Students entering their junior year of college should have already had summer internships or they should be researching which employers they want to intern with for next summer. (By senior year, internships should have been completed or be underway.) In order to research, begin online, at the college career center, or discuss with your professors which companies they recommend for specific internships.
However, there are some steps you’ll need to take before you go knocking on company doors. Your goals and what you want to achieve from your internship needs to be set first. Are you looking for hands on experience in a certain area, or are you just exploring a career field? Do you want to be a surgeon or are you trying to decide if you can be in a medical environment in general? Once you know these things, you’re ready to face the mentors at the companies…
When you are discussing an internship with the potential employer, ask them what you can expect to learn during your eight or twelve weeks there. Will you be sitting in on meetings and presentations? Will you be stuck doing data entry or will get hands-on research time, learning how to investigate legal cases, or how to look up medical maladies? Find out if you’ll be shadowing the same person the whole time, or if they have a plan to rotate you with a person who holds a different post. If you are unsure of exactly what career path you want to take, this can be helpful in learning what the different duties are of say, a radio station’s program director versus the music director.
Once you’ve asked about what you’re expecting of them, ask what they expect from you. Do interns work odd hours at radio station promotions? (Sometimes there are perks, such as working at concerts!) Have they hired interns to full-time, permanent positions before? If so, how long did that person intern? Some companies will only consider an intern-to-hire after one year’s internship.
Make a decision based on whether or not you could work for the company. If not, don’t waste your time interning there. You’ll only be miserable. Be sure to check about the credit you are getting toward school and whether or not the internship is paid. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a company you’d like to intern for, that will pay you to be there!