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While in college get the internship that will land your dream job

Bill Pratt Author, Speaker, Educator The Money Professors

Only about one-third of college students are offered a job at graduation and many of those jobs do not require a degree. That explains why 80% of college students move back home with their parents after graduation. Yet almost 60% of students who had a paid internship are offered a job. So why are more students not seeking an internship?


Do attend job and career fairs

The point of a career fair is to get students in touch with companies. There is nothing wrong with going to a career fair for the sole purpose of seeking an internship. Ask every company that is in your field if they hire interns or if they know any companies in their industry who do.

Do seek an internship with the company you want to work for

While any internship is good for your resume, you want to start with the company you want to work for when you graduate. After all, 60% of those who intern get a job offer. It may as well be with the right company. Focus on the right fit first, not location or ease.

Do take advantage of your college’s career services office

Almost every college has a career services office. They are open all year round and are available for every student, of every major, at any point in your college career, and even after graduation. They have contacts with alumni who may be interested in hiring an intern and with companies that have worked with students before and want an intern. They will also help you with your cover letter, resume and interview skills.

Do let everyone know you are looking for an internship

You can fail on your own or succeed with some help. Careers are all about networking, so start now. Ask everyone you know - parents, friends of parents, coaches, neighbors, and everyone who reads your Facebook status. A lot of people love to help those who are starting out. You just have to let them know you are eager to receive their help. Then follow up with any leads they provide to you.

Do treat the internship like a semester-long interview

If you do get an internship, do it right. You have to impress your future employer. You are now on a semester long interview - like Trump’s Apprentice. You have to show up on time, dress appropriately, be enthusiastic, and work hard. Make them realize by the end of your internship that the company really needs you


Do not wait until your senior year

Everyone wants an internship during their senior year. Instead, start the process early. Attend career fairs and begin practicing what to say your freshman year. Work with career services right away so you will be excellent at interviews by the time you need one. If you can land an internship your junior year, you may be able to get another one your senior year or the summer before your senior year. The more experience you bring, the less risky you are to your potential employer. And employers love hiring less risky candidates.

Do not forget to thank everybody

As you are asking everyone you know if they can help you find an internship, it is critical that you follow up with them and thank them for their help, even if the person that helped you contact did not end up offering you an internship. Thanking people for even attempting to help you will leave a good impression of you in their minds and make them even more eager to keep trying to help until you finally get the internship you want.

Do not ignore unpaid internships

While it is always better to get paid than to work for free, you cannot ignore the fact that experience is the most important part of the internship. Most internships only pay a couple thousand dollars anyway. You are completing an internship so you can land a job that pays tens of thousands per year. Keep the big picture in mind.

Do not treat your internship like any other item on your checklist

An internship is a major career driver. It allows you to sample your future career, make some new connections with people in your industry, and work with people who will become your future references for the next job you seek. Most importantly, an internship will give you the opportunity to gain the type of experience that will allow you to have smart, substantive answers to future interview questions. An internship is more important than any individual course you take while in college.

Do not think that an internship will guarantee a job

Getting an internship is really only the first step. Next you have to impress. Make a name for yourself and make yourself so valuable that your employer sees your contributions as greater than some of their current employees. If you impress them enough they will either make sure there is a position for you in their company, or they will work really hard to help you find a position somewhere else. About 60% of people who had a paid internship got a job offer. Undoubtedly, it was the 60% that added value, worked hard and proved their worth who made it. Most of the remaining 40% simply showed up and expected a job to come to them. An internship is the first step on a career ladder, not a career escalator.

Jumping cartoon

The numbers don’t lie. Internships are the number one tool to help any college student get a job. But finding internships takes some hard work. By following this basic advice, you will be well on your way to not only landing the perfect internship, but using it the right way to also land your dream job.

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Photo Credits: Science Internships by Flickr: Idaho National Laboratory; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Bill PrattAuthor, Speaker, Educator

Mr. Pratt, one of The Money Professors, is an instructor in personal and corporate finance at East Carolina University. Bill speaks on topics related to personal finance on college campuses across the country and has authored and coauthored seve...

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