and employers are well aware of that. While you may learn how to code software or design a car in your classes (which is still pretty cool!), internships provide an invaluable experience in regards to professional development, building on soft skills and learning about the ins and outs of your potential career (which is often much different than the classroom) in addition to strategic networking opportunities that could lead into a job. Beginning to also pursue internship opportunities early on in college provides the chance to make sure your chosen career path is actually the right one for you.
Having a few solid internships will not only send your resume to the top of the pile (assuming your resume and cover letters are well-written!), it will provide relevant experience to share in an interview.
Example: Interviewer: Tell me about a time you handled conflict.
Possible Answer 1: Well, during my time as an intern at XYZ, a fellow intern and I had conflicting views on how to best execute our intern project. However, instead of remaining in disagreement, we carefully laid out all of our arguments and demonstrated how our ideas efficiently solved our problem to one another. In the end, we took the best aspects from both of our ideas and combined them to finish our project in the best way possible.
Possible Answer 2: Well, one time, my fraternity brother and I couldn’t decide on what venue to book our spring formal at. After a few minutes of arguing, we decided to put together presentations and draft up a cost sheet to make sure we were being fiscally responsible in our decision making. After we made our presentations, we showed them to our entire fraternity at chapter and had everyone vote on what they felt was the best location. My location ended up winning, and it was one of the highest formals in attendance since I have been a part of my chapter.
While making connections to soft skills through on-campus organization involvement is valuable, it’s important to gain as much experience as you can in order to diversify your experiences and stories to share (you definitely don’t want to link every answer back to your fraternity, even though the experience may be relevant!)
As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, it’s important to try to gain as much experience as you can and certainly don’t wait until the summer before your senior year to find an internship. While your dream job may be to someday work for a big corporate company, it won’t hurt to find opportunities at home (even unpaid ones!) just to gain a little extra experience so that you can rock your interview for your dream job when the time comes.
Stop by the CCO during drop-in hours to learn about your internship options and to figure out how to write the best cover letter and resume possible to land the internships you want.