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Becoming an intern, even when you aren’t paid, is a great way to break into the career of your choice. Believe us when we tell you that your education is not enough. Employers want to hire candidates with work experience. The best way to gain experience is to intern.

Find an Internship; It Won’t Find You

Internships are not hard to find, but no one is going to walk up to you on the street and say, “hey, do you want to be an intern?” You have to take the initiative to find the right internship for your career goals.

Start by doing a quick internet search for with the word “intern” and your location. Companies often list internships on websites like Internships.com, but don’t limit yourself to just the internet. Pick up the phone and call companies and ask if they have internship opportunities available. If they say “no,” ask if you can shadow someone in your career field at no cost to the company. Tell them you’re eager to learn, and you want to learn with them because they are the best.

Join people on social media who work in your chosen career field and ask them about internships. LinkedIn is a great place to start, and most every career field has a group you can join. 

Don’t forget to tap your college network, too. If you are a current college student, talk to your instructors. Many have contacts in your career industry. Some will be able to offer you research assistantships, too. If your college has a career center, they often keep a list of local internships. Alumni are always welcome at the college career center, too! Local community colleges offer career services to their local community, so even if you have never attended college, don’t be afraid to call and ask for advice.

Try It Before You Hate It

Internships are an excellent way for you to gain first-hand experience. The experience will help you decide if the career you have chosen is a good fit for your personality and learning style. Remember: Most people change careers five times. If you can figure out that a career isn’t right for you while interning, you can save yourself a lot of time.

Network Like You Mean It

One of the essential elements of an internship is networking. During your time as an intern, you meet a variety of coworkers, supervisors, support staff, and managers. Make a good impression on everyone, and keep in contact with everyone you can. You never know who will be able to help you find a job later.

Networking goes beyond the company where you intern. If you are attending a training or conference with other companies, you can gain valuable additions to your network. Your network can help you if you find yourself needing a new job. The people in your network can also serve as references when you apply for jobs later.

Remember that networking is reciprocal. It’s not just about what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network. If you see a job that is the perfect fit for someone in your network, you should recommend it to them. Look for ways to help the people in your network!

Work Your Resume

Internships help build your resume to make you the ideal candidate for a position. Many job postings have the tag “experience in…” Your internship fills this experience. Also, the company may not need to spend extra money or time training you if you learned job-related skills as an intern.

Make sure you are constantly updating your resume. It should be modern, and should reflect the standards in your industry. Research!

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Make Your Career Intentions Clear

Often, internships lead to permanent employment. When the company is looking to fill a position, they will look at interns first, as hiring outside would require more time and money. However, don’t assume the company with whom you are interning will automatically see you as a potential employee. You have to let everyone know how much you would love to work there, and how well the company fits in your career path. Make sure your manager and the HR department know your intentions. They are not mind readers!

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