How soon should I start looking for an internship?

Q. I’m just finishing my freshman year. How soon should I start looking for an internship?

A. Congratulations on thinking ahead! Start your planning process now so you’ll be able to do several internships. You can never have too many. Like good deeds, one internship leads to another. In the latest National Association of Colleges & Employers’ (NACE) Job Outlook 2010 Survey, employers stressed a strong preference for candidates who had participated in internships. In fact, nearly 80% said they prefer candidates with relevant work experience learned through internships. In general, college graduates who had internships fared “far better” than classmates who skipped them. Now that you’ve finished your freshman year, spend some time, while you’re working on your tan or surfing the waves, to create an internship game plan.

  • Think Out of the Block. Don’t let travel or distance stand in your way. Some internships, just like summer jobs at crowded beaches, may offer housing. And some companies pay for your gas mileage or your transportation, and give you cash bonuses when you complete your internship.
  • Start a new conversation with everyone you meet. Ask for tips or ideas on getting an interesting internship. Build your network by having this conversation with other students, teachers, advisors, family friends, co-workers, or neighbors. Keep a notebook with their answers.
  • Be adventuresome. An internship should be enjoyable. At this early point in your career, you may want to explore options to help you decide on your major. Most people change majors at least once, so internships could help you make the right decision the first time.

P.S. Check out the internships listed under National Park Service. Locations range from Hawaii, to Arizona, the Everglades, and even South Africa. Some internships are paid and some provide housing. Or, what about a paid internship with Valleyfair Amusement Park in Minneapolis, MN? Now that sounds like fun! (Search other options here.)

Do readers know of any other Out of the Block internships that would be great building blocks for future internships? Let’s network!

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