When Maria Wilson joined WGGB-TV in Massachusetts as a multimedia journalist in September 2022, colleagues kept asking about where she’d worked previously. However, she had graduated from Endicott College in Massachusetts just months earlier.
“Everybody thought I had already had a real job before, and it was really just because of all that experience from my internships,” she says.
The benefits of doing internships in college are plentiful, experts say.
“Internships allow students to gain valuable work experience that employers expect in today’s job market for entry-level hiring while providing students an opportunity to network, explore career paths, sharpen their skills, and receive financial compensation throughout college,” Jeremy Fisher, director of the John P. Fahey Career Center at Creighton University in Nebraska, wrote in an email.
While in college, Wilson completed summer internships with the nonprofit LexMedia, The Pappas Post website and Fox News, plus a fall internship with WCVB-TV in Boston as a senior. She says the experiences complemented her digital studies major, helped her determine what kind of work she wanted to pursue after college and honed skills she’s using in her current job.
Internships can lead to job opportunities. DHL Supply Chain, which has nearly 50,000 employees in North America, offered full-time positions to 86% of its 2022 summer cohort of 272 interns, says Dave Ames, the company’s vice president of talent management and acquisition and certified learning and development.
“Those who have interned with us are more productive more quickly, generally speaking, than those who haven’t,” Ames says.
With summer approaching, college students across the U.S. are searching for internship opportunities. Here are five tips for college students looking to get a summer internship and the benefits that accompany it:
- Connect with college career centers.
- Get creative with your resume.
- Look for campus opportunities.
- Consider remote options.
- Tap into personal networks.
Connect With College Career Centers
Most college campuses feature a career center, which is designed to help students advance toward professional careers. One step for many college students is gaining internship experience.
“I think that career advisers can help students really explore what all the options are that might be aligned with their major and their interests,” says Dale McLennan, dean of the internship and career center at Endicott.
Career centers typically offer guidance throughout the internship application process.
“If you’re a student and you’re looking for an internship, you want to make sure you have a great resume and you want to make sure you know how to reach out to a site professionally,” McLennan says. “Career advisers and career centers should be able to help with that.”
Students can also consult careers centers to learn more about the internship financial assistance opportunities available at their school. Endicott students who accept internships away from home can apply for travel stipends, McLennan says. Many colleges even offer stipends or scholarships to compensate students for the work they do as unpaid interns.
Get Creative With Your Resume
College students entering the internship process for the first time, including freshmen, don’t need to fret. While some companies hiring interns may consider only students with prior internship experience, many take interest in applicants who developed applicable skills elsewhere.
Students hoping to land a summer internship for the first time can spotlight different kinds of experiences on their resumes, Fisher says.
“High school students and early college students without prior internship experience can boost their resumes by highlighting relevant work experience, skills, leadership, and other extracurricular involvement,” he says. “The best advice is to customize and tailor your resume to show you have most of the skills and qualifications that the employer is looking for and that can come through classes, projects, employment, activities, community service and more.”
Getting into the internship game sooner rather than later can greatly benefit students, experts say.
“Internships help tremendously with figuring out your true passion and exploring career paths, which is essential for students early in their college years,” Fisher says.
Look for Campus Opportunities
While students tend to search for summer internships off campus, potential opportunities on campus should not be overlooked.
“If you think of universities as a large employer, there are departments such as Operations, Marketing, IT, Human Resources, Finance, Performing Arts, Libraries, Development/Fundraising, Legal Counsel, Events Management/Catering, and many others that hire students for internships and on-campus employment,” Fisher says.
Some employers visit college campuses in search of interns. Students can stand out to employers by attending these events and interacting face-to-face with company representatives, Ames says.
“Don’t just apply,” he says. “While we live in a world where everything seems to be going more virtual than not, most organizations still have a presence at colleges and universities across the United States. If we’re visiting your school, it’s because we believe in you. These aren’t employers that are just going everywhere.”
Consider Remote Options
Remote work, a growing trend, has boomed in popularity since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As a result, away-from-the-office internships have become increasingly common.
For example, only 4.6% of the sales internships posted to job search site Indeed in 2019 mentioned remote or at-home work, according to a 2021 study conducted by the company. That jumped to 18.3% in 2020, per the study.
While restraints on in-person gatherings have eased since 2020, remote work has remained common. As a result, a wider range of internship opportunities is available for college students, McLennan says.
“That really opens up some opportunities for students who didn’t think they could do an internship, or live in places where there’s not a lot of opportunities geographically close,” she says.
Many remote internships are unpaid, but students looking specifically for paid opportunities do not need to rule out remote positions entirely. A University of Wisconsin-Madison multi-site case study analyzing internship participation during the pandemic found that 58% of the observed students who completed a remote internship were paid.
Tap Into Personal Networks
College students who have few professional contacts in their respective fields may know people from other life ventures that could help them find internships, McLennan says.
“I always feel like students don’t realize they have a network,” she says. “They always think, ‘Oh, I don’t really know anybody, I’m just a student.’ But they have parents, and their parents’ friends, and their neighbors and their former coaches and teachers, and I think if they really think about who they know, those are some people that can really open some doors.”
Students unable to leverage personal connections can find willing helpers in their everyday lives, even in coffee shop lines, McLennan says.
“There’s some value (for students) in telling anyone they know that they’re looking for an internship,” she says. “You’d be really surprised at how many people, even complete strangers, not just family members, are so willing to help.”