Tuesday, December 12, 2006

College Students - Where Are You Interning Next Summer?

Summer seems a long way off. Many students are in the middle of this semesters final exams. The Holidays are almost here. In the Northern Hemisphere, we are facing the beginning of Winter; and RecruiterGuy is talking about summer internships.

Consider this – many of the prime internships for next summer may already be taken. The companies that use internships to attract the best and the brightest students look for them year round. The first contact may be a simple “Be sure to contact me in December or January to discuss the internship.” This initial contact may have taken place during the Fall College Job Fairs that hopefully all of you attended.

What is the value of internships? It depends on what side of the table you sit.

As a student, you have so many career choices. How do you determine what you are going to do after college? One good way is to target an internship with a company or industry that currently interests you. Research the companies. Look at their website. What are they saying in their press releases and investor relations pages? Do their career pages say anything about internships? Do you know someone who already works there? What do they say? Are there any alumni from previous classes who work there? Your alumni office can tell you if any alumni work there and possibly put you in touch with them. If a company has a particularly good experience with students from one school, they will come back. Conversely, if the experience is poor, you will have to do a lot more selling!

During an internship you may find that your career choice is not what you wanted after all. Isn’t it better to discover that early, rather then waiting until after graduation? It will give you an opportunity to explore another internship the following summer. No internship is wasted. Everything that you do becomes part of your experience. Companies like to see College graduates who have worked successfully in a professional setting.

An Engineering Manager that I supported at Rockwell Collins once said to me, “Give me an engineering student with a GPA 3.3 who worked part time in his/her area of interest while in college over a student with a GPA 4.0 who did not work. If they do not work, their full time job is school and I expect the 4.0.”

How do you find internships? The best way is to use your creative juices to find them. Sometimes they are tucked away within small start up companies that do not have a lot of money yet to market their internships. Sometimes they are in structured programs within large companies. Talk with upper classmen/recent graduates within your major to see where they interned. Ask for contact information from them. Talk with your Career Development advisors. Talk with your parents (What a Concept!) to see if they know anyone within the companies that you have targeted.

Why should companies want to bring interns into their business? It gives them the opportunity to “Try out” new employees before making a long term commitment to them. If the work is interesting, the interns will want to work there. Therefore the recruitment process is easier for both sides.

Your younger competition for internships is getting stronger. I am on the advisory board of the Workplace Learning Connection (www.workplace-learning.org) in Eastern Iowa. This organization sets up job shadows and internships for High School students with companies in Eastern Iowa. These High School students are touting the advantages of an internship. Can you imagine how aggressively they will seek internships in college?

Make your life happen. Don’t allow life to happen to you!