There are so many more tempting alternatives to working in an internship over the summer. You could be backpacking through another continent or partying on the beach. You could be earning more money as a nanny, or hanging on to your childhood as a camp counselor. But if you've clicked on this story, you know that those probably aren't the smartest, most responsible ways to spend the summer months as you look toward building a future career.
While there's no guarantee that you'll be offered a sweet job immediately after completing an internship, it's a pretty reliable way to get there eventually. For one, you'll be building up a résumé with more than just retail and babysitting jobs. You'll also be meeting people in the industry you've set your sights on, and those will become part of the network that you'll need to find work later.
"The biggest issue with applying for a job on a job board is that there are hundreds of other people also applying for those same jobs," career coach Elana Konstant tells Refinery29, reminding everyone why networking is the key to everything.
Another benefit of internships no one talks about: This is a great way to determine if the career you think you want is really right for you. Maybe you actually wind up hating it. Or you might discover that there's a specific path within that industry that you want to pursue.
So how do you go about landing the summer internship that will launch your future? You could park yourself in front of the computer and apply to every opening you find. Or you could work a little smarter. Here's how:
Start early (but it's never too late)
"Some industries recruit [interns] almost a full year in advance of the summer," says A-J Aronstein, associate dean of Beyond Barnard, Barnard College's career-development office. Financial services, consulting, and tech companies tend to be the ones with that early timeline, especially because some of them actually do hire directly from their intern pool. But many other industries and smaller companies without rigid internship programs don't hire until spring, so don't panic if you get a late start.
Be open to smaller companies
As you're searching on LinkedIn, you can also see where people who work at your dream company wind up working next. Some go on to smaller companies or less well-known organizations that could have opportunities for you. While you may think you need a big, famous brand on your résumé, those don't necessarily make for the best internship experiences if you'll just be getting coffee and doing data entry.
"The best internship, regardless of the size of a company, is one where you're actually learning real things that will help you be the best professional you can possibly be down the road," says Porter Braswell, CEO of the career platform Jopwell and author of the book Let Them See You: The Guide for Leveraging Your Diversity at Work. When you network with other employees and at your interview for the internship, try to get a sense of what kind of work they'll be asking of you and whether you'll receive guidance and mentorship along the way.
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