By working smart, though, you can get the job preparation power of internships – hands-on experience, networking, mentorship and job offers – without taking energy away from school.
These tips will help you use your grad school internships, in combination with your studies, to land your post-graduation dream job.
Choose an In-Demand Specialty
Choosing a major associated with an in-demand career isn’t enough to get you hired after grad school. The best course of action: find niches within your industry that lead directly to opportunity. For instance, it’s common practice for career advisors to say that nurses are in demand. But in many urban areas there’s actually an oversupply of registered nurses. By choosing an in-demand niche – like nurse educator, nurse statistician, or nurse anesthetist – however, graduate nursing students can outmaneuver supply and demand.
In addition to taking classes in a specialty area, look for internships that will give you on-the-job experience in an in-demand field. Don’t just take whatever’s available; target companies where you could see yourself working after graduation. If you like the company, great performance as an intern often leads to a post-graduation job offer. If it turns out the company isn’t a great match for your career goals, you won’t make the mistake of applying there after college.
Choose Mentors Who Have Strong Professional Networks
A good mentor gives you great advice, shortens learning curves, and helps you determine which skills you’ve mastered – and which you need to work on. Additionally, a mentor who is also an influencer in your industry or profession can become a crucial networking ally. If you haven’t built a strong professional network on your own, it’s crucial to connect with people who have!
In addition to targeting desirable companies for internships, target potential mentors who are well-connected. Prove you have what it takes, be a good listener and build a mutually-beneficial relationship – and it’s a good bet they’ll serve as an enthusiastic referral when the time is right. How do you know if your supervisor is well-connected? Before accepting an internship, take a few minutes to check their LinkedIn profile; if you don’t see many connections, look for others in the company who might serve you well as a mentor.
Pick a Theme to Connect Internships with Academics
As many young careerists have discovered, what you learn as an intern will influence your research and class selection. To become a more efficient student, look for themes that connect your internship with your schoolwork. This will not only help you stay engaged, it will enable you to apply theory to practical application.
As you develop specialized knowledge, connect with other people who do similar work. For instance, a research presentation at a conference could lead to meeting someone who could become a valuable contact, perhaps even a mentor – or an internship host or potential employer.
Tap Your School’s Alumni Network
Chances are good that graduates from your school are more than willing to communicate with fellow alumni. Often, they stay in touch with their favorite professors, attend alumni events, and take an interest in up-and-coming students. Which makes your alumni network a goldmine of leads for internships and job openings.
Determine which alumni are most active in the community. Investigate which alumni work at your target companies. Cultivate relationships with alumni who have large professional networks. Once you’ve built a relationship, confidently contact an alumnus to ask about available opportunities – and perhaps even ask for an introduction or referral.
Position yourself well ahead of fellow grad students who aren’t thinking strategically about internships. Be smart. Be selective. Build a reputation for good performance, at school and as an intern. And let your internship experience during graduate school lead you to a great job!