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15 steps to getting an internship

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3. Tap your parents. Find out who they know, personally or professionally, who might have connections in an industry or area you're considering.

4. Do community service. "It's real-world experience," says Bill Coplin, professor of public affairs at Syracuse University, and author of "25 Ways to Make College Pay Off."

"It demonstrates you can actually help people. It builds your resume, and it opens doors."

Many service groups are connected to national organizations, which means students are tapping a large network of potential contacts, he says.

5. Meet the speakers. If you go to a lecture, symposium or event on a topic that fascinates you, don't be afraid to approach the speaker after the talk, says Epstein.

Tell him or her how interested you are in the topic and ask if the person has any upcoming summer or research projects they might need help with, he says.

6. Check out career fairs. That's how Georgia Southern University junior Brandon Barnes found an internship with top-selling author Martin Yate. While Barnes was at a career fair, he talked with the information technology director at his college and gave him a business card. The director then talked with Yate, who was looking for someone to work on his Web site.

"It was just a word of mouth kind of thing," says Barnes.

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.

Career fairs are great for getting jobs after college, but they are also a rich source of information on internships, especially those that are underpublicized.

"Reps come to the college to talk, and many of the organizations have internships," says Rebovich. "My students go to fairs and end up with contacts."

"Once you know a name," it's easier to get in that door, says Barnes.

If you know which groups are going to be at the fair, go to their Web sites ahead of time to learn what, if any, internships they offer. (On the site, look for "career opportunities" headings, which often have internship information, too, says Gordon.)

7. Get business cards. For Barnes, who is specializing in Web design and graphic design, business cards "have been the best thing," he says. "People will keep them."

8. Write a letter. When Mark Oldman, president of career resource Web site Vault.com, was an undergrad, he wrote a letter to a law professor at another Ivy League school who helped countries draft new constitutions. "He was a modern-day James Madison," says Oldman.

He told the professor how much he admired his career and work, and asked if he'd be willing to consider hiring an intern. The letter lead to a tryout (a short research project that he aced), which lead to an actual summer internship. Next thing he knew, Oldman was in Romania, in the same room with legislators, statesmen and his mentor, as they worked on new governing documents.

"I personally think the most powerful type of internship is that which you create yourself," says Oldman. Not only is there less competition for a better opportunity, but "your chances of actually leaving the internship with a mentor is much higher," he says. "You're not just a face in the crowd."

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