One of the best ways to get your foot in the door at a company you admire, or to get experience in a field that interests you, is through an internship or cooperative education program, also known as a co-op.
An internship is typically a short-term work or service experience – perhaps for a summer – that is related to the student’s major or career goal. Generally, internships require students to work in a professional setting under the supervision of professionals in the field. Some internships are paid while others are performed in exchange for academic credit.
Co-ops work slightly differently, typically providing students with multiple periods of work related to the student’s major or career goal. Most co-op programs have students alternate terms of full-time classroom study with terms of full-time, discipline-related employment. Since most programs involve several periods of work, participants have the opportunity to gain significant work experience before graduation. Virtually all co-op positions are paid and most involve some form of academic credit.
Whichever type of program you choose, students or recent graduates will gain valuable experience in real-world work situations and have a rare a chance to build or boost their resumes and portfolios for later job searches. Further, internships and co-ops are a terrific way to build professional networks and start making connections in your chosen field.
Still not convinced? In 2016, 45.5% of interns were offered a full-time job at the company they worked for, which means that if you find the right internship you have nearly a 50/50 shot at getting a job. Not bad odds.
But how do you find a killer internship? A 2016 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that more than half of all companies surveyed say that social media has changed the way they recruit interns. So don’t miss your shot. Here are six tips for securing an internship or co-op using social media.
Start searching early
To increase your odds of landing a competitive internship, be early to the game. Some employers start looking as soon as October to start filling internship positions for the next summer, so don’t leave your search until the last few weeks of school. For example, some large firms like Morgan Stanley have a variety of opportunities worldwide with an array of different deadlines, while others have set summer internship application deadlines. Make a list of companies you’re interested in and note their application deadlines so you don’t miss the boat.
Be your most professional self
Spend some time cleaning up your social media profiles before you begin trying to connect with companies online. Make sure all of your posts and photos are fit to be seen by an employer, including content you’ve shared from third-party sources. An employer’s first indication of how responsible you are could come from the content on your social media pages. Don’t knock yourself out of the game with inappropriate content.
Once your accounts are clean and free of any potentially offensive content, post away! Employers want to see that you are engaged and interesting so posting news or snaps of your volunteer work or other interests on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter is a very good idea.
Ask for referrals
Social media makes it super easy to see who is connected to whom. Use that to your advantage by scouring your connections to see how they might help in your quest for an internship. If your college roommate’s mother used to work for Intel and you’ve applied for internship there, get in touch with her to ask for a referral or a letter of recommendation. Internships are a competitive business so use any and all of your connections to leverage opportunities.
Use an online connection service
Websites like WayUp are platforms that connect college students (or recent grads) and companies for internships and other opportunities. Just fill out an online form with information about your education and experience, and you’ll gain access to a list of internships across the country that you qualify for, and you can even apply for them online.
Do your research
Once you get an interview for an internship, track down the names and titles of the people who’ll be interviewing you to gain insight into their backgrounds and connections. If it’s not provided upfront, ask the person arranging the interview for a list of who you’ll be speaking with before your appointment.