As I came upon my senior year in college, I began to wonder when or if I would do an internship. I bet you are thinking, “a little late,” and believe me, I know. I am embarrassed to divulge that unlike most students, I actually worked at the LAS Cooperative Education and Internship Program for two years at UIC, and knew the importance of addressing these things early. I sat through countless interviews with graduating seniors who were dumbfounded as they found out how unprepared they were to tackle the real world job market. Seemingly simple tasks, such as creating a résumé, writing a cover letter or having the remotest idea of what specifically they wanted to do with their degrees were questions many could not answer. So despite the advantage of being warned early, I had still not had an internship, nor taken much time to research one. Like most college students charging down the home stretch of their college career, I too just wanted to be done. Similar to a horse with blinders, all I could see was that diploma and the freedom I assumed it bought me. Unfortunately, my naïve dream that my hard- earned diploma would be my meal ticket to a top notch job would soon be shattered.
With foreboding news headlines proclaiming economic failure and the unemployment rate skyrocketing, I began to ponder what exactly I could do to secure one of the few jobs that would be available. I saw college graduates complain about the lack of jobs everywhere and how they felt like they were not competitive enough to attain the few jobs existing. Certainly unemployment and moving back in with mom and dad was not the type of freedom I sought. It was then that the importance of an internship dawned on me.
With this realization, I began my research with fervor. Research is an essential step to acquiring an internship. From my experience working at the internship program, I learned that the most important thing students can know is what specifically they want to do and research it. Being uninformed about your career of choice is a recipe for failure. Not to mention how unlikely an employer is to hire someone without a clue about the industry they want to go into. Use magazines, books, and the Internet. Ask questions of those you meet who work where you may want to some day. Check out company websites and their work and see if you like what they do, better yet, do they have intern testimonials? And do not be afraid to call and ask questions about what they look for in a potential internee. The better idea you have, the easier it is to narrow down a company, and tailor a resume and cover letter. Now, can you spin it?