Many students have the educational background that employers and graduate schools are looking for in potential candidates, but they don’t really have the work experience and skills that are required. It’s kind of like a catch 22 situation, right? Well if you find yourself in this situation, don’t despair. There is a solution. Some of the ways that students can gain real-world experience that is related to their field of study is by participating in volunteer opportunities, summer or part-time jobs, or internships.
Internships are a great way for undergraduate and graduate students to gain hands-on work experience within their industry. This hands-on work experience will provide you with marketable skills that are attractive to future employers when combined with your education. Many colleges and universities partner with local companies who will offer their students internship opportunities. Some internship opportunities are paid positions, while others allow you to earn college credits toward your degree. Other internships are simply for the experiences themselves.
Internships are a great way to break into a particular company as well. Many students start with a company as an intern and then are offered a full-time employment opportunity after graduation. That is why it is important that if you do partake in an internship that you work very hard, not just for something to put on your resume, but because it may just be your foot in the door to a career.
You can find out about internships several different ways. Your college or university career center can help you find available internships in the area. They can also search by whether or not they are paid internships or for credit or experience only. If you are trying to complete an internship for class credit, be sure to check with your counselor to make sure that you are eligible to do this. Online job boards also list internships. These job boards are setup so that you can search by industry, type of position (internship), location, and whether it is a paid or unpaid position. If there are companies in your hometown (for summer work) or that are in the local college community that fit your industry, contact their Human Resource Department and ask if they have any internship opportunities available.
If you are not taking classes during the summer, consider picking up a full-time or part time position that pertains to your field of study. These are usually entry-level positions but they allow you to work within in your industry and gain knowledge and experience that will benefit you in the long-run. These types of positions can also lead to full-time opportunities after graduation. Check with local companies to see if they are hiring and search online job boards for available positions.
There are volunteer opportunities related to many industries that you can utilize to gain experience in your industry. For example, let’s say that you are studying public relations. There is a local chapter of United Cerebral Palsy near your university. United Cerebral Palsy is a non-profit organization, so they raise money for research and to care for CP patients who live in their group homes. You can volunteer to work with the fundraising department, which creates, plans and implements fundraisers. This volunteer opportunity is filled with public relations work like creating media packages to get press on the fundraising events, writing press releases, creating marketing campaigns, creating promotional items, contacting radio and television stations, and the list just goes on and on. Not only are you picking up experience and marketable skills for future employment, but you are also providing a service to a good cause that is helping someone else. The rewards of volunteer service in this situation are two-fold because you are giving and receiving.
So don’t get yourself all worked up because you don’t have marketable skills that look good on a graduate school or employment application. There are several options available to you that will provide you with industry knowledge and experience, which will help you to market yourself to graduate schools and future employers.