An internship is for your career what a dress rehearsal is for a theatrical event. It’s an opportunity to use the communication skills you’ve gained through your university coursework in a professional environment, dressing and acting as you will when you graduate from college and enter the workforce.
Internships are positions companies offer students on a short-term basis. They might be full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid, and available near or far from home. Internships help you—and prospective employers—see what your strengths are and where you still need practice. They also help you determine the types of roles you’d like to pursue in your career and the kinds of companies with which you’d like to seek employment. For these reasons, many students choose to pursue multiple internships during their college experience, and often, those who do have a smoother, easier transition into the professional world.
Obtaining an internship is not a quick or easy process, though. Companies often receive many applications for each position they are offering, which might take weeks or even months to review. Most students apply for multiple positions before receiving an invitation to interview with a hiring manager. Successfully securing an internship requires that you start building your brand as a professional communicator now.
That means you should do the following—as a college student—to start developing a professional reputation:
- Read job descriptions on a regular basis, even if you won’t pursue an internship for a semester or two. What are companies asking of entry-level employees—that is, what skills do those employees need to have? Use the information in job postings as a personal checklist. What have you already learned? What do you still need to know? If you encounter terms you’re not familiar with, research those topics.
- Learn how to give an “elevator pitch,” or talk about yourself and your professional skills in a brief, appealing way.
- Maintain a professional appearance. Some students choose to start wearing now the kind of apparel that they will wear to work following graduation. They say they find that doing so increases their sense of proficiency and helps others see them as a professional rather than “as some college kid.”
- Learn and follow professional-correspondence practices. How do you answer your phone? What kind of voicemail greeting have you recorded? How do you address faculty or other professionals when you see or email them? Are you considerate of their time? Do you use professional language, or do you talk to them as you talk to your peers? Do you follow professional email standards, or are your messages lax, full of slang, and punctuated with emoticons?
- Evaluate how you use your (and others’) time. Are you punctual in arriving to class and to work? Do other members of group projects have to wait on you when you meet? Can you participate in class without being distracted by social-media apps on your phone that aren't related to the course discussion? If you can’t behave professionally in a classroom, it's not likely you'll be able to do it in a boardroom.
- Develop a quality portfolio and résumé. Learn to tailor cover letters to different companies. The team in the University's Career Networking Center can help you do this.
- Network with those you meet. You might find that roommates, classmates or ward members can introduce you to people they know who work in the communication field, which might lead to your learning about internship opportunities. Additionally, you can network through these university resources:
- BYU-Idaho Alumni Association: Connect with graduates of the university using the Mentor Finder tool or LinkedIn.
- Expeditions: The university offers several internship expeditions each year that involve traveling to a particular city and talking with experts in various fields about internship and job opportunities with their respective companies.
- Societies: Getting involved in practicum experiences and other organizations that the Communication Department offers provides good career-preparation opportunities.
Use your time at BYU-Idaho to practice professional habits. Request feedback from faculty, employers and community members who know you well. As you build your reputation, you'll be ready to apply for internships, which you can read about below. From there, you'll be center stage with your career.
|Academic Discovery Center: Career Services
|Academic Discovery Center: Internship Office
|Brother Joel Judkins, Communication Department Internship Coordinator