Gaining work experience is an essential part of your career development and significantly improves your chances of finding the ideal job post-graduation. Internships allow you to show employers your ability to apply engineering skills so that you can prove yourself in a professional setting. Internships also provide you with valuable industry connections, which is extremely important in an increasingly competitive global market. Internships are almost like long-term interviews – companies often hire their interns after graduation. Internships also allow you to see if the company and industry are a right fit for you. You will never know if your interests meet your expectations unless you try it for yourself. Students tend to seek internships during their summer break. However, there are also internship opportunities during the semester which can help you stand out as a viable candidate amongst your peers.
Finding and securing an internship takes time and strategy. Even during a busy semester, it is critical to devote time to explore internship opportunities, build and perfect your résumé and cover letter, interviewing skills, and to apply for employment opportunities. Remember that persistency, flexibility and time commitment is the key to obtaining a job or internship.
Explore and Research:
Reflect on what kind of experiences will help you to achieve your goals. This will help create a clear focus on what internships would be relevant to your expectations. If you're unsure, don't hesitate to keep your options open. Talk to people and research different internship opportunities. Once you have a clear focus on what skills you would like to apply and what experience you would like to obtain in a summer internship, your search will be more effective and you will impress employers and members of your network.
Approximately 70 percent (US Bureau of Labor Statistics) of jobs available are not listed and are dependent on personal contacts. It is important to use your existing network and continuously strive to expand it. An important connection that you have is your professors. Talk to your professors and indicate your interest in finding an internship in a certain field. They have many industry connections to share with you or might direct you to a colleague that does! Below are some ideas to expand your network:
- Join student groups and attends conferences
- Attend Insight On-Sites
- Attend Informational Sessions
- Visit the Career Development Center
- Visit Watson Career and Alumni Connections
- Attend Career Fairs
- Attend Industry Visits
If you make face-to-face contact with recruiters, they will be more likely to remember you when you apply on E-Recruiting. In some cases the recruiters you speak with during job and internship fairs are the same individuals you will encounter at an interview.
Tailor your résumé and cover letter so that it's specific to the internship that you're applying for. See the reference tab for résumé and cover letter guides and examples. Review your résumé with a professional at the Career Development Center (CDC). Once you complete your review with the CDC, the Watson Career and Alumni connection office can also provide a review. Ensure you have business professional clothes for the interview and attend a mock interview for practice.
Submit your résumé and cover letter for the position on eRecruiting, other internet based career site such as engineerjobs.com and monster.com or go to the company's page directly. Ensure that you know where to apply and politely and professionally email a recruiter of the given contact for clarification.
Paid or Unpaid:
The question often arises whether a student should take an unpaid internship. If the unpaid internship is relevant to your career goals, it is a better idea to partake in that internship instead of a paid internship that is irrelevant to your interests. Remember that an unpaid internship may lead to a higher salary in your future by helping you stay on track in obtaining your dream job. Please review the United State Department of Labor "Test for unpaid interns" before agreeing to an unpaid internship.
When Should You Find an Internship?
Ideally an engineering student will have an internship during all three summers of their college career. Freshman year is not too early to be looking for an internship to build one's résumé. A student might shadow an engineer after their freshman year in order to secure an internship for the next year.
The Importance of Performance Evaluation:
Before you start your internship, it is a good idea to discuss your objectives, duties and goals with your supervisor. Creating a Performance Program at the beginning of your internship will help determine what is expected of you as an intern. Having a program in place will ensure that you are both aware and prepared for the task at hand.
If your supervisor has not created a Performance Program for you, simply ask if he or she can draft a program and discuss it with you before completing the final form. Discussion should include appropriate criteria for evaluating the degree to which duties are performed and objectives are met. When your internship is complete, revisit the program and have your supervisor evaluate you on your performance. This is a great way to learn from mistakes, track your progress and gain feedback as a potential employee!
Here is Some Criteria That Should Be Covered Under the Performance Evaluation:
- Effectiveness in Performance: success in carrying out assigned duties and responsibilities, efficiency and productivity
- Interpersonal and Teamwork Skills: manages and resolves conflict in a productive manner, supports and contributes to a team atmosphere, demonstrates appropriate behavior, respects diversity (religious/cultural/ethnic) of colleagues
- Professional Skills: exhibits professional behavior and attitude, demonstrates ability to set appropriate priorities, reports to work as scheduled and on-time, dress and appearance are appropriate, exhibits a positive and constructive attitude
- Ability to Learn: asks pertinent questions, seeks out and utilizes appropriate resources, accepts responsibility for mistakes and grows from experiences
- Listening and Oral Communication Skills: listens to others in an active and attentive manner, effectively participates in meetings or group settings, demonstrates effective verbal communication skills
- Creative Thinking and Problem Solving Skills: breaks down complex tasks into manageable components, brainstorms and develops ideas, demonstrates an analytical approach
The content of a Performance Program and Evaluation may vary based on the criteria of the company or preference of the employer. Material is also subject to change based on type of profession, duration of the internship, and level of responsibility.