Summer is just around the corner, but before whipping out the lawn chairs and coolers consider…an internship.
Nicholas Barry, of Davis Dollars, regularly employs interns and feels that internships are a great experience for students.
“It’s a good testing ground…a good way to make connections and experience without forcing to commit to it like a job does,” Barry said.
But with fierce competition and less availability of internships from an uncertain economy how do students stay ahead of the pack and get the internship they want?
The UC Davis Internship and Career Center’s Lisa Sanders, a program coordinator for Liberal Arts and Business and Agriculture and Environmental Science, said that students need to plan ahead.
“It’s being aware of resources and support because it is easy to rest on the notion that it’s competitive, the economy is bad. It’s easy to allow that to be an obstacle,” Sanders said.
So, in the spirit of staying one step ahead, here are some helpful tips from Sanders and others who have experience in the internship arena.
Utilize campus resources
When junior managerial economics and communications major Jatin Malhotra transferred from Woodland Community College the “first thing [he] did was go to the ICC.” Now with two internships at Davis Dollars and with Morgan Stanley, Malhotra credits the ICC staff for their advice and guidance.
“Every student should take advantage of ICC. They really know their stuff,” Malhotra said.
In addition, many big company representatives visit college campuses regularly. Malhotra recently attended an investment panel on campus that included representatives from Bryce Water Coopers, RBC and Genentech.
“They might not be hiring but its just great to talk to them and have a personal basis with them…later on resumes I can mention the person and a little about what they talked about,” Malhotra said.
“Everyone has experience”
To get an internship one needs experience and to get experience one needs an internship. Sanders said this is a common misunderstanding among students.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘I don’t have experience.’ I always prove them wrong,” Sanders said.
Sanders said there are some things that just are not quantifiable on a resume that have as much weight as experience. Interest, passion, eagerness to learn and one’s career goals can all be qualities attractive to an employer that can be emphasized in an interview, she said.
Network. Network. Network.
This does not include ‘just schmoozing,’ but cultivating relationships with alumni, professors and professionals, Sanders said. It means asking questions, displaying interest and overall being an “eager-learner.” Having good connections can open opportunities and help a resume stand out from the rest. One website Malhotra recommends is LinkedIn, an online social networking website for professionals that can help students connect with alumni working in all different fields and companies. “Professionals are very eager to mentor,” Sanders said.
Take initiative: start your own internship.
Don’t just wait for available positions or online postings. Start looking at companies that you’re interested in and walk in with your resume.
“The worst that they can say is no,” Sanders said.
Even if they do say no it can be good practice. Additionally, students should ask for feedback and what skills they are going to acquire.
“The employer should feel more of an obligation to help you because [most times] you are doing work for free,” Barry said.
Think positive: “Be willing to not have all the answers.”
The transition to college can be difficult. But the transition to a life after college can be even more stressful.
“As a college student there is structure with the quarter system, breaks and finals. When you graduate you have to create your own structure,” Sanders said.
On top of that, while internships can be a stepping stone to a job opportunity, the economy is making it more competitive.
“Stay in that positive space, then that idea of ‘it’s cutthroat’ won’t resonate. It’s not if you get a job, or if you get an internship, it’s when,” Sanders said.
JESSY WEI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.