I didn’t realize before going to college that internships were so important. The “what are you doing this summer?” question almost became as dreaded as the pre-graduation “where are you going to college?” question. While many career paths don’t require internships to get jobs, my chosen field of study–marketing and public relations–places considerable importance on internship experience.
Don’t worry if you haven’t even thought about what you’ll do during your summers yet. Most people don’t get internships until after their sophomore or junior years. Plus, Northwestern has amazing resources to help you! After applying for countless internships, editing endless cover letters and embracing the unknown, I have a few tips to make sure your internship search is on the right path:
1. Start looking early. While many companies don’t start hiring interns until winter or spring, some fields like accounting and actuarial science start hiring in the fall. It doesn’t hurt to look early and start making a list of places where you might want to apply later.
2. Utilize your resources. Northwestern has some great resources to help your quest. Not only are professors eager and willing to help share internship opportunities and provide references, but Northwestern’s Career Development Center is an awesome resource to help you find internship opportunities, edit your resume and cover letters, and do mock interviews with you.
3. Prepare for interviews. The Career Development Center has a long list of potential interview questions that are commonly asked so you can think ahead about what you might say. The biggest thing that helped me was to nail down some of the basics beforehand: what I want in a career someday, what my greatest strengths are, how my education is preparing me for these jobs, etc. Another huge thing to prepare for an interview is a few questions to ask the employer. They like to see you show interest and curiosity!
4. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Just when I had convinced myself that everyone had hired their interns, I got a call offering me a great internship. Don’t speak negatively to yourself–even if you don’t get an internship, you can still get your dream job someday.
5. Remember that internships are not the end-all-be-all of a great career. Just because you don’t get an internship doesn’t mean you can’t be whatever you want to be when you graduate. You can also get great jobs (non-internships) during college than can still look great on a resume, or do a short externship during a break. Stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone, but don’t give up on your goals if you don’t get the job or the internship you wanted.
You can do whatever you set your mind to with the right amount of prep, assistance, and patience, and Northwestern is behind you as you pursue those dreams. Just think of all you might accomplish before college is over!
This summer, Anna was a marketing intern with Raven Aerostar–the company that makes balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.