college

Competition heats up for internships

Make your own internship

Burt Nadler, career center director at the University of Rochester, says that sometimes you can create an internship for yourself at an organization that doesn't formally offer one by proposing a specific project you can perform.

"We've seen an influx of volunteers who can commit to a project rather than the time frame of an internship," says Pat Rehkamp, head of the internship program at the Better Government Association, which investigates corruption in government.

Going the extra mile in a temporary position can lead to a full-time job. "I had a kid who had a part-time position with us at 20 hours a week," Rehkamp says. "He didn't have any other commitments, so he came in extra to do volunteer and overtime work at no pay."

This fellow quickly was offered a permanent job with a different organization. "He just had an attitude that he'd do anything," Rehkamp says. "I bet that's why he got the job."

Be aware that some volunteer internships require that you receive course credit to avoid running afoul of minimum wage labor laws. University of Rochester's career center guides graduates on how to register at community colleges to enable them to accept these internships.

Nadler even recommends that students pursue internship programs with fees if they can afford it. "These investments will definitely pay off when hiring swings in a positive direction," he says.

Among the programs he recommends are:

Six more tips

Here are six more ideas for seniors as they hunt for internships:
  1. Make sure your cover letter and resume are in tiptop shape. "The bar is definitely higher now," says Rachel Brown, director of Temple University's career center. "A typo on your cover letter and resume means you will no longer get a second look."
  2. Personalize each cover letter to the extent that you can. "We can smell a generic cover letter from a mile away," says Drueen. You may also want to tweak your resume a bit according to the nature of each internship you seek.
  3. Do thorough research about the organization you are contacting and demonstrate some of your knowledge in the cover letter. "We definitely gravitate to students who have a good understanding and appreciation of our organization," Drueen says. "That means doing a little extra work."
  4. Network, network, network. "Talk to as many people as possible," Brown says. "That's the same advice we've given students for years, but it's even more important now."
  5. Follow up any contact with the organization by sending a thank-you note. And try to gauge how hard you can push for the position once you already have applied. Some organizations like to be left virtually alone. But at the Better Government Association, "the ones that constantly bug me are the ones that I bring on because I can tell that they want it," Rehkamp says. "I don't get annoyed. It keeps them in my head."
  6. If your job/internship search extends into the summer, consider taking extra courses in the subject matter related to your search. "One or two courses will nurture marketable skills and project focus and commitment to internship employers," Nadler says.

 

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