As a college student at James Madison University preparing to search for my first internship, I was filled with apprehension after hearing classmates’ scary stories from their past internships. Many of my friends spent their unpaid summers tucked away in a corner cubicle with a copier and a coffee maker as their only company--and their stories formed my impression of what to expect from internships.
After interviewing for the Public Affairs Social Media summer internship position at the Society for Human Resource Management, I knew that SHRM’s program would defeat the negative stereotypes associated with internships. After being offered the position, I was so excited to begin learning.
I was not disappointed. On the first day, I was greeted with enthusiasm and immediately knew I was under the guidance of an amazing manager. The culture at SHRM is dynamic, where interns are valued and included. No errand runs for me, I was put to work! Instead of learning through shadowing and observation, SHRM allows interns to learn through actual work experience with the support and guidance of managers.
Here are six pieces of advice I would give a college-age person for their internship search:
1. Ask for help with writing and editing your resume. Do not depend on spell-check to find any typos--any careless mistakes on a resume is an easy way to take yourself out of the competition. Find out if your school has a career development program where you can get advice on how to improve your resume.
2. Before you begin applying to internships, it is probably a good time to clean up your social media accounts. Those beach week pictures from the summer before freshman year probably need to go. I once received great advice: “When in doubt, don’t Tweet it out!”
3. Networking is not something to be afraid of. Young people feel like they are being a nuisance by asking for help on their job search. Do not be shy! The worst people can say is “no” and that’s not bad at all. With this being said, LinkedIn should be a resource you should use to connect with professors, family friends, and classmates who can help you with your internship search. Just make sure you are using it right: I know a girl whose LinkedIn profile picture showed her sticking her tongue out. That is a great way to NOT get a good internship.
4. Practice interviewing. At least for me, interviews do not come naturally so I needed all the practice I could get. I went to mock interviews offered by my school and found that practicing took away a lot of the interviewing nerves. If your school doesn’t offer practice interviews use your friends or family to get into the swing of interviewing.
5. You are guaranteed to get rejected from an organization. This can happen even after you thought you nailed the interview, and it’s a huge downer. However, getting a rejection e-mail from an organization is not the end of the world. Don’t take it personally. It just wasn’t a good fit between you and the employer.
6. Don’t be scared to turn down an internship offer. Often, college-age students feel the desperate need to get their “foot in the door” of an industry even if that means accepting unpaid and pointless internships. If you get the impression you will only be doing coffee runs, do not settle; turn it down.
I’m lucky to say that my first experience in a professional environment has shown me the kind of culture I should expect in an employer. Here at SHRM, even as an intern, I feel welcomed, included and appreciated. All opinions are valued, and all people are treated with kindness and respect.
Most importantly to me, SHRM sees the importance of mentoring interns. We are under the guidance of amazing managers that are teaching us, sharing their experiences with us and rooting for our success.
Keep looking for any internship that will be worth your time or find another form of summer employment.