When to think about internships? Let's do it now.

Selfie containing three presenters and thirteen visible students.

We’ve all heard about how difficult it is to get a job after college. And you may have heard jokes about the “entry level job” that requires “three years prior work experience”. Sometimes it feels like employers are looking for an 18-22 year old college graduate with 30+ years of experience! That’s where internships come in. Internships allow students to gain experience in their field before graduating.

That’s insane. “How the heck do I do this?” you might ask. That’s what I asked too, so I went to an Internships in the STEM Field workshop to find out (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Prior Work Experience

Let’s take care of the scary stuff first: employers will want prior work experience even for internships. By the time you apply to internships, you should have a few projects listed on your resume. So what counts as a project? Here’s a short list of things you might not have considered:

Volunteer projects—Environmental Science and Biology students: head on over to Turnbull (Don’t know what Turnbull is? EWU is the only college in the nation with campus on a wildlife preserve) and volunteer. VCD students: make some flyers or advertisements for a local business or nonprofit. You can use both of those opportunities in your resume, especially if they’ve been for six months or more.

Team projects—Had a cool team project you contributed to for class? Put that in as a major project. What was your role? That’s important too, especially if you lead the team or had a specialized role.

Clubs and Organizations—Clubs at EWU are super cool in that they often have projects members can help out with. I’ve seen or heard of students who built trebuchets and rocket engines.

Imagine having that on your resume.

Fieldwork—Most majors will have a thesis/capstone class where you work on a project for real employers. Many science students have outdoor projects or experiments too. One of my friends in Anthropology told me about times she’s been out on archaeology digs for her classes.

Not in a class that offers fieldwork? Don’t fear. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities out there, and most of them will look fantastic in your resume. If all else fails, contact your department head and ask if there are any opportunities nearby.

Stockpile Skills

There are always ways to get ahead of the crowd and stand out. You can get ahead by stockpiling your skills. How many Computer Science students have experience with Photoshop or web design? Probably not too many. How many designers know Python? I sure don’t. This is where stockpiling comes in. Here’s a neat way to stockpile skills courtesy of the workshop.

1: Find intelligence—Start off by asking questions and keeping your eyes peeled for companies looking for specific needs. Skills can range from very specific like “Adobe Dreamweaver” to something general such as “organizing folders”.

2: Call and ask—This step might be a little overwhelming for some people. If it’s a little scary (or hey, even if it isn’t), contact EWU’s Career Services and let them know you want practice with calling employers. Good questions to ask might be “what skills are you looking for in an employee?” or even “do you have any internship opportunities available?”

3: Research areas to contribute—What skill does your internship need that you don’t have? Find a club with a project that uses that skill and practice! If one doesn’t exist, find some people and make a project.

4: Cover letter writing—When writing a cover letter, focus on what services you can provide the company, not what the company can provide you.

5: Post-Grad work—Build your resume even more with the skills you built up in your internship. I had to learn InDesign for an internship I had a couple of years ago. I was terrified of InDesign projects until that internship, but now it’s my go-to Adobe product.

Wait! How do I find an internship?

Internships can be pretty tricky to find, so EWU has options available to anyone looking for an internship. First of all EWU students have access to Handshake, a website designed for students trying to find jobs and internships. Internship advisors work in each college and they can find fantastic internships for you to apply to.

EWU’s Career Fair is another event you can attend. Dress up, bring resumes, and meet professionals who are looking for new employees.

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