In the last few weeks, I've received countless emails from friends and family asking "What are you doing this summer?" "Do you have an internship?", or "Where are you working?" Considering I have quite a busy schedule of schoolwork and activities, I had yet to think about what I was doing this summer back in early April, but quickly realized how active college students truly are today! With all the current competition for jobs and internships, it is extremely important that we take advantage of long summers, and even more so, get involved on campus for the next few years.
You may have just read that last paragraph and started hyperventilating a little, but there is more than enough time for you to find something you are passionate about, discover how to get involved with it and then start building your résumé! If you have no idea where to begin, try these tips:
- Use your university resources, such as a message board or career center to look for different opportunities both on and off campus.
- Narrow down the list of internships, trips, clubs, jobs, and so forth to ones that you are truly interested in, especially the ones pertain to your field of study.
- Find out application deadlines and then complete any paperwork with plenty of time to spare!
- When on interviews, dress professionally, be confident and trust that you are the best candidate for the job!
- Know what to expect, As an intern, you probably won't be doing glamorous, substantive work; you’ll likely be making other people’s lives easier. So you may get stuck photocopying, filing, arranging meetings, or doing other menial tasks. But in exchange, you'll get exposure to the field and experience for your resume.
- Gain trust early on, When you come in as an intern, you'll have to prove yourself in the work world. To show that you pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and care about quality, do a great job even when you're handed boring tasks. Eventually, someone may let you try something more interesting.
- Pay attention to the office cultural, Observe how others in the office act, and mirror that. If employees modulate their voices when others are on the phone, modulate yours. If they’re compulsively on time for meetings, you should always be on time, too. These details may sound trivial, but they’ll help you stand out compared to other interns.
- Focus: Don’t use social networking sites (unless it’s part of your job) or text with friends throughout the workday. You may be confident that it doesn’t affect your work, but experienced managers may feel confident that it does. And especially this early on, your manager's opinion matters.
- In school, if you made a mistake on a test or paper, it only affected you. In many jobs, mistakes are much more serious. If you do make a mistake, make sure you handle it correctly. Don't try to cover it up or make excuses. Own up and fix it. Then tell your boss it won't happen again—and make sure it doesn't.
- Learn from co-workers: Ask them about their own careers. How did they get into the field? What do they like about it? What do they find challenging? What advice do they have for you? Most people love to talk about themselves and will be flattered that you’re asking about their experiences. Best of all, it’s likely to make them want to help you.
- “Thank you”: Talk to your manager about what you’re getting out of your internship, and thank her for giving you the opportunity to work there. We all love hearing the occasional expression of appreciation, so don't be shy about offering it. A simple expression of gratitude may even put you ahead of the pack.
Applying for jobs or internships isn't easy and can be extremely nerve wrecking, but remember: every candidate feels the same way. My hands were sweating for a half hour after I interviewed for a position as a Residential Advisor for next year! However, answering honestly and exhibiting passion will outshine clammy hands and give an employer no reason to choose anyone but you!