Internships provide great opportunities for young women to get their professional feet wet. While classroom lessons provide theoretical senses of what a profession might be like, an internship gives an actual sense, shedding light on how a particular business or industry operates.
In its Class of 2015 Student Survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that women (65.8 percent) were slightly more likely to have had an internship than men (64.6 percent). Competition for internships can be steep, and young women who want to set themselves apart from the field can employ various strategies as they search for internships.
• Learn the recruiting schedule. Some professions may recruit interns year-round, while others may only look for interns during particular times of the year. Speak with your academic advisor or someone in your college or university’s career placement department to determine when opportunities in your field are most likely to be available, and make sure your materials (i.e., résumé and portfolio) are ready when that recruiting season begins.
• Don’t limit yourself. Cast a wide net when searching for an internship. If you want to be an investment banker, landing an internship that allows you to work alongside investment bankers may be ideal. However, limiting yourself to only those opportunities may be prohibitive, and you may end up with nothing. Maintain an open mind when pursuing internships. Even if you don’t land your dream internship, another opportunity may provide lots of hands-on experience while also allowing you to get your foot in the door.
• Tell the truth. Embellishing your résumé might help you get an interview, but chances are the interviewer will learn pretty quickly if your purported skills are authentic. Internship programs are designed for students with little or no experience who might one day turn into valued employees. If a company suspects an internship candidate of embellishing her skills and experience now, that candidate might never get her foot back in the door. Tell the truth and express your excitement at any opportunity that allows you to apply classroom lessons in real-world settings.
• Don’t accept just any internship. Not every internship is worth the effort. While interns may be asked to perform some menial tasks during their internships, the right opportunities afford interns the chance to get professional experience and interact with working professionals. If an opportunity is largely or exclusively clerical, you might be better off continuing your search or volunteering with a firm.
Young women looking for internships can take various steps to ensure they land the most beneficial opportunities available to them.