Internships are a great way to get valuable work experience as a solid foundation for your career. Considering how difficult it can be for young adults to find full-time jobs after graduating, having this foundation greatly improves your chances of being hired.
However, when it comes to advancing your career not all internships are created equally. The best internships are ones that gives you the right experience and skills, ones that will actually help you break into the career you want. It would do you no good to go through an internship that doesn’t help you get a job afterwards.
Here are five things you need to plan before you even look for internships.
Think about your long term career goals
You don’t go on vacation without having decided on a destination beforehand, and neither should you plan your career path without having a goal in mind. So before you do anything else, ask yourself some questions:
- Where do you want your career to be in 5 years, or 10 years, or beyond that?
- Do you want to be an executive, a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or something completely different?
- In what industries do you want to work? Health care, tech, or non-profit?
It’s worth pointing out that the plans you make at the start of your career will change at least somewhat. The more experience you get, in work and in general, the more your priorities will change. But if you don’t have some kind of goal to work towards at any given time, you run the risk of getting stuck in career-limbo.
Map out the path to reach those goals
Now that you have an ultimate goal for your career, you can plan out each step you’ll need to take in order to get there. There are a few different ways to map out a tentative career path:
- Use Monster’s career mapping tool or online resources like it
- Consult a career counsellor at your school or a paid professional business
- Research the career paths of people who have jobs you want to work towards
The third method might involve you phoning or emailing such a person directly, which could also conveniently help you build your network with professionals and influencers in your niche.
Mapping out your career path is something you’ll have to keep up to date, as your industry and your priorities evolve and change. Being active in industry groups on LinkedIn will help you stay abreast of new trends.
Identify the entry-level jobs to start you on that path
The more difficult part of making a career path is making a list of all the entry-level positions that can start you on your way, because there are a lot of options across several industries. When considering which positions to aim for, there are some factors to consider:
- How likely you are to get hired for such a job based on your skills and experience
- How far the job will help you progress along your career path
- How much you’ll enjoy the job in terms of engagement and culture
Then there are the miscellaneous things, like pay, benefits, flexibility of hours, and so on. These are all things you should consider when choosing what jobs to prioritize.
Learn what skills those jobs demand
The other thing to consider is that different jobs will require different aptitudes and levels of experience. So if there are a handful of positions you want more than others, find out the skills and experiences that are most in demand. The easiest way to do this is to look on online job boards for the entry-level positions in question, and see what skills are most commonly mentioned.
As an example, software programming requires knowledge of specific coding languages as well the ability to adapt to new languages. A sales representative, meanwhile, will require knowledge of the company’s products and services as well as strong interpersonal and communication skills.
List the internships that will get you those skills
With all of the planning you’ve done and the information you’ve gathered, you know what internships to aim for that will help you along your chosen path. You’ll know what industries to focus on, what type of work and skills to look for, and so on.
So when you’re looking at the description for an internship or even interviewing for one, make sure you find out what tasks you’ll have to perform and what you’ll be given training for. If the internship doesn’t seem to offer what you need to progress further down your career path, it’s not worth applying for it.