How to find internships and summer jobs that offer experience in your field of study

Job fair

Job fair by Flickr USDAgov

Gaining useful experience through internships and summer jobs is an important part of preparing yourself for the workforce after college. If you’re at a loss for where to start, check out these tips to help begin your job search.

Where to begin

Internships are a great way to gain experience in your future career, and as Alexandra Kent writes in her March 25, 2012 article “Students face choice between internships, jobs” for the Central Florida Future, “An internship can even give a leg-up in the company that a student would like to work full-time in the future.”

It’s crucial to know where to begin to find that experience. Many colleges hold job and internship fairs at least twice per school year—once in the winter and once in the spring. Check on your campus for specific information regarding your school.

As a second step, make a list of potential companies you’d like to contact about employment over the summer. Make sure you explore all of your options as you’re making your list. Perhaps you have family out of state and you’d be able to stay with them as you work for the summer. Do you have a desire to work at a state park in Utah if they provide housing? What about a summer acting job at Disney? The more willing you are to expand your options, the better chance you’ll have at finding a worthwhile experience.

Get advice from the pros

If you’re not prone to shyness when talking to people on the phone, grab your list of potential companies and begin making phone calls. I like to talk with the person in HR who generally does the hiring about what s/he looks for in an internship or summer job candidate. Have a list of ready-made questions to ask regarding:

  • Hiring requirements
  • Pay rate, stipends, or compensation at the end of the internship
  • Term of internship
  • Department information/opportunities for work

If you’re not able to get anyone on the phone, try sending emails to the department of the company you’re interested in. These are generally more informal on the surface but you’ll want to be absolutely sure to use proper grammar and spelling. There’s nothing worse than making a bad first impression. Especially in the age of texting and tweeting where everything is abbrev., it’s important to know when to use proper grammar. Charlie Adams of Usability Geek lays it all out in his March 19, 2012 post titled, “Will the Internet Make Grammar Obsolete?” Adams advises, “Though people tend to use poor grammar more often on the Internet, it will not make good grammar obsolete. We still need to utilize good grammar in other aspects of our life.”

Online job searches

There are plenty of job and internship websites to choose from, but there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind before you begin.

  1. Make your Facebook page private and delete some of (or all of) those party pictures from last semester! Companies are searching online more frequently these days, and with so many applicants for jobs, you’re likely to get fired before you’re hired if you’ve got inappropriate material posted.
  2. Open a LinkedIn account. This is an online resume that links you to past, present or potential employers.
  3. Search only for jobs you’re qualified for. This will help to eliminate wasted time, and will keep your eyes on the right goal: finding a job in your area of study!
  4. Have an updated digital resume available. This will allow you to apply for jobs right away.

Now, once you land that great summer job, be sure to check out Natalie Ladd’s “Tips for losing your job this summer,” posted on April 4, 2012 for The Portland Daily Sun, and be sure to avoid everything on that list.

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