One of the scariest questions asked while college is, “What are you going to do over the summer?”
When you are a freshman, it is okay to say sleep in, hang out by the pool, and veg out in front of a television. The older you get and the closer you are to graduation, the more important it is to have an answer that includes an internship. You need something that helps leverage your education and increase your chances of getting a job. We do not want to be that person in our group of friends who decides to work waiting tables and live at home when all of our friends are off to cool places and working with reputable companies.
Getting an internship is simple. It is not easy, but there is no magic to it. Most of us are told inaccurate information about internships, which limits our opportunities and experiences. My goal for sharing these myths is to help you see your value and gain the confidence needed to land an internship.
MYTH #1: You need to know someone in order to get accepted
Today, life is not about what you know or even who you know. It is about who knows YOU. Regardless of your industry or major, people need to know you for something. Now, I grew up with a Hispanic mother who always knew someone who did something. If our shower was acting up, she knew a plumber. If her car was making a weird noise, she knew a mechanic. No matter the problem in our household she always knew a person who could fix it.
When you assess your skills as you are entering the job force, you have to start thinking about your brand and what you are going to be known for in your network. One of the worst assumptions you can feed yourself is saying you are not capable of getting accepted because you do not have a brother, aunt, neighbor, or sorority sister who is employed your desired place of work. Yes, that can help you get an interview or it may be a deciding factor that helps you get into the next round but it is not the end-all.
Most opportunities come from developing the right connections and relationships. You need to start understanding your specific subject of interest and creating work in that space. The work you create should be shared with people in your network. Allow others to benefit from your work and provide feedback on the work you created. This gives you the opportunity to build relationships as a professional. It is simple. You can be the best software engineer in the world, but if nobody knows that you are then does it really matter?
MYTH #2: You have to do a paid internship the old fashioned way.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, hiring rates for those who had chosen to complete an unpaid internship (37%) were almost the same for those who had not completed any internship at all (35%). Students who had any history of a paid internship, on the other hand, were far more likely (63%) to secure employment.
A part of why a lot of unpaid internships do not work out is because students are volunteering in industries that are already declining and downgrading in size, such as journalism and broadcast media. Unpaid internships are great if it lets you work with your dream employer or if you are a freshman or sophomore who just wants some experience.
My favorite type of internship is one that is created and based off of value. Yes, that is right—you can create your own internship! For instance, I had a friend who had a sales internship where he sold a product he believed in door-to-door. The only way he got paid was if he closed a sale. Out of all of our friends, he made the most money over the summer and this was because his internship was based on value. He also got the job.
Internships that are value focused are a win-win for both the employer and intern. Employers do not like paying for interns because there is a high risk and a good chance of not seeing any real return on their bottom line. So if they can pay interns based on the value they create, employers would feel comfortable having you in their workplace.
The reason value focused internships are beneficial for the intern is because you can get paid what you are worth if you work hard and do a good job. Most interns are underpaid for the amount of hours they work. You could even customize your internship and projects to align with your strengths and talents. The most important thing about creating your own internship position is you have to be clear on the payment method and how you are going to show value driven metrics on your work. I will talk more about this in my webinar tomorrow, so make sure you are available for that as well.
MYTH #3: You need to intern at a BIG named company
Most students get too caught up in trying to land the big internships like those with Exxon Mobil or Morgan Stanley. But I want to ask you a question. Have you ever talked to someone who worked for Exxon Mobil? I know countless people in these companies who feel like they are just a number sitting in a cubicle, selling out for the big paycheck and benefits. But I do also know people who work for big companies and absolutely love it because they are in a department that gives them the ability to display their work meaningfully.
To me that is what is important—meaning.
I am not here to have a pow-wow or tell you how life works. But as a professional in my mid-twenties, I think of internships in a whole different way than I did when I was in college. You want to work an internship that brings meaning to your life and sometimes that internship is found in small companies or startups that are working on some big crazy idea. Also, these smaller employers have internships with more meaning because there is less red tape around what you can and can’t do and more autonomy for you to work on projects and in departments that interest you. When you work in small companies, your internship actually impacts the employer much more because they can’t afford an intern who just goes on coffee runs and shreds paper. They need you to participate and be proactive on your ideas, which in my opinion will give you experience that you cannot get at big companies. And experience is what leads to getting the job.
Want to know MYTH 4 and 5? Join me and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund on our teleconference titled How to Get or Create an Internship at Your Dream Company tomorrow, Wednesday, March 12th at 6:00PM EST/3:00PM PST.
EJ Carrion has been featured on NBC, ABC, and FOX news affiliates. He is the co-founder of Student Success Academy, an online agency that prepares teens for real world success, and author of Amazon Best-selling book, Accelerate Your Success: How to Create a Future and Stand Out When College is Not Enough. EJ graduated from the University of Oklahoma and was a Bill Gates Millennium Scholar (07). He is a professional speaker and mediocre rapper. Bring EJ to your school by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.