A Closer Look at Internships

Internships are a great way for students to gain valuable learning and career skills. An internship can either be a part-time or full-time position for a company or group where you will ideally learn aspects of the business that are closely aligned with your major. Full-time internships usually are summer positions, and part-time internships are either offered during the summer months or arranged to accommodate your other classes.

Most internships that are arranged through your college are for college credit. However, you may arrange an internship on your own for no college credit if you think it might help you with your career plans. Additionally, most internships offer little or no pay. Before you begin an internship without pay, you may wish to negotiate a stipend — a cash reward — that at least covers the cost of the credit hours you'll receive.

If you determine that an internship will help you with your future career and educational goals, the first person you'll want to visit is your college guidance counselor. He or she will have a list of potential companies with which to intern. If you have no luck there, another good source for internships is nonprofit agencies in your community. Many nonprofits can't afford to pay interns and volunteers, so they therefore use a lot of free help — which you can use for work experience and college credit.

If you still can't find an internship, use a little ingenuity. Contact businesses in your area to determine whether they hire interns and market yourself as if you were applying for a full-time job. Have a resume handy that lists all relevant work experience and skills that the company might be able to use. Make certain that the company wanting to hire you is interested in helping you develop the experiences and skills you'll need to market yourself after graduation. Believe it or not, some unscrupulous employers view interns as nothing more than cheap labor.

If you're looking for an internship in a related field, work closely with your school's guidance counselor for a placement that is most beneficial. However, if you display a little initiative, you may land yourself a plum internship.