College students have consistently viewed a transcript as the way to distinguish themselves to prospective employers or graduate school committees. A focus on strong grades and rigorous classes demonstrates dedication, capability, and a foundation of knowledge of a particular student. However, as competition grows for jobs and advanced degrees, becoming involved in an internship can be an effective tool in increasing marketability. The value of real-world experience and the opportunity to apply concepts and skills learned in the classroom cannot be minimized, especially in modern economic times. In addition to the direct experience gained through an internship, they also provide a unique learning opportunity for students with multiple career interests or uncertain about a future career path.
Through involvement in an internship, students can determine whether the daily responsibilities and tasks associated with a particular field or industry is ideal for them. Volunteer internships do not provide monetary compensation, however individuals should investigate whether their school offers course credit hours for participation. Once you have decided to pursue a volunteer internship, it is essential to know where to begin and what to expect during the process. Although volunteer interns are not paid for their work, the expectations and process of being accepted into an internship position are very similar to the job hiring process. Prior to beginning a search for an internship site, it is advantageous for the prospective applicant to develop a resume and cover letter. The majority of college and universities have career counseling offices that offer sessions on resume and cover letter writing, and/or offer individual appointments with counselors to review documents. Availing yourself of this assistance ensures that your resume and letter contain pertinent information and are structured properly.
Internships are not limited to a specific major or career field. Students enrolled in a variety of programs including psychology, human services, business, arts, and science can all benefit from the experience of volunteering. Information regarding which sites accept interns can be found on the business or agency’s website, listings from the career center, recommendations from students currently placed in a position, or professors. Job search engines also provide leads as to which businesses or agencies are currently looking for employees, and they can be contacted to see if they also offer internships. As part of the process of being placed at an internship site, individuals should be prepared to submit their resume, cover letter, and references. The cover letter should include relevant information such as any previous experience, coursework, and what you hope to gain from the volunteer internship.
Interviews generally occur so both the placement site and intern can determine whether there is a match between what the student hopes to gain, and what the site has to offer in terms of responsibilities and services. After an offer has been accepted, students can pursue course credit for the internship, as well as discuss hours, availability, and expectations with their site supervisor.