The overwhelming feeling of “Am I wasting my time working an internship or working a real job instead?”
This is something that everyone in college experiences at least once per semester. You have to balance all of your precious free time between working a retail job that might not pay a lot or trying to find an internship to boost your resume to the top of the job market pile. The process of searching the web for these internships is tiresome and usually does not yield a high return as many are hidden deep on company webpages or you have to know people who know people to get them.
Internships are a tricky aspect of a career to navigate as there are so many offered but you never quite know what will happen during them. Some internships will fit the stereotypical narrative created by Hollywood where all you do is get the higher ups coffee every day. Others however will be more hands on and get you into the routine of working with your office and a company. Finding these types will pose more difficulty, especially if you are looking into a very specific industry or trying to get paid. Almost all of the internships offered to college age students run on the philosophy that you will not be getting paid because the knowledge you’re obtaining from the work has a far greater value than any financial compensation. Which means that the internships that do pay will be more popular and have a higher number of applicants so you will need to stand out amongst the rest.
Someone who can help with this would be a career coach, at most universities these people can be found in the career help center. They are there to help you make the most of your precious free time and ensure that you obtain the best possible internship and your time is not wasted. Career coaches can go over your resume or curriculum vitae to tweak out the way things are written and take out the old jobs you had in high school that aren’t as important as the jobs you have now. They will help with scouring the internet for the internships that are in your field of study, or at lease related to it, and work with you throughout the application process. On your own you may have one or two resumes that you submit to dozens of job opportunities with little returned feedback, a career coach will help you polish those so that you can submit to a few opportunities and receive feedback from the hiring organizations.
Your career coach may also have connections to various organizations that you could intern with. This is more prevalent in smaller schools with very specific fields of study or if your career coach had a career outside of school before working for the university. These are invaluable connections that can make or break the application and hiring process. On paper if you and one other candidate are the exact same but they have a letter of recommendation from your career coach whom they know from prior interactions, that will ultimately give you a massive leg up and sway their decision. A career coach can also help you find sites that offer internships for your field of study. I myself studied environmental studies, which is a pretty small field, so finding an internship was difficult. But, the career advisor at my university was able to point me in the right direction so I wasn’t wasting my time skimming through sites that were not going to give me any information other than there were no internships related what I was looking for. After this I was able to properly narrow down my search and only look on key sites and in the end, I obtained an internship in downtown Chicago, Illinois for the summer.
The career help center and career coaches at your university are a resource that should be utilized as much as possible. They can help you ask your professors for letters of recommendation or even if there are research opportunities with them. The advisors are there to help you in any way you need it, since that’s their job. At this point you may be thinking that you can go through the entire process of writing your resume and cover letter, editing them to make sure they are specific to each internship you are applying to, keeping in contact with the hiring organizations to make sure you don’t fall through the cracks, rely on a few people you know to help you possibly get a position, and then do it all again when it doesn’t work. Or, you can go find yourself a career coach who will help you along the way and make the entire process so much easier that you won’t get overly stressed out about what to do with your free time. Career coaches are here to help you, let them.