If you are looking for your first internship and you don’t have any experience, you might be banging your head on the desk in frustration. You knew you needed an internship to get experience to get a job, but no one told you that you would need experience to get an internship! Makes your head hurt right, the idea that you have to work your way up to being an intern.
I’m going to explain five ways to get experience to land your first or next internship. You don’t have to do all five, pick what works best for you. Once you start building on experience, ramp up your internship search with some of these ideas on where to look.
1. Start on campus
Get involved. If you are already a part of a student organization, it is time to step up that involvement so that you can build some skills. Find a group that you are really interested in, or start one if it doesn’t exist. By serving on the executive board of a student group, fraternity, sorority or professional group (ex: Public Relations Student Society of America), you have a chance to learn a variety of skills from marketing, to social media, accounting to graphic design.
If you started a group on campus with three people and by the end of the semester membership grew to 75, you’d have a great example of a real marketing strategy that worked. You don’t have to be the president, treasurer etc. to get experience, you can join committees and be an active and involved member and still contribute to projects that will look great on your resume. It looks better on your resume if you are intimately involved in a few organizations, rather than being a part of 10 groups that you don’t contribute to.
There are always non-profit organizations that need volunteers. Even just 10 hours per week will benefit you personally and professionally from contributing to a cause. Non-profits need assistance with accounting, recruiting volunteers, tutoring young people, database management, website development, doing research on policies that impact those they serve and so many other things.
Find a non-profit that motivates you so that volunteering isn’t just about getting experience. Start with your student activities office or office of community service if your school has one, and you could be volunteering in a few days.
3. Look for internships that don’t require experience
In a perfect world you want the highest paid internship at the coolest company you can find. Reality is, if you are just starting out and looking to get some skills, it could mean low pay or even no pay and that is okay. Your internship is about preparing you for entry into the full-time paid professional work force. Your degree is good, but ultimately having experience could be the reason you get hired and someone else doesn’t.
Not everyone can intern at Google so I advise students with no experience to check out smaller companies, non-profits or even on campus internships first. They tend to be less competitive and can provide robust learning experiences. Don’t overlook these lesser known internships because they could be just what you need and what you didn’t even know you wanted.
4. Get a part-time job
Between junior year in high school and my senior year of college I had six different part-time jobs and eight internships. I am convinced that having work experience helped me land a few of my earlier internships. Having a job demonstrated responsibility, the fact that someone paid me for services, customer service skills, teamwork and flexibility.
If you have a part-time job or get one soon, don’t be the average employee. Look for opportunities to improve on the job you do and help the company at the same time. For example, if you work at local store (my first job was at a family owned hardware store) that doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, take the initiative (with permission) to create a social media strategy that helps increase business. Create experiences, don’t just wait for them.
5. Create Opportunity
If you love writing, start your own blog and write. If you love building websites, start building them and learning different platforms. If you love landscaping, start cutting grass. You get my point right? Become an entrepreneur and create opportunities to put your skills to the test for yourself and clients. You may work for free a few times to build up clients but then you will gain traction and start to charge and expand you client base.The skills you will learn in managing your own business cover everything from marketing, to business development, social media promotion and so many others.
Prepare Your Resume
The last thing you will need to do is learn how to translate all of your newly acquired skills properly on your resume. You can stop by your university career services office to get some help on your resume. They can work their magic so your resume can adequately show how you built a student organization’s membership from 3 to 70 in 15 weeks or how your superb organizational skills assisted you in managing the logistics of the men’s football team making sure all equipment arrived to away games. Get help, and then learn how to write and edit your resume so that you will know how to add your new internships each semester.
For more information about how to find the internship of your dreams, check out The Internship Manual: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting the Internship of Your Dreams.
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