What’s your plan after graduation? It’s to find a job of course. What do employers look for in a job candidate? One of the job’s requirements is work experience but most college/university graduates don’t have work experience. Then what should they do? They should consider internship before or after graduation to gain some work experience.
What is Internship?
Internship is a job opportunity offered by employers mainly to college/university students. It can also be a job opportunity for college/university graduates. The main purpose of internship is to gain work experience in your filed of study, or any particular industry you are interested in, that you can add to your resume and enhance your chances of getting hired.
Many companies offer internship opportunities to students or graduates as they are always on the look out for potential great employees to join them. It’s also a way to give back to the community by training students or college graduates and give them a chance to gain work experience and help them in their careers.
Usually employers will provide internship opportunities to students with relevant academic qualifications. For example, medical students, engineers, marketing students, journalists…etc. However, internship can also be a great opportunity for anyone who would like a career change and need relevant work experience to enhance their chances of getting into the new filed.
What Is The Difference Between Internship and Co-op?
As explained in the beginning of this article, employers grant job opportunities, by way of internship programs, to college/university students or to graduates to help them get work-related experience. Employers decide whether to pay the intern or not but most internships are unpaid.
Internship could be full time, part-time, one month, three months, six months, during the summer only, or few days per week, or few hours per day. Interns may also have the opportunity to spend sometime in one department then move to another department within the same organization. It’s a great opportunity for the intern to decide where his/her passion is career-wise.
Co-op programs, as the name suggests, are cooperation initiatives between the higher education and major companies that will give students, who are still in colleges/universities, career training, as part of their curriculum, in their field of study. Anytime spent working for a co-op company will be counted towards the student’s credit.
The co-op program is usually a paid program as it’s a full time position. Students spend a full semester working for a co-op company and it could be extended for another semester. For more information about co-op programs and why students should pursue them, click here.
Benefits of Internship and Co-op Programs
There are several benefits to pursue either of the above programs and I list them below:
- The main benefit of both the internship and the co-op programs for students and graduates is to gain work-related experience which they can add to their resumes and hence increase their chances of getting a job.
- Through these programs, students and graduates will have a higher chance of getting hired by the same company they intern for or enroll in their co-op program as employers know already their potentials and what they are capable of doing. So internships or co-op programs can help you get your foot in the door.
- Students and graduates will have a great opportunity to build important contacts through networking in the company. Not all internships provide the work-related experience students &/or graduates long for, so they should grab this opportunity to build great network of contacts that may help them in their career search.
- While co-op programs help students transition to work life, internship can be a great way to those who are unsure which career path they want to pursue. They can try out several internship programs to help them figure out what they really want to do for a living.
- While most internships are unpaid, but some are as well as co-op programs. There are some financial benefits associated with these programs albeit small. However, the work-related experience and the network of professional contacts you will build outweigh the financial benefits.
How to Get an Internship?
If you are still studying, even if you’ve just graduated and looking for an internship opportunity, check with your college or university. Most probably they will have connections with companies as many of them cooperate with higher education entities and offer co-op programs for students for a semester or two. Therefore, your university will probably guide you or even help you directly.
As long as you are in a college/university, I highly recommend you intern every summer. Take advantage of the resources and connections in your college. This will open more doors for you after you graduate when you start searching for a job.
Another way to get an internship is through your family or friends or connections you established through your co-op programs, or through activities you did in college, or volunteering activities.etc. A friend of mine got an internship for her daughter through one of her colleagues at work so don’t discard this option.
You can also search through the traditional way which is visit the companies websites and check if they offer internship programs and apply to them. I would also recommend contacting them by e-mail or phone and find out if they might consider giving you an internship opportunity.
What else Can You Do?
Not everyone will be successful in getting an internship, but you need some work experience and transferable skills or some achievements or some sort of activities on your resume to have a better chance of getting hired. So what else can you do?
From experience, employers would give more emphasis to fresh graduates’ resumes who list activities they did, or still doing, while they were studying. It’s great to have related academic qualifications with a high GPA but what else have you done? Were you one of the organizers of fund-raising events for a charity? Did you offer services that you excel at like creating logos for startups, business cards designs, an athlete representing your college in tournaments or any other gig that you helped others with? and so on. you can include all that in your resume to show some work experience or at least to show that you are an active person.
If you have a hobby, talent, or natural skills in doing things and you actually have some achievements, mention them in your resume. For example, if you love to build websites, build your own and show it to family and friends. Let them spread the news. Use social media to promote your skills. You might start getting requests to build websites for small businesses and freelancers while you are still studying. Not only you will earn some money doing that but having that on your resume is an asset.
If you are an artist who loves to paint and you painted great pieces, start showing your work on social media like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and arts websites. Build followers and be active and interactive on social media. Try to participate in galleries whenever you get the opportunity. Offer one or two of your paintings as a gift to a great cause or event and so on. Mention your achievements on your resume as well.
If none of the above work for you, then consider self-learning courses. Look for what most employers are looking for in your field of interest and if you don’t have that particular skill, take an online course and get certified. I would also recommend learning a second or a third language. If you know more than two languages, it is a sign of intelligence. Knowing more than two languages is a plus point on your resume.
My Personal Experience
I’m not a college student anymore or a fresh graduate but I wanted a career change. Although I have many transferable skills but employers wanted certain work-related experience, mostly technical, which I didn’t have.
I started volunteering in many events. Through my volunteering activities, I built great connections and I made them aware that I’m looking for a career change.
I proved myself and my capabilities during all the volunteering activities and I was noticed by several people. I was then contacted by two individuals who offered me jobs.
My point here, the more you network, the higher your chances in getting an internship or even a full time job.
Getting a job nowadays for new graduates is not an easy task anymore. The requirements of employers have changed and they’ve become more demanding. You need to prepare way ahead before this time comes.
Although higher education degrees with high GPA is really good but don’t ignore the importance of soft skills. These skills have become way more important than technical skills.
On your resume and your interview, try to prove the soft skills you’ve learnt from your extracurricular activities. Skills that are highly in demand by employers now and in the future are as follows:
- Creativity and innovation
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Agility and adaptability
- Data analysis
- Media communication
- Collaboration and team work
- Emotional intelligence
Every effort your put towards landing a job will bring you closer to your dream job. Don’t give up and keep trying.
I would love to know your opinion. Please leave me a comment below.