Thursday, February 23, 2012

Put the Ice Cream Down and Be an #intern this Summer

We are approaching that time of year when every #collegegirl is (or at least should be) thinking about what to do this summer.  And we aren't talking about getting a beach house or traveling around Europe.  No girlfriend, we are talking about building your career, and not with a J-O-B, but with an internship.

Ten years ago, most college students on summer break were looking for a job that would allow them to earn the most amount of money and still leave time to hang out with friends and enjoy the sun.  Restaurants, retail stores, ice cream shops, and life guarding are all great jobs...for high school students.  If you really want to get the most out of your summer, an internship is the way to go.

Paid Internships
So in a perfect world, you would have a paid internship.  This might take place in an business office, doctor's office, library, or whatever business most interests you.  You'll likely be doing general administrative tasks, data entry, or answering phones.  You'll be paid just over minimum wage but what you are really earning is a solid work experience to put on your resume.  Then next summer, you might land a even better internship and once ready to apply for a first job out of school, you'll be in a great position to differentiate yourself from the competition.  So even if you can earn more money with a standard summer job, the goal is to earn more experience (which allows you to earn more money in the long run, think big picture!).

Unpaid Internships
Unfortunately, not all internships are paid.  Do not let this deter you, some of the best internships are unpaid.  These types of positions allow your employer to ask you to do more tasks they would not have necessarily had you do if you were being paid.  For example, let's say you were interning at an advertising agency.  If the position is paid and you are answering phones and entering data into a spreadsheet, they may be reluctant to take you to meet clients or attend a photo shoot and they want to ensure they are getting their money's worth of "real" work.  However, if you aren't being paid and are available to observe and listen, you have the opportunity to learn how things are really done without your boss worrying about how your time is being spent.

How to Find Internships
Some positions are easier to find than others and many companies now have a formalized application process for a few coveted positions, which are often advertised through the same channels as other jobs.  However, the best way is often through word of mouth.  Talk to your family, friends, anyone that may have a small business and ask if you can learn from them.  Most people are flattered and all too happy to try and set something up.

Don't Screw It Up
Once you are successful in landing a great internship, do not take it for granted.  The whole reason you wanted this position was to gain solid experience and hopefully a professional reference.  Even if unpaid, do not think you are held to lower standards.  Be on time, work hard, and have a good attitude.  Treat every day like you are on The Apprentice.  Interning has a lot of responsibility and the last thing you want to do is inconvenience your employer and have them rethink their internship policy.  Don't ruin it for others.

Start applying girlfriend, good luck!

Many thanks to my friend Jackie for her inspiration on this post, thanks hun! :)

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl


  1. This is GREAT advice! Thanks for the shout out!

    If you want to be the first choice for a future employer, you MUST get that relevant experience!

    I was fortunate to receive college credit for all of my internships. Just ask your career center or department heads if this is a possiblity for you.

    In addition, I found out through my college career office that there were grants available to cover a portion of eligible internship pay (this was a few years ago in Illinois). This not only helped me get money, but I was able to approach an otherwise unatainable position by presenting the offer to my future employer. My employer only paid me $3 per hour while the grant covered the rest of my internship pay!!! Research, and asking are key!

    Getting motivated keeps you motivated!

  2. Great suggestions!! There's always a way, keep it up everyone!