Trudging through the snow on your way to class, summer probably seems so far away.
You may be surprised how quickly summer is upon you. Planning now for summer internships or career opportunities might seem crazy, but picture this:
You’ll be getting back into your school routine after winter break, plenty of time to worry about internship deadlines. Then papers will start being due, so homework takes priority.
Just as you remember to do a little internship planning, a group project starts taking up your evenings and then it’s time for midterms already. How did that happen?
OK, time to get serious, right after writing these papers. After finally finding a great internship, you see that the deadline has passed. Well, finals are coming up, but you’ll find something after you finish studying, right?
College can move really quickly. Putting off internship or job searches until the last minute can limit your number of opportunities, so be proactive and start your summer planning now.
Like most college assignments, research should be the first step in your internship or career planning. Research will help you figure out what you’re looking for and what steps you need to take to get there.
Once you discover your career path, research will help you find the internships that support your goals. Narrow your choices down to the ones that best fit with what you are looking for.
Some things to consider when conducting your initial research:
- Job Function. Look for internships that will allow you to demonstrate your current skills and add new ones.
- Location. Ability or willingness to relocate will increase your options. Keep in mind practical considerations, like available public transportation if you don’t have a car.
- Pay. There is a major debate right now about paid vs. unpaid internships, with several lawsuits filed by unpaid interns against large corporations. It’s up to you to decide if an unpaid internship is worth the opportunity. If you have minimum pay requirements needed to do an internship while paying your bills, keep this in mind when doing your research.
- Mentorship. Find out whether or not you will be working with a mentor or if the company has a development strategy for interns.
Create a List of Deadlines
Once you have researched all of the jobs and internships that you want to apply for, it’s time to make a plan of action for applying.
First, list all of the application deadlines. You can use an app, project management tool or do this the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper, but make sure the list is somewhere visible. If you are using an app, set up reminders so you won’t forget to start an application on time.
After creating the deadline list, look through the application requirements for each internship and figure out how long each step will take to complete. Keep in mind your current work and school schedule.
Take all of this information and create a list of deadlines for every piece of application material to make sure you get everything done before the application is due.
Network (and Research Some More)
One of the biggest mistakes that students make is waiting until after graduation to start networking. To increase your chances of finding a job or internship, it’s vital to start networking while you’re in college.
You can also combine networking and research to help give you an edge with your internship applications. Start following leaders from the companies you are applying to on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Also, follow the company itself on LinkedIn and any other social channels they use.
Learning what they are interested in and reading the types of articles they share will help you get a better feel for the company culture and provide insight into the people who work there.
When you start getting interviews, knowing about your interviewer’s interests can help you prepare. Don’t get creepy and ask about their personal life, but use their work-related interests to your advantage.
For example, if your interviewer shares a lot of articles about mentoring and career development, you can work that topic into your interview or application materials.
Don’t Rush It
Putting together a plan with research and deadlines will help you to take your time with your internship applications. If you wait until the last minute, your work could suffer and you’re putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.
Even if you work better under pressure, make your personal deadline for finishing all application material a few days before the actual deadline. This gives you time to get a few people to look over it before you send it out.
Your application material is a company’s first impression of you. Take your time and make it a good one.