How to Get Your First Internship as a College Student

by Samantha Warren

It is crucial to gain professional experience as a student. As the job market grows increasingly competitive, employers expect potential job candidates to have both work experience and accredited degrees.

As a student who has completed three internships and now works as a part-time associate, I can say that the professional experience I have gained is invaluable. I have learned more about the public relations industry from working in the field than I have in academic environments. By completing internships, you can gain a more accurate perspective about what it’s like to work in your industry. Because I feel internships are so important for college students, I have assembled a guide to help you land your first gig.

Things to consider before you intern:

You will have to work hard, and you won’t always enjoy it. Internships are fantastic experiences. Unfortunately, you likely will not always enjoy the tasks assigned to you. If you intern with the right company, you will complete tasks that help you to grow as a professional. Not every task will be fun or fulfilling. However, if you work hard, you will build valuable skills and advance as a professional in your field.

Not all internships are paid. Many companies offer unpaid internships that earn you college credit. Unpaid internships are somewhat unfair because they are not accessible to everyone. However, smaller companies cannot always afford to pay their interns, so unpaid internships allow organizations to provide more professional opportunities to students. Even if an internship opportunity is unpaid, I recommend that you still consider it. The experience you gain from working in your field could be more valuable than the money you make on the job.

Professionalism is expected. You will need to show up on time. You will need to dress appropriately. And most importantly, you will need to be willing to learn. Employers understand that interns are not perfect, but they will still expect you to work hard, have a positive attitude, and demonstrate professionality.

How to get your first internship as a UCF student:

Join Handshake. Handshake is an online platform that helps students find career opportunities that match their qualifications and interests. Once you create an account and fill out your profile, you can search for jobs, internships, or co-ops, register for exclusive job hunting events, and apply for positions you are interested in. You can also use Handshake to make an appointment with Career Services or the Office of Experiential Learning. If you’re looking for your first internship, Handshake is a great place to start.

Attend an internship fair. UCF hosts multiple internship fairs every semester. Depending on your major and the field you are interested in, you might find a position you love by attending an internship fair! Here are a few resources to find an upcoming internship fair:

Check job listing websites.
Sometimes, employers post internship opportunities on job search websites. Here are a few you can check out:

Although not everyone has great luck with job search websites, it’s worth a try. You might find an opportunity you are really interested in!

Perfect your resume.

Before you apply for a position, you need to make sure your resume is in tip-top shape. Here’s how:

  • Proofread for any grammar or spelling errors.
  • Make sure the writing is concise, readable, and easy to skim.
  • Ensure your phone number and email address are on the document so potential employers have a way to contact you.
  • Design it to be clean and professional. If you add color, use discretion.
  • List your most valuable qualifications first. For example, if you already have relevant work experience, place your “Experience” section above the “Education” section. First impressions are important, and resumes are no exception.

Prepare for job interviews.
Interviews are perhaps the most nerve-racking part of the internship search process. Even so, you should keep your cool. If potential employers take the time to interview you, that means they think you are qualified for the position. Remember that. They wouldn’t waste their time interviewing people who are weak candidates. So, if you make it to the interview stage of the process, congratulations! All you have to do is nail the interview and you’ll have a great chance of landing the internship.Here are a few ways you can prepare for your interview:

Leave a good first impression.

  • Arrive on time (or early). Dress professionally. Smile, and greet the interviewer with confidence! If you leave a good first impression, you set yourself up for success in the rest of the interview.
  • Ask questions.
    At the end, most interviewers will ask if you have any questions. It’s crucial that you ask at least one good question. It shows the interviewers that you are interested in the organization and the position. Try to avoid general questions that you could find the answer to on Google. Instead, ask about the company culture or what a day at work looks like.
  • Follow up by phone or email after the interview.
    Don’t forget to follow up after the interview to thank the employer and demonstrate your interest in the position!
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!
    You might not get your dream internship on your first try, and that’s OK! All successful people fall a few times on their way to the top. If you don’t land the opportunity you want, keep searching and applying for positions that seem interesting. You might even find a great gig in an unexpected place!

After learning about interning as a college student, I hope you will consider completing an internship before you graduate. The skills you gain working in your field will help you immensely in your career and provide you a unique experience outside of the classroom. Above all, you can give yourself an edge in the professional world and build your career.