Notice the plural? A completed internship used to set candidates apart from the pack, but in today’s uber-competitive job market a single experience doesn’t go as far. Employers want to see that your college career has given you the knowledge and skills you need to do real work for real clients. Classes can give you plenty of knowledge, but aren’t going to cut it when it comes to know-how.
So how do you find the perfect internship? You don’t. Instead, you build upon your skill-set with multiple experiences and mold yourself into a qualified job candidate. Here are just a couple of considerations while looking at position postings:
Paid vs. Unpaid
Loans pile up while you spend your time at an unpaid internship. Most students simply don’t have time to juggle classes, an internship, and a paid job. While the vast majority of internships are unpaid, if you dig you can find those minimum-wage gems. However, there are a lot of amazing positions out there that don’t pay. If you happen to find a posting that you know will give you the skills you are looking for, consider your options. Can you take it for credit? Will one semester of not making money ruin your finances? Ultimately you need to decide if putting in hours of unpaid work now will better your chances of getting that amazing entry-level (read: paid) job later.
Agency vs. Company vs. Non-Profit
In my own job searches and experience I’ve noticed differences between the types of places of work. An agency internship will look great on your resume and may include a small salary. However, these positions are highly competitive, and depending on the size of the agency you may be stuck in a lot of support roles rather than working on real strategy and content development. Positions within a company are a lot more likely to be paid. They range in competitiveness depending on the profile of the company, and they can also vary a lot in terms of job responsibilities. Check job posting for the types of tasks you’ll be assigned to in order to gage your level of responsibility. Non-profits can be a great experience, but they are rarely paid. However, there are many of opportunities out there and you’ll usually be given more important tasks; I’ve even seen instanced of interns at non-profits being completely in charge of the public relations program!
Some internships truly are better than others. Spend plenty of time exploring job postings to get an idea of what you are looking to get out of your experience. When you spot a great position, apply! You’ll never find one perfect internship, but if you combine a few great ones, you’ll be well on your way to landing a job in the real, working world.
About the Author
Erin is a senior at the University of Minnesota where she is working on her degree in Journalism with a focus in Public Relations. During a study abroad experience she completed an internship at a boutique PR agency. She is currently interning at a commodity exchange corporation in a marketing role, while writing her honors thesis and finishing up classes. Contact Erin on Twitter via @ErinMillard or on LinkedIn.