A lot of students enter college not knowing how to go about finding an internship that will help them with their career goals. It's a process that can sometimes be very daunting and confusing. There are so many factors that come into play that you have to be able to take advantage of your resources and work hard and smart.
With this, I recently attended the internship panels hosted by the business fraternities here at University of Pennsylvania. They shared a lot of practical and useful advice that we can all definitely learn from. I've broken down the tips into two lists, what to do before the internship, and during and after the internship. Afterwards, I picked a few tips and advice I got from the panelists that I felt were really useful and expounded on them.
Before the internship:
1. Start taking volunteer internship positions to show your competency
2. Reach out to people through cold emailing
3. Take advantage of your school's brand and alumni directory
4. Attend information sessions of companies you want to work in
5. Take advantage of the summer internship programs your school offers
6. Start doing favors for people even if they're just really small things -- you never know what this can lead you too
7. Never underestimate the power of mutual connections
8. Do your homework, prepare and go through mock interviews
9. Build your skills
10. Find something you're interested in; something you can spend 5-10 hours on
During and after the internship:
1. Keep your contacts fresh (Stay in touch with your former bosses and coworkers and keep them updated on what you've been up to)
2. Ask for feedback, reflect upon what you've done and learn from it (have a handy notebook to take notes throughout your internship)
3. Learn how to ask questions and when to ask questions
4. Have confidence in yourself
5. Build your knowledge base and skillset
6. Stay current and know what's happening in the industry
7. Keep in touch with people you meet
8. Surround yourself with like minded individuals
9. Try your best to have as much fun as possible
10. Be flexible, don't think too much, expect the unexpected
Find a way
A lot of the student panelists talked about how they ended up with their internship through a mutual connection or cold emailing. I really feel like this is something that more students should take advantage of. With the power of the Internet, you can contact anyone and everyone. You just have to find their email or even guess their email. From my own experience, you can also get the emails of people by starting a conversation with them on Twitter. Meet as many people as you can. At the end of the day, you just have to find a way.
Don't be scared
Another tip I really loved was the "be confident" one. This is something I've been trying to improve on. I love how one of the panelists told everyone, "Don't be scared." It really stems from there. Don't be scared to ask questions. Don't be scared to reach out to email. Don't be scared to cold call. Don't be afraid to do something people normally don't do.
Keep your contacts fresh
One of the brothers talked about the importance of relationships and connections, and making sure that you constantly catch up on people you've met and worked with. He mentioned how he decided to check in on his former boss 6 months later and the boss ended up referring him to another potential internship. So yes, do write that email to your former boss, teacher, relative or friend because you never know.
A lot of the upperclassmen emphasized the importance of having fun especially in your first two years in college. Meet as many people as you can. Expose yourself to the world. Enjoy. This could be the last time you will have so much time and freedom to do anything you want.
I'll end with one piece of advice one of the brothers gave us, "Expect the unexpected. Things don't always work out but you'll be fine."
David Ongchoco is currently a freshman from the Philippines studying at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in LIFE. Here in college, David hopes to continue fueling his passions in technology, social impact, entrepreneurship, and education. He is currently working on expanding his organization YouthHack and social impact startup ThirdEye. It's David's goal to make an impact in the lives of as many people possible while constantly learning new things every single day. If you have any interesting stories, feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.