Think ahead by looking into internships


There’s a lot to worry about as a freshman. Inevitably your first few months on campus will be spent managing your course load, adjusting to the dorms and rebuilding your social life. You should be focusing on the “now” and making the transition from high school to college as easy — and as fun — as possible.

But you shouldn’t forget to focus on the future as well. If you think high school passed in the blink of an eye, these next four years will go by ten times quicker. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks and forget to plan ahead to make sure you are fully prepared for the job market by the time you graduate. 

These days, no college degree is complete without having had an internship. Yes, it’s important to do well in your classes. But employers want to make sure that you have relevant work experience. By the time you receive your diploma, you should have at least one professional internship on your resume. If you work hard now, you may even be able to land one by the summer of your freshman year. Here are some tips to help you get started on your internship search right away:

Do some research

If you already have a list of career goals or even just a general area of interest, think about what companies or organizations are the best in that field. I recommend creating a list of five to ten of your “dream companies” to intern for. Do some research on their website to see what internships they offer. Often websites have a career or job section that can be found at the bottom of the page. Be sure to write down the qualifications the company is looking for and think about how you can start gaining those skills now. For example, many of the internships I wanted required knowledge of editing software, so I joined the video department at The Daily Illini to learn that skill. 

Build up your resume

My adviser once told me that she had a student who never accomplished anything outside of his classes. He didn’t join any clubs, never bothered to get an internship or even join a fraternity. When he was ready to graduate and get a job, she was very worried about his ability to compete with his peers in the job market or to even get an internship after college.

Going to class and getting good grades is not good enough. In every internship interview I have ever had, I’m asked about my relevant experiences. Rarely do I get asked about schoolwork. You should get involved in organizations on your campus that are related to your major or field as well as other clubs or volunteer opportunities that interest you. I recommend finding one Registered Student Organization to join your first semester and then adding on a second activity during the spring semester. If you can obtain a leadership position by the end of your freshman year or the beginning of sophomore year, this will definitely stand out on your resume. 

Not only will joining organizations build up your resume, it will help you meet new people and make the most of your college experience. 

Learn how to create your internship tools

Most internships require you to submit a resume, cover letter and sometimes a letter of recommendation. These are the “tools” that are going to land you an interview. Even if you don’t plan on obtaining an internship until later on in your college career, it’s important to learn how to create these now. 

Most colleges have an introduction course that will give you an overview of these materials and how to create them. But I recommend scheduling an appointment at the career center or attending one of their workshops for more in-depth instruction. They will go over your resume and cover letters with you to make sure it is perfect and tell you how to ask for letters of recommendation. You never know when you may need a resume and having one on hand that you can send right away is always impressive. 

Start networking NOW

Networking can be intimidating at first but once you get it down it’s not so nerve-racking. The easiest way to network as a freshman is to build relationships with your professors. On your first day of class, introduce yourself and tell them your career goals. Your professors are professionals with many contacts who want to help you. If they like you, they can lead you to great opportunities.

I wouldn’t have landed my internship at the Big Ten Network if it weren’t for my Introduction to Journalism professor. I told her that I was interested in documentary filmmaking and she put me in contact with her friend who is a producer at the network. My multimedia professor recommended me for an internship with National Geographic. Without him, it is highly unlikely that I would have even received an interview. 

Take it from me: Your professors are quite possibly your greatest resource on campus – for networking and otherwise. 

Watch your social media presence

Now is the time to make over your social media accounts. Funny but inappropriate jokes are no longer OK to tweet out. Instagramming photos of your night out drinking isn’t going to fly with potential employers. When I got to college, I deleted my old Twitter account and created a new, more professional one. Your Facebook should be a reflection of you that you wouldn’t be ashamed to show employers. Start posting more photos of you at your extra curricular activities, doing volunteer work or your latest projects or writing samples. 

Take the time to find your passion

Many freshmen enter college undecided about their major. Even those who have decided on one may have their doubts. If that’s the case, don’t sweat too much about finding an internship. Focus on finding out what you are passionate about and what you really want to do. 

My freshman year, I wasn’t so sure about remaining a news-editorial journalism major. I had joined The Daily Illini’s features staff but quit after a month. Writing just didn’t seem to be for me anymore. I spent that year taking classes in fields I was interested in: media and cinema studies, global studies, anthropology. I even took an engineering class. I tried out different organizations until I found my niche within the video department at The Daily Illini. It turns out I was still interested in journalism, I just needed to change the medium I was using. 

Once I figured out what I wanted, internship and leadership opportunities were easier to come across. If you’re not quite sure yet of what path you want to follow, spend your first year or two figuring it out and great opportunities will eventually come your way. 

Karyna is a senior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]