Internship search mistakes and how to fix them

Photo Illustration by Hannah Greco | The Signal

What are you doing this summer? Maybe you’re taking a trip to some sunny spot or picking up shifts at your old hometown job. Or maybe not. Last year, intern and co-op hiring was the highest it’s been nationally since 2013, and the trend is expected to continue. If it does, you could be the next lucky student clawing your way into a job.

But getting an internship isn’t easy. There’s a lot of competition to outpace and a lot of pitfalls to avoid. Assistant director of Internships and Co-ops at Georgia State Caroline Anderson wants to clear up some misconceptions and help you land your next gig.

The first mistake students tend to make is not applying soon enough. Keep an eye out on Handshake for application windows because the deadlines can miss you faster than you care to admit. The best and most competitive opportunities are usually being filled months in advance.

“The internships that are available for summer are recruiting right now,” Anderson said. “Their deadlines are at the latest mid-March.”

When you’re looking for opportunities, don’t discount the professional value of personal relationships. According the Anderson, finding your next job is all about building a network.

“Sometimes people think that networks are just the professional looking person that you handed your card to,” Anderson said. “But networks are really anyone who is supportive of your success.”

That means family connections and friends, friends of friends, and more friends. Know some relatives in the city of your dream job? Reach out! Know some friends who share your interests, goals, and direction? Connect. Just don’t forget to show your appreciation for the people who help you grow.

When you apply, it’s essential not to undersell yourself. Anderson said many students make light of skills they learned from low level jobs or less traditionally professional majors. Whether you worked retail or studied literature, you have transferable skills that are marketable in the professional setting.

“The students in general who aren’t able to articulate how their major works in a professional context are gonna have difficulty no matter what,” Anderson said. “They learn really relevant skills, but they need to be able to articulate them to potential employers.”

Matching students to the appropriate resources has challenges that vary with their major, according to Anderson. Often students in the scientific and medical fields like biology and psychology are unaware of the full spectrum of options their major affords them.

Other majors have other issues. Anderson finds Computer Science majors to be under the misconception, given the ever-increasing demand in their field, they have nothing to gain from outside experiences like internships or co-ops. She believes that is never the case.

“We’ve found consistently that our students who have internships or co-ops are more prepared professionally, they’re more competitive once they graduate, they spend less time between graduating and being employed,” Anderson said.

So it doesn’t matter what your major or your year in school is. Put yourself out there or you’ll be behind.