Colleges and UniversitiesEducation

Paving the Way to Success with an Internship

Internships aren’t just nice to have on a resume—they can directly impact your success rate in securing employment after graduation. According to the Millennial Hiring Report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, graduates who complete three or more internships are more likely to secure full-time employment, with 81 percent of graduates reporting that internships helped them shift their career directions. But where do you start? Here, Atlanta area colleges and universities share their tips for landing the internship of your dreams.

When Should I Start the Internship Search?

Whether your career interests have never wavered since childhood or are still undefined, it’s never too early to start the internship journey. Internships can also be competitive, which adds another layer of urgency to start searching right away. Caroline Anderson, assistant director of the Cooperative Education and Internship Program at Georgia State University, agrees. “Spending time in a field can help clarify students’ major choices and what they can do to support professional success after graduation,” she notes. “At the latest, students should be thinking about an internship during the fall of their junior year.”

While employers do hire for internships year-round, interning in both spring and summer is popular among businesses and students alike. And it’s very important to get a jump on the application process. Anderson adds, “Sometimes students don’t start applying until the end of spring semester for summer internships, but a lot of competitive positions have been posted and filled by October.”

What Types of Internships are Available?

Most colleges and universities offer more than one type of internship program, including the traditional internship (which can be paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time and typically lasts one semester), a parallel cooperative education experience (usually a part-time paid position) and an alternating cooperative education experience (a full-time paid position). Each option is designed to help students narrow their career focus, broaden their skills and strengthen their professional experience and network.

In addition to traditional internships, Georgia Tech offers a cooperative education experience program. The school’s Undergraduate Co-op Program offers students a chance to work full-time with the same employer for three or more semesters to gain at least a year’s worth of valuable work experience. Students alternate semesters with full-time study so they can continue their coursework. It’s also an opportunity to bring their newfound skills and knowledge back to their coursework and vice versa.

No matter the type of internship, a quality program should introduce you to valuable skills and insights. For instance, Life University’s Dietetic Internship Program offers students a range of unique, hands-on experiences. Students gain exposure to different areas of foodservice, from purchasing to production, as well as experience in community nutrition in various settings from the State Department of Health to food banks and beyond. Participants also gain exposure to different areas of clinical nutrition, including acute care, long-term care and renal and critical care.

Another option is to look for on-campus programs and affiliations that will introduce you to a wide range of professional experiences through your college or university. Emory University offers a summer college internship program through its Temporary Services Department. Students in the middle of their academic careers get hands-on experience in the day-to-day operations of Emory University or Emory Healthcare. Perhaps best of all, Emory has hired interns to work in its labs, coordinate university events and programs, work on in-house IT projects and more.

What Are the Requirements for Securing an Internship?

Internship requirements can actually play to a student’s strengths and not necessarily focus on academics. Some internships have relatively few requirements, while others require a high GPA, leadership experience and experience with advanced academic projects. Of course, some majors and programs may have their own requirements for internships, including a specific number of academic credits. You should visit the Career Services Center to find out how to balance requirements from the college or university with the expectations of a potential employer.

How Do I Secure the Right Internship?

It can be overwhelming to figure out how to secure the right internship, but tapping the Career Services Department at your college or university is a great way to start. Experts help with everything from identifying interests and skills to finding the right internship. Employer- and college-sponsored career fairs are also an effective way to be seen and heard by companies and organizations actively looking for help. Additionally, your own personal network or alumni connections can send you in the right direction and help you get a foot in the door that you might otherwise miss.

There are also new and innovative ways to further narrow down your internship and career options. Gwinnett Technical College offers an innovative approach with a Virtual Job Shadow program. The one-stop multimedia career planning resource helps guide students through career exploration and how to land a job. Students can experience what it’s like to job shadow at top companies, build a resume, find jobs and internships in a particular career field and more.

Benefits of an Internship

There are dozens of ways an internship benefits a budding career, but according to Georgia State’s Caroline Anderson, employers rate professional internship experiences as one of the most important when considering hiring someone full time. And because many jobs are filled by referral or internally, interns already have an “in” to land that first job.

Ana Baida, executive director for the Department of Career Planning and Development at Kennesaw State University, has another perspective as well. She says, “One benefit of participating in an internship is helping a student to figure out what they like and dislike within a particular field—even something that isn’t a perfect fit can be an instructive and helpful experience in the overall career development process.”

So, if you’re looking to expand your career development process, consider all of your options and be open to the possibilities. The next step just may be the job of your dreams.

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