When you look at the map of your new campus, be sure to circle the career center; it’s going to be one of your most important destinations during your four years at college. Consider the career center an adjunct classroom, where you’ll learn important lessons about the professional world. The career center is your bridge to internships, where you’ll get hands-on experience to add value to your academic learning.
After you settle into your new life at college, make an appointment at the career center to learn more about its many offerings. When you go, dress appropriately as if you were going to an interview rather than a campus party. Even if you're only a freshman or sophomore, you want the staff to see you as a pre-professional, who will represent the school with dignity in a future internship.
You may want to take your resume with you and show it to a career counselor for feedback. (Get hints on writing your resume at internships.com.) Your resume is an evolving document, but the counselor can advise you about the accepted format. The career center offers assessments and tests to help you determine your career goals. During your academic years, your career goals may change, so it’s good to get an early reading and then retake the tests later to help chart your direction.
Take advantage of the brochures and materials on hand for helpful hints on careers. Study a list of the current internships to learn what’s available. Ask to be on the career center’s email list for upcoming events, such as internship fairs or workshops. After you’ve introduced yourself at the career center, be sure to follow up with emails or occasional visits. When you’re ready for an internship, the career center will be more than ready to help you because they know you’ll be a credit to the school.
During your junior and senior years, take time to check in at the career center as if it were your favorite class, social club, or home away from home. The staff has probably already met you during your freshman or sophomore years, and you may have already experienced several internships. Here are other key tips to most wisely use the career center to help you plan for internships.
- Get to know everyone’s name, the center hours, policies, and procedures. You want them to remember you as well, so when a good internship comes up in your field, you’re the first student they call.
- Stop in and visit the particular counselor(s) you know when the semester starts to say hello, ask about his/her summer vacation, and inquire about any new internship postings. Make your visits short to ensure that you’ll always be welcome.
- Thank the career counselor who helped you get any summer internships. And be sure to give an honest appraisal of your experience to help the career center evaluate each internship.
- You could also write a formal letter of appreciation to the head of the career center, praising the counselor or staffer who helped you. Such a letter to a person’s boss always means even more than a thank-you letter to the person.
- Attend as many career center functions as possible, such as workshops or speaker series. The staff will remember that you took the time to come to its special events when it’s time to assign internships.
- You could also volunteer to help out at these special events or to talk to freshman or sophomore students about your internship experiences. Many career centers are matching upperclassmen with younger students as internship mentors. If you’ve discovered any potential new internships through friends or family, do let the career center know about these possibilities because career centers always need more internships.