TUN sits down with V’Rhaniku Haynes, the interim director of experiential learning at the University of Central Florida, to discuss how students can find internships.
TUN: V’Rhaniku, thanks so much for joining us.
HAYNES: Thank you for having me.
Let’s start on campus. What on-campus resources can students use to help them find internships?
I would advise students to connect with their campus career centers. Traditionally, every college campus has a career center. I would advise students to start there.
Depending on their major, their department may also have a professional development center, career center or an internship coordinator. They can also utilize those resources as well. But, I would definitely advise students to connect with the centralized career center, because they can help students with all majors find all different types of opportunities.
I know it’s common for students to find internship opportunities at on-campus or virtual career fairs. Do you have any tips on how students can prepare for and make the most out of career fairs?
The first thing is, students should do their research. They should find out what organizations are going to be participating in those opportunities. That’s whether it’s in a career fair, an internship fair or networking events. All of those opportunities are ways for you to connect with someone to find internships. So, you want to find out what organizations are going to be there and what opportunities they are recruiting for.
Many times, there is a system or a platform. At my institution, UCF, we use Handshake. You can find out what employers are attending the fairs prior to the event. You can research the company, see what majors they may be recruiting and see what specific positions that they are recruiting for.
Especially in this virtual environment that we all are in, a lot of those workshops are focusing on what you as students can do in order to prepare for a virtual fair. We talk about the environment that you’re going to be in, making sure that you have good technology and that you are in a quiet space. Those are all tips that you can find during these workshops.
Where else can students find internships? Are there any resources, maybe online, that students can use?
As I stated before, our campus uses Handshake. A lot of institutions use Handshake or a similar platform. So, my first suggestion would be to connect with your campus career center and see what platform that they use.
In addition to that, I would encourage students to connect with faculty members within their majors. A lot of times, those faculty members have connections to industry professionals, especially in the liberal arts.
We think about theater majors, performing arts majors or art majors. A lot of times, companies may not connect with career centers. But, they’re connecting with the faculty that are in those departments.
I also tell students that using LinkedIn is a great way to reach out to alumni, community members and professionals that want to give back and want to connect with you.
Again, I can’t stress it enough. Connect with your campus career center. If you’re not sure how to create a LinkedIn profile, that’s something that they can also help you with.
I also tell students that networking doesn’t always have to be this very formal thing. We all have networks. So, think about family members or friends. If you are part of a religious organization, some of those individuals are professionals and may be also able to connect you with opportunities.
A lot of internships and full-time jobs are not posted. So, networking with individuals will help you get that leg up. Or, sometimes it’ll just help you get your resume to the person who is in a position to hire for that opportunity.
How can students initiate networking with community members? Do you have any tips on that?
Sometimes it just starts with a simple conversation. When I want to connect with individuals, I may send them an email. I may connect with them on LinkedIn. Or, if I know them, I may say, “Can we grab a cup of coffee? I’m interested in this particular opportunity.” Or, “I’m interested in this organization. I see you work for this organization. I would like to talk to you more about your experience.”
Some college campuses also have job shadow programs. That’s another opportunity for you to connect with individuals. The job shadow programs, they can be virtual, and, sometimes, they can be in person. That’s a way for you to talk to people to find out a little bit more about their career field.
Again, if you’re interested in a particular industry or organization, you can connect with someone and they can give you their story and give you some tips. They may also have additional resources that your career centers may not necessarily have because they work in that industry.
The most common time for students to pursue internships is during the summer. So, for those applying to summer internships, how early should they start looking?
I would encourage students who are looking for summer internships to start now (mid-November). The traditional rule of thumb is, you want to search for an internship the semester before you’re looking to engage in that opportunity.
However, different industries have different recruiting timelines. Also, some organizations are very large and may only come on your campus once a semester.
For example, we have employers who have attended our internship fairs and they’re recruiting for their summer interns already. That’s because a lot of employers are converting interns into full-time workers. So, if they can secure interns earlier, then that works better for them.
So I encourage students to, at the very latest, start the semester before you would like to participate in that opportunity. But, you can start looking for those opportunities now.
You also want to consider the industry. For example, for a lot of government agencies, the application period, as well as background checks, can take an extensive amount of time. So, sometimes those students have to start applying for those opportunities a year before they’re looking to engage.
Again, if you connect with your career center, you can have those conversations, and they can give you advice on when you should start looking for opportunities within specific industries or organizations.
How many internships should students be applying for?
There’s no general number. But, I say that students should be applying for as many internships as possible until they secure the internship that they are looking for.
Searching for internships, it’s just like a full-time job. You have to put in work. So, I would say as many internships as possible. But, I also encourage students to do multiple internships.
Some of the students who are the most successful at securing full-time opportunities are the ones who have participated or engaged in multiple opportunities. They’re doing internships starting their freshman year.
Great. Thanks, V’Rhaniku, for joining us today.
This interview has been edited for clarity. Watch the full video here.