“My advice for young people is, study what you love and intern in what you want to do. And I think it’s okay to pivot as many times as you need to.” – Eva Chen
A crucial developmental tool, an internship provides a well-rounded educational experience of an occupation and a head start to your professional journey. It is considered a means to test-drive your career options, in turn, allowing you to understand job roles and discover a career that befits your strengths, experiences and aspirations. Gaining experiential learning in the form of internships affords you the opportunity to put your academic training to practical use. An internship may even help you identify specific areas of interest you may not have previously considered.
This blog delivers insight on the highly demanded skills for interns as well as resume tips and networking alternatives for maximizing career opportunities post internship.
Developing Industry-specific Functional Skills
Finance, Consulting, Marketing and Technology are some of the top industries hiring interns. Some of the highest paying internships in the US pertaining to these industries include companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Salesforce, Amazon, Apple, Bloomberg L.P. and Google. When considering internship opportunities that match your academic or personal interests, expose yourself to multiple industries and job roles because it is not just about having an internship, it’s about what you do there. Let’s say you’re interested in marketing internships. Instead of applying only to marketing agencies every summer, test your social media, Adobe Photoshop, technology, market research, analytical and other competencies in different marketing environments in order to widen marketing opportunities and identify the best type of marketing job for yourself.
Employers today have become more specific about the skills they expect from their interns. If you are seeking an internship in the field of business operations, you will be involved in planning and coordination of the organisational resources. This will require you to be skilled at project management and business administration. Efficiency in resource control can be achieved by leveraging knowledge in economics. Of course, excellent customer service will enable you to reflect brand value and retain customers. In order to gain an edge over co-interns and other professional competitors, you can enroll yourself into some specialised programs. For example, the Certificate Program in Project Management offered by the University of California, Berkeley is an open online program which you can easily access from anywhere in the world. Since it has no prerequisites for admission, you may even complete it during school to earn desired business internships at reputed companies faster. Another project management program is offered online as well as offline by Webster University to both business and non-business graduates, through which you can gain knowledge and tools in planning, scheduling, executing, controlling and closing projects.
Those of you on the lookout for an engineering or IT internship, familiarity with programming languages, common operating systems, software proficiency, technical writing, can help you stay ahead of the curve. Technologies are changing so rapidly that developing critical hard skills has become non-negotiable. With artificial intelligence breaking ground, an understanding of multiple programming languages like Python, Prolog, Java etc. will present you as a strong candidate. There are 43 US institutions offering courses in programming languages, some of which include Stanford, Berkeley, and UCLA. You can also inculcate technical writing skills through specialised programs offered by institutions like the University of Arizona and Northeastern University both on and off-campus. Technical writing jobs, incidentally are slated to grow by 11% from 2016 to 2026! There is no better way of honing your technical skills than by learning directly within the workplace. An internship experience in a desired field will bring you closer to landing a job once you’re out of college, since you will have already acquired the crucial skills for the particular profile. You can obtain customised guidance on exhibiting your cross-functional skills to strengthen the impact of your resume and interview on the SMART VMock Platform.
Demonstrating Soft Skills
In today’s times, employers seek candidates rich in soft skills, therefore, it is important that you back your academic achievements and technical skills with soft skills, to stand out while competing for an internship. You must leverage your internship experiences to demonstrate strengths like communication, interpersonal, collaboration, leadership and time management skills. When communicating with your superiors and co-workers, be an engaged listener by focusing completely on the speaker and paying attention to nonverbal cues. It is also important for you to be receptive, therefore mentioning the feedback you may have received from your previous employer on your strengths as well as areas of improvement will portray to the interviewer that you’re willing to address and ameliorate weaknesses.
As an intern, you will be assessed on how you manage your time on your own and produce results as per deadlines. You must share with the employer the steps you undertook in managing your time and completing multiple tasks. You will find yourself supporting different teams on different days through the course of your internship. While you may have an interest in a particular subject, your willingness to familiarise yourself with cross-functional tasks will not only increase your exposure to multiple fields, but also present you as an asset to the organisation. Since you may not have had the opportunity to lead a project or group at your internship, reflecting the ability to adapt to work environments, collaborate and empathise with your teammates will portray you as a capable leader to the employer.
Conducting Internship and Job Search
Employers today largely look at interview performance and relevant experience when making hiring decisions. Therefore, an internship experience on the resume of a candidate is a must have. In fact, a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that students with an internship experience had 20.4% higher job offer rate than unpaid students and 18.9% higher than those with no internship experience. This is mostly because of the employer perception that those students with limited or no internship experience have not acquired the skills necessary for the particular job and would require the organisation’s resources on training, while the ones with previous experience would be significantly more valuable to the organisation.
If you’re looking to convert your internship into a full-fledged employment, a paid internship at a private company is most beneficial because it is deliberately designed and consistently funded for converting interns into full-time employees. For instance, 90% of the interns at PWC receive full time offers, through training and shadow experience on developing leadership and technical skills like data analysis, audit and assurance, tax and consulting. You may sign up for the top internship programs of companies like KPMG, Aflac, Bank of America, Cox Enterprises, Deloitte etc. to inculcate relevant professional skills that will help you build your career. However, as stated by Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert, keep in mind that, “An internship is a tremendous opportunity and regardless of whether you get the job at hand, you need to be operating as if there is employment at the end of this experience, whether it’s within this company or not.”
Employers usually begin the recruiting process for interns eight months prior to the internship commencement date. So, the earlier you start applying, the better chance you have at landing a great internship. The more internship experiences you acquire, the more qualified you will be for other internships and jobs. Therefore, you must start interning as a freshman so you can explore a wide variety of career platforms during your academic program. You must exploit career centre resources and tools that may lead you to potential internships by conducting your internship research on the student internship platforms like Indeed and Internships.com. Get on your career counselor’s radar and participate in internship fairs to maximise opportunities. You must note that building a network of students and professionals, not just from a particular field, but from multiple specialisations will enhance your job search in the future. A thriving and diverse network of professionals will help you assess the preparation needed to forge a career in a new field. It is prudent to share your interests with friends, family, professors etc. who may enable you to tap into the hidden market and refer you to hiring managers. You can do so by maximising connections with friends and colleagues through professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, joining professional associations and interacting with new people at career center events and networking receptions.
It is crucial to understand the importance of exploring diverse internships for college students. Invest your college breaks into various professional experiences not only to discover your interests and build your resume, but also to imbibe knowledge on multiple subjects. Planning early on in life will enable you to devise a road map of your professional goals and the wealth of skills and competencies you gain through your experiences will ensure their achievement.