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Find Great Internships with These 8 Questions

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One of the greatest ways to prepare for the job market after graduation is to participate in an internship program. If you’re new to the internship process, you probably have lots of questions, such as:

  • How do I choose the right internship?
  • What skills do you gain from an internship?
  • What is expected as an intern?

 Since internships are an important steppingstone in career preparation, you need answers to these questions, among others, to make an informed decision and find the internship that’s right for you. Let’s look at eight important questions you should consider to ensure your internship is everything you expect it to be.

  1. Do You Want an Internshipfor Just the Summer? Or During the School Year?

Many students find they’re too busy to intern during the school year. Consequently, many companies only offer internships during the summer months. The popularity of summer internships translates into more competition for them which is why it’s very important to apply early (no later than mid-February) and often if you want to intern during the summer months.

Students who intern during the school year may try to do so on a part-time basis, working only a few hours per day/week, juggling their work schedule around schoolwork and other activities. Summer interns, however, often fully immerse themselves into the work environment, gaining a better understanding of what their career will entail as well as more work experience. It should be noted, however, students can often also choose to intern on a full-time basis anytime during the school year - fall, spring, or summer.

  1. Do You Want a Paid or Unpaid Internship?

From a financial perspective, your best option is a paid internship, but there are other things to consider. These include:

  • Many internships are unpaid.
  • Prospective employers are only concerned with what you did and how well you performed during the internship, not whether it was paid or not.
  • After analyzing your finances, you’ll need to determine if you can take on an unpaid internship.
  • Some internships only accept applicants looking for college credit in exchange for work. As you research internships, determine your eligibility for or interest in internships offering academic credits.

Paid or unpaid, internships are valuable in landing your first job after graduation. According to CompareCamp, 2020/2021 internship statistics show that 70% of companies offer interns a full-time position, and 80% of students accept said offers. This means that 56% of interns obtain a full-time job as a result of internships.

  1. What Are You Hoping to Gain from an Internship?

An internship can help you in several ways. It provides:

  • Hands-on experience in a chosen career path
  • The knowledge of how corporate structures, environments, and cultures work
  • Valuable networking contacts
  • An opportunity to gain skills that look good on your resume
  • A foot in the door after you graduate

Do any or all of these meet your objectives? Do you have other objectives you want to consider? Perhaps you’d like to focus on a specific skill set. Is working for a small company or a major corporation best for your career? Weigh your objectives carefully as you determine which internship is best for you.

Do You Want an Internship in the Field of Your Major?

To answer this question, you need to know how certain you are in the major you’ve chosen. If you’re sure of your current major, choose an internship related to it. If you’re not quite sure, then you may want to gain experience in an area not previously considered. This allows you to broaden your search for majors, allowing for a possible change in the future.

Are You Willing to Leave Your City or State for an Internship?

If you attend college in a small town, you may find fewer internship opportunities available within the community. You’ll also discover fierce competition for those internships because other people, just like you, want to remain close to home. To find the best internship, you may need or want to consider leaving your city or state, especially if you want to work in that locale after graduation.

What Kind of Responsibilities Do You Want in an Internship?

Each internship is structured differently. Things you need to ask about include:

  • Job responsibilities
  • Expectations company has of its interns
  • Learning objectives
  • Intern evaluation

Reach out to previous interns or ask the hiring manager to learn the answers to these questions and any others you may have. The answers are important. They’ll help keep you from getting stuck in a dead-end internship where you find yourself making coffee and running errands. It’s safest to find a company with an official intern program already in place.

It’s a good idea to ask what types of activities you’ll be doing day in and day out during your internship. Do these activities line up with what you’re hoping to get out of the internship? Do the activities line up with what you’d like to do after graduation?

  1. Do You Want to Intern at a Big or Small Company?

This can be a difficult question to answer – there are pros and cons to each. Consider the following when comparing larger vs. smaller companies.

Larger Companies

  • Often have name brand recognition
  • Provide more opportunities to work with experienced mentors
  • Have a highly competitive environment

Smaller Companies

  • Better feel for how the company operates
  • More opportunity to interact with higher-level executives
  • More hands-on learning experience
  • The internship program may not have as much structure

These points are generalizations and may not apply to every company, large or small. They will, however, help you determine what size company you want to work for. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, it’s the best way to determine if these points apply to the company you’re considering.

Are There Opportunities for Employment Once the Internship Has Ended?

Ask the hiring manager if the company tends to hire previous interns following graduation. Ask for the percentage of interns to which they have offered jobs, and the percentage who have accepted said jobs.

Remember the CompareCamp statistics we shared earlier, that 70% of companies go on to offer interns a full-time position, and 80% of students go on to accept said offers. How does the company stack up against these statistics?

If a low percentage of former interns accept job offers from the company, their internship may have gone poorly - something to consider before accepting an internship with them.

You may also want to talk to former interns to learn about their experience with the company. If the internship provider hesitates to provide a list of previous interns, speak with someone at your college’s career center. They should be able to provide you with one or more contacts who have worked for the company who can answer your questions.

In Closing

It’s important to take the time to choose the right internship. However, it’s just as important to meet the objectives that are expected of you during your internship.

As you begin your internship, dress professionally, be punctual, and do the best work possible for each assignment you’re given. Meet with your supervisor to set goals for your experience at the company – yours and theirs. Work hard to gain skills you can use in the future.

When you’ve finished your internship, thank your mentors and keep in touch going forward. They may be valuable contacts in the future, acting as referrals and job sources.

Opinions expressed in the Geneva Blog are those of its contributors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official position of the College. The Geneva Blog is a place for faculty and contributing writers to express points of view, academic insights, and contribute to national conversations to spark thought, conversation, and the pursuit of truth, in line with our philosophy as a Christian, liberal arts institution.

Jan 30, 2022

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