Internship experience is important for college students who want to obtain a good full-time job after graduation. Companies prefer to hire college graduates who have at least one relevant internship. Companies will also often first hire students who have interned at their company for full-time positions.
However, obtaining a good internship can be just as competitive as obtaining a full-time job. Here are four steps that a college student should take to obtain a good internship.
1. Learn the important software programs – Employers want to hire interns who know how to use the important software programs required for the job. For example, a mechanical engineering student should know how to use AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS; a graphic design student should know how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Surprisingly, colleges often do not directly teach students how to use important software programs. Therefore, students must learn the necessary software programs on their own. Fortunately, there are many websites, such as LinkedIn Learning or Coursera, that offer training courses. Students can often access these resources for free through their college or local library.
How does a student find out what software skills they should learn? One way is for a student to look at internship advertisements that companies post on their website or on third-party sites such as Indeed.com. Companies will often mention in their internship and job advertisements what software programs an applicant should know. A student should look at around ten internship positions that they would be interested in and start by learning the software programs that are most mentioned.
2. Gain relevant experience through school clubs, volunteering, or working with professors – A student can stand out by showing to employers that they have already performed many of the responsibilities expected of an intern. Gaining these types of experiences is not limited to working at a company. A student can gain relevant experience through joining professional clubs at school, volunteering, or assisting a professor with research. For example, an accounting student can join the school’s accounting club, where the student may have opportunities to help individuals file tax returns. A student who wants to work as a digital marketer can look to work with local small businesses or non-profit organizations to assist them with digital marketing.
3. Network – Networking can be an important way to find internships. Sometimes, it is not the most qualified student that obtains a good internship, but the student who is aware of the opportunity. Through networking, students might find internship opportunities that are not publicly advertised, which means that the competition for these internships is lower. A benefit of joining professional clubs at school is that a student can meet more upperclassmen. These upperclassmen can provide advice or share opportunities that they found when they were applying for their first internships. Students should also attend career fairs early in college. Companies may not offer internships to students who are freshman or sophomores, but the student can talk to employers to learn more about how to prepare to be a competitive applicant when the student is eligible to apply.
Students can also contact school alumni, family, and friends to learn more about possible opportunities. While it is not advised to ask alumni directly if they have internship opportunities at their firm, a student may ask indirectly by asking the alumnus where the alumnus recommends searching for opportunities.
4. Keep GPA at least above 3.0 – Many large companies have a minimum 3.0 GPA requirement for internships. Therefore, a student should keep the GPA at least above 3.0. A low GPA does not mean that a student cannot obtain an internship, but a GPA above 3.0 opens more opportunities. A student also does not have to have a 4.0 GPA, and I would not recommend that a student solely focus on studying to obtain the highest GPA. Companies want to hire students who are well-rounded and involved in activities outside of the classroom.
A student should start on these actions as early as possible during their college years, preferably as early as freshman year. By preparing early, the student will have an advantage versus other students when applying to competitive internships.
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