In college, I was the girl who loved class lectures and studying for exams. I didn’t discriminate, either. I developed a school-girl crush on at least one class per semester. When I took Intro to Sociology, I wanted to be a marriage counselor. The Public Speaking class I took during summer break convinced me to become a corporate trainer. And after completing my Geography final, I wanted to travel the world and teach ESL. I was a mess.
Panic set in during the last semester of my sophomore year. I still hadn’t declared a major, let alone decided what I wanted my career to look like after college.
So, I sought advice from my mom. She laughed and said “You’ll be sitting in class one day, and suddenly you’ll know what you want your career to look like.” Gee, thanks, mom.
The advice she should have given me was as follows: Get a college internship every summer while in college.
My mom should have told me that half of college grads are working jobs that don’t require a degree. She should have told me that half of recent college grads are underemployed or jobless.
Most of all, my mom should have told me that a legit internship with real-world experience would give me the competitive edge required to get a great job after college.
Ok, so my mom didn’t give me the right advice. But the career counselor at my school did, luckily. And even though I didn’t declare a major until my junior year, I was among the 52% of graduates who received a job offer because I held an internship before graduation.
A good internship allows college students to gain transferable skills that will apply to any job position in any industry, without committing to any given industry. As such, students do not need to declare a major in order to proactively jump-start their career. All students need, is a good internship.
Here are the 3 best ways to ensure you get several internships while in college, declared major or not.
1. How to make what you learned in the classroom resume-worthy
To take full advantage of every internship opportunity available to you, get an internship every summer while in college, beginning with freshman year.
Yes, that means you’ll be applying to internships with little to no work experience under your belt. No one will hire you, right? Wrong! If you’re applying to internships the summer following your freshman year, you have a year of skills to boast about on your resume. Don’t take what you’re learning in the classroom for granted.
About a month ago I talked to a marketing major entering into his senior year of college. He was desperate to land a marketing internship, but no one would hire him. He didn’t even receive so much as one call back after submitting dozens of applications.
I took one look at his resume and immediately identified the problem. His resume did not highlight one marketing skill. Not one. Instead, his resume was riddled with restaurant experience. I asked him what marketing classes he has taken at school, what projects he’s working on, and what marketing programs he’s using or has used. Within 30 seconds of him telling me the marketing skills and programs he’s mastered in the classroom, it was abundantly clear that he was more than qualified for most any marketing internship out there. He just didn’t realize that he could highlight those skills on his resume, since he learned them in the classroom. Big mistake.
Put everything you’re learning in the classroom on your resume. Those skills count!
2. Resume-worthy skills aren’t visible to employers if you don’t constantly update
Writing a resume is a lot of work, especially when you’re a freshman starting with a blank Word doc. That said, you’ll never have a “final” copy of your resume, not until you stop learning new skills (which should never happen).
You will always need to update your resume with the new skills and programs you’ve learned.
Did you build a circuit in your engineering class? Put it on your resume. Did you write a press release in your journalism class? Put it on your resume. Did you use the social media management tool, Buffer, in your marketing class? Put it on your resume. Need I go on?
3. Stand out at career fairs
Employers attend college career fairs to recruit college students, not working professionals with years of experience. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not looking for professional employees. They are. Employers at career fairs search for the exceptional college students—the next generation’s leaders.
The students who’ll get the immediate in-person interview at the career fair come dressed in business attire, holding a briefcase, with several copies of their updated resume in hand. These students stand out among the others wearing jeans and a t-shirt with their back-pack hanging over one shoulder—the students who clearly just popped in to the fair in-between classes. Scan the room at the next career fair you attend; you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Come prepared, but also have fun at career fairs. Melissa Suzuno has great advice on how to turn a career fair into an adventure. And she’s absolutely right: you should have fun at your school’s career fair. Starting your career is exciting, especially as an intern. Your goal as an intern is to learn and gain experience in the real world. A good internship will have an intern-mentor or go-to person that won’t allow you to do anything on your own the first couple of times. So relax during career fairs. If you’re nervous and fidgety while talking to employers at a career fair, they’ll think you don’t have the confidence to perform well. Have fun, evoke confidence, and let your personality shine.
written by Cari Stark
Cari Stark graduated from University of California, Irvine in 2013 as an English major. She is now the Marketing Manager for College Works Painting, a college internship designed to give students the opportunity to build a competitive resume to help them land their dream job when they graduate. College Works Painting offers a free career success toolkit for advice from recent grads who landed jobs at Google, ESPN, Amazon and many other great companies.