Though they may not have a reputation for offering professional services, community colleges can actually be quite helpful when it comes to finding an internship. Read on for more information on how these schools can be of use in your pursuit of work experience.
Community College Internships
Community colleges offer an excellent opportunity to get a quality education for a reasonable cost on a flexible schedule, but getting an education is just half the battle when it comes to finding a job. To bolster your resume and improve your chances of finding an employment, you should strongly consider finding an internship.
Internships provide invaluable work experience and are a great way to get a foot in the door in your desired field. What most people may not know is that community colleges offer internship services and can help you find a position.
These programs are mutually beneficial, as employers find a ready-and-willing workforce while students get exclusive access to job postings. Let's take a look at how these schools can help you get set up with an internship.
How to Get an Internship as a Community College Student
The easiest way to get started is to work with the school you are attending. Most programs are hosted through a school's career services department, and the process is meant to be straightforward and intuitive. Most community colleges, such as Prince George's Community College (PGCC), have specific information on their websites, including a list of steps in the process and any supplemental steps that may be required.
Working with local employers, schools identify open internships that would be applicable to students and then open the opportunities to students. Students then fill out an application and work with internship coordinators to set up an interview and (hopefully) get the position.
While the process is meant to be as accessible as possible, you can expect it to vary from one school to the next. In some cases, such as at PGCC, students may be required to complete additional coursework related to the internship opportunity. A quick search of your school's website should provide more information on the program and give you a clear idea of what to expect as you seek work experience.
What if My School Doesn't Have a Program?
While the above options are great for students attending schools with internship programs, what about students who attend a school that doesn't offer any internship opportunities? Are they out of luck?
Fortunately, there are still several avenues you can take that will help you acquire valuable on-the-job experience.
Go It Alone
As helpful as an internship program at a community college can be, it can sometimes lack a broad range of options or not cater to your professional goals, leaving you with unappealing options. Striking out on your own and looking for internships affords you the freedom to find the job postings that work best for you.
Job boards like Internships.com are littered with internship postings that are open to the public. Most openings do not discriminate against community college students and welcome any applicant who is in search of experience. Though you may be required to be a student enrolled in a credit-bearing program, some organizations, such as the National Low Income Housing Coaltion, don't even require interns to be enrolled as students!
Most programs are aware of the fact that their interns will be students and are more than willing to work on a flexible schedule that allows time for work and classes. In addition to experience, it's also common practice to offer college credit and, in some cases, financial compensation. Internships are rarely lucrative, however, so don't get your hopes up in anticipation of a big payday.
You can also look online for resources that will improve your chances of getting hired, such as this How to Get an Internship course, which contains helpful tips on how to make yourself more attractive to potential employers.
If you're unsure of where to start, you can still use your school as a resource. Even if it doesn't have an internship program, your school at the very least should have a career center that can help you write a resume, work on interview skills, and provide links to network connections or lesser-known job boards.
Find A Different Program
Community colleges aren't the only institutions offering internship programs for students. If your school doesn't have anything, there are plenty of other places that can help out.
The Department of Energy, for example, has an internship program intended specifically for community college students. Likewise, Stanford University has a Research Assistant internship that is exclusively for community college students.
These programs fulfill the exact same purpose as those offered by community colleges, and their 'community college students only' nature reduces competition and makes it easier to find an internship.
How To Succeed During Your Internship
Finding an internship is a big step, but it's certainly not the last one! Once you get your position, you'll need to work hard.
Know Before You Go
Before you even set foot in the door, do some research on the company you'll be working with. Who are the top executives? What's the mission statement? Knowing important facts will make you seem knowledgeable and can give you an idea of what to expect on your first day.
Communicate with Your Supervisor
When working on projects, be sure to speak with your supervisor and understand exactly what is expected of you. Taking the initiative and starting conversations makes you look motivated and prevents future misunderstandings.
Make Yourself Busy
Depending on your workplace, you may not always have a clearly defined to-do list. Instead of sitting around and waiting, find projects that need doing and make yourself available to lend a hand to whoever might need it.
Be Easy to Work With
Being an intern means doing a lot of grunt work and it's far from a glamorous position. Keep an upbeat demeanor and try to keep from complaining. You'll get your shot to take on bigger things eventually, but until then you need to keep your head up and maintain a positive attitude.
Just because you're a community college student doesn't mean you won't have access to internships. Whether it's through your school, by yourself, or through a third party, there are multiple paths that you can take to land a position, acquire important work experience, and get your career started.