10/13/2014 03:29 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2014

Internship Insight: Opening the Door to Your Future

Yesterday I spoke with a young student from my alma mater who was interested in learning more about my career path for her college internship class.

A big proponent of internships, having had more than three my senior year alone, I was more than happy to shed light on my experiences, and offered her the following tips:

  • Develop your network: It's all about who you know. If you want to secure an internship in a certain field, ask friends, family members, even neighbors if they know of someone to reach out to. Set up informational interviews, connect on LinkedIn with everyone you meet and never be afraid to ask for career advice.
  • Clean up your social image: While the internship screening process is not always as thorough as the hiring process, it's still important to clean up your social image. This means going beyond cleaning up your post content and images to spell checking your tweets and updating your LinkedIn profile.
  • Keep evidence of your good work: If your current boss has ever written you a thank you note for your hard work, print it out and add it to your portfolio. Save your best class assignments and all well-written papers. No one expects you to have an incredible portfolio at the age of 20, but it helps to start compiling your accomplishments and building your 'brand' early on.
  • Be realistic: When I was an intern, everyone seemed to be a college student. However in this day and age that's not always the case. Talented post-grads are taking internships because they want a career change and are willing to sacrifice pay for their 'break' into the industry. This makes it harder for undergrad students to land one of these coveted spots- so take the time to look for internships that require course credit, thus limiting the field of competition.
  • Don't settle for just one: I had a number of internships across a broad range of industries. While the positions looked awesome on my resume, the real value was that they helped me determine my best career path. You may be required to do an internship for a class, but if the opportunity presents itself, try to do more than one.
  • Utilize your network: Keeping in touch with everyone is important. I landed my first job as a result of a recommendation by a fellow intern during my winter at Seventeen Magazine (she had interned at the PR agency the summer prior). Some of my former fellow interns have gone on to do great things, including starting successful industry blogs and running major national accounts. Keep in touch with everyone you work with because you never know - your connections may be able to help you in the future.
  • Gillian dreams big. After years of working under successful and inspirational women, she woke up one day at age 27 realizing she wanted more out of her career. The result of her revelation is Gillian Small Public Relations, a small business offering high quality PR services at an affordable price.