Last fall at our Career Fair I went around to employers and conducted an informal survey to determine the key factor they were looking for in student candidates. I was expecting them to say a specific skill, such as solid communications skills, but instead they almost unanimously said that they looked for internships on a student's resume.
Internships, as most students know, are a terrific way to test the waters about your particular careers of interest and to build your resume. If you start them early enough in college, you can work at several different kinds of internships to determine what you like and don't like in terms of career options, work environments, company culture, day-to-day routine, etc. And the good news is that internships are plentiful as more employers are hiring interns to do some of the work that was previously done by full or part time permanent employees. Although some internships don't pay, there are also many that do. Most students do internships during the summer but there are lots of internships available during the academic year as well.
So, how do you go about finding an internship? First, you should check your school's Career Services office to see if they have either an online or paper database of internships. After that, there are several job search sites that literally have thousands of internships on them. One of my favorites is www.SimplyHired.com (which pulls postings from other job search websites and company sites). One great thing about SimplyHired is that you can set up multiple searches and get daily email alerts with any internships that match your search criteria. You can specify the city you want to intern in and use key words to find the internship that is just right for you.
Another one of my favorite internship sites is www.CraigsList.org (yes, I said Craig's List!). While there are some sketchy things on CraigsList, many of my students have gotten some very good internships there. Students just need to view any posting with some discernment. See if the company has a website or Google their name to see what comes up. Remember the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
Internships are plentiful so there is no reason not to get one (or several!) If you're looking for a summer 2010 internship, you can start looking now but bear in mind that some employers post summer internships all the way through the spring semester. If you land an unpaid internship but still need to make some money, then a great option is to work part-time at the internship and also get a part-time paying job. Most employers offering unpaid internships are very flexible in terms of hours because they realize you are working for free.
By doing multiple internships, you'll be building your resume, which will make you a more competitive candidate when you graduate, and you'll be discerning exactly what you want out of your future career.