Landing an Internship in College

 

 

I’m sure everybody has an internship horror story. Without going into too much detail, I got an internship that I was so excited about at the time, but that quickly left me disillusioned. I should have known when I found out I would be working for just one person who worked from her studio apartment, and I definitely should have fled when I found out her “manager” was also her boyfriend who was staying in said studio apartment. 

This internship had me staying up late, doing tasks nowhere near my area of interest and job description, and getting yelled at things no one informed me of. Even so, I don’t like to give up or leave people hanging, so I stayed for the entire semester. There were a few extremely unprofessional incidents that made me decide I had to quit around the holidays, and after two calls I threw etiquette to the wind and sent my boss a long text bowing out due to my upcoming responsibilities in the next semester, which really were going to make me too busy. 

The point is that this is not a singular occurrence, and you may likely stumble into a toxic or unprofessional internship at some point. What’s important is to know your worth and put your mental health first. 

Use all the resources at your disposal to search for internships. Through FIU, every student has an account on the professional networking platform, Handshake, which just needs to be set up. Make sure you activate your account, and create a LinkedIn, where you can also connect with peers, professors and any other professionals you become acquainted with during your FIU career. 

The Honors College also has a great program to apply to internships easily with employers looking specifically for Honors students. As a CARTA student, I know the college sends out a newsletter with internship and job opportunities. These resources are available for every department at FIU if you search their websites. Similarly, FIU Career and Talent Development provides mock interviews, resume workshops and even free headshots to students. 

In the same vein, FIU can be a great employer. They seem to constantly be looking for interns in all areas, and working in such a large education institution is a great opportunity that lends a variety of skills. Different student organizations may also have opportunities specifically for students. For example, BOLD is a student-run communications agency at FIU that counts as an internship credit and involves working with real clients. Even as I have worked at my job and that first difficult internship, I was involved in BOLD and within three semesters landed an e-board position. Opportunities at FIU are as good, if not better, than those at outside companies.

I have also noticed that there are a great deal of programs for minority students. If you belong to a racial, religious or ethnic minority, odds are there is an internship specifically for students like you in your field. Again, I’ll reference communications with MAIP, the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program, where you are sent to a different city for a paid internship at an agency over the summer. Do research and use these programs to your advantage.

As crazy as it might seem, try to limit the amount of unpaid internships you do. I know the stereotype is that interns are unpaid and they just have to put up with that but the truth is, depending on your field, there are many mid-sized to large companies that offer competitive learning internships, usually for the length of a semester. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but do try to seek these out. College students deserve to be paid for their work, and even one unpaid internship can give you the experience to land a paid one afterwards. 

Overall, internships are often treated as the be-all-end-all of a college student’s resume, but there are many ways they can go wrong. Be judicious in choosing an employer and a position. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the first one you apply for. Use all the resources FIU provides and don’t just make connections but develop and maintain them. Don’t sell yourself short; remember you have plenty to offer and deserve respect.