Internships pave the way for paid jobs

Gain experience employers want — and academic credit, too

Contributing ColumnistMay 6, 2013 

Theresa Mickelwait

Have you or someone you know ever applied for a job and been told that the company is really looking for someone with more experience? Ever wonder how you are supposed to get experience before you even get the job?

Internships can be a great way to test out careers and gain experience that will give you a competitive edge in the job market. Students, recent graduates and career changers can complete internships and even gain academic credit.

If you are a career professional and want to make a career change, keep in mind that according to the U.S. Labor laws, organizations cannot offer unpaid internships unless the intern will be gaining academic credit.

Besides gaining relevant job experience and specific job skills, there are also a lot of other benefits to an internship. Interns often gain meaningful insights, such as their own professional strengths and weaknesses, and insight into what they really want out of a career. Gaining networking contacts within your industry can also benefit you in your search for other opportunities to further your career.

Search strategies for finding internships are similar to job search strategies, but sometimes there is even more flexibility to create your own opportunity or tailor your experience to develop the skills you need.

Targeting organizations that are specific to your industry or career field is one way to find internships. Identify and research those companies to develop a targeted self-promotional package before approaching them.

You will want to tailor your resume to demonstrate your transferable skills and any other relevant experience. The cover letter will be different from a traditional one, as you may want to instead write a brief proposal for the position you want them to create for you.

Some large corporations have designated intern or trainee programs. Visit their websites and click on the careers section to search for these opportunities.

You can also search regular online job boards, and some databases are tailored specifically for internships, such as internships.com. Intern opportunities specific to Kentucky can be found at personnel.ky.gov/employment/coop. Positions at Americorps.com have different benefits such as a stipend or educational awards. Professional associations may also have job boards or other posted information about internship opportunities.

Networking is an excellent way to find out about opportunities and companies that might be in line with your interests. Talk to your friends and family about what you are looking for, but also reach out to professionals in the field by attending networking events. Students should contact talk to professors to inquire about potential opportunities.

Anyone interested in internships can benefit from consulting a career professional. Students should visit their university's career services office.

Take advantage of the resources and opportunities available to you.

Theresa Mickelwait holds a master's degree in psychology and a certificate in career coaching from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. She is a senior assistant director at the University of Kentucky James W. Stuckert Career Center. Reach her at Theresa.Mickelwait@uky.edu.

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