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15 steps to getting an internship

Today's internship market is a good news/bad news scenario. While there is greater need and more competition for internships, there are also more opportunities than ever before.

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Students seek internships to leverage their careers. Employers prefer students who have some real-world work experience.

In the class of 2006, 62 percent of new hires had worked as interns, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

While it's hard to put a dollar figure on the gains from an internship, it has an impact, says Grant Reeher, associate professor of political science at Syracuse University and one of the editors of "The Insider's Guide to Political Internships."

Five years down the road, "two people are in different places" because of their internship experience. "It's like a funnel," he says. "Who's going to get through that funnel?"

Steps to landing a prime internship:
Landing a good internship can mean a big difference in getting started in your career. Here are 15 steps that will help you identify and get the internship you want.
1. Start with the basics.
2. Let professors know.
3. Tap your parents.
4. Do community service.
5. Meet the speakers.
6. Check out career fairs.
7. Get business cards.
8. Write a letter.
9. Less is more.
10. Research career services.
11. Plan ahead.
12. Paying for part of your education.
13. Videotape mock interviews for review.
14. Set clear goals.
15. Get a campus job.

But if you think all the great internships are taken, you're probably just not looking in the right places. Chances are you have more contacts than you realize, along with the potential for making a lot more. Here's how to connect the dots.

1. Start with the basics. You don't have to reinvent the wheel -- just use the ones you already have. Check in with your faculty adviser and your college or department internship coordinator, if there is one, says Gary Gordon, co-author of "Criminal Justice Internships: Theory Into Practice," and professor of economic crime management at Utica College.

Like many colleges, Utica has a network of alumni and interested businesses that it has worked with in the past, says Donald Rebovich, who as director of the economic crime investigation program at Utica College oversees its internship program. When a student is looking, "I make contacts and find out if people have spots."

2. Let professors know you want an internship. Syracuse University senior Asher Epstein snagged a prestigious internship at the Kauffman Foundation through one of his professors, who knew he wanted a position.

That professor happened to know another professor who knew the foundation was looking for interns. That's exactly the kind of networking that will help you land great positions that may have little or no advertising. "Making the connections with professors would be at the top of my list," says Epstein.

Next: "... it's easier to get in that door."
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