The college student pipe dream of moving to a big city and finding a decent-pay job is hard to achieve in today’s vicious world of post-graduation employment. Not only do recent grads fight each other Hunger Games-style for a small, entry-level position, but a resume full of experience seems the only way to catch employers’ attention. Getting experience might be easier said than done in a small college town that doesn’t offer many internships or jobs, so many college students don’t even bother trying. Experts decided to weigh in on the subject.
1. Address Your Weaknesses
“Look for experience that will help you bridge the gap between college and your future career,” Florida State University Program Director of Experiential Learning Tracey Dowling said. Find an internship where you can work on strengthening your weaknesses. Most students think an internship involving copiers and coffee runs is a quick way to buff up their resume. If your internship doesn’t add anything substantial to your skill set, then it’s not your best option. Don’t cut yourself short because you want the easiest internship you can find; it won’t do any good in the long run.
2. Get Ahead on Getting Ahead
If you want to grab a spot at an internship in a bigger city, start early. Big companies tend to post their internships as early as six months in advance. But when looking for clubs and organizations to join, keep in mind that employers like to see consistency.
Employers find bussing tables at the local Applebee’s all through college more impressive than a massive roster of clubs you joined your last semester. If you don’t find a club that suits you, simply starting a blog, or even putting down relevant coursework helps build up your resume. “Get exposure and leave a digital footprint. Employers will see this and notice you,” Florida State University Assistant Director for Experiential Learning Lauren Kume said.
3. Get Creative
Businesses and public organizations don’t have “one size fits all” type of jobs. They need a lot of different people with many different skills to make things run smoothly. Seek out job opportunities in businesses outside of your major that could use your skill set. There are so many places with opportunities for almost anyone hidden out there—you just have to look.
Take government: City governments need more than just politicians to function. They need everyone from data analysts and systems engineers, to PR representatives and even writers. Ask your school’s career center or your academic advisors for good suggestions on where to start the internship search.
4. Utilize Your University
Bulk up your resume by joining a campus organization related to your major, like a pre-dental club or an on-campus publication. Clubs provide simple ways to add some experience to your resumes. Dowling said that employers are looking to see what you did to maximize your four years in school, and there’s no shortage of opportunities even in your small town. “As long as you’re walking away with tangible experience and you get results, any experience is experience,” Dowling said.
It’s common to feel lost when taking a chance on a new college organization, but utilizing the resources just a five-minute walk from your dorm will help you realize that you’re not alone. Most colleges have on-campus resources like career centers to help students find experiences both on and off-campus. “We’re going to listen to what you’re saying and help you find a process to get there,” Dowling said. “We’re here to help confirm your current values or help you switch paths.”
If you don’t get the internship you wanted, don’t get discouraged and start networking. We use social media every day; you might as well put it to good use. Follow companies you want to work for on Twitter or LinkedIn. Employed alumni from your school might be willing to help you if you reach out to them. Rather than just hiding behind your computer and clicking buttons, be willing to take a step beyond.
Go out and meet people in your community who are doing your “dream job” to get some insight; they won’t always be able to hire you, but they might be able to offer you some helpful advice on getting experience. “Information interviews are the way to go. Send the company an email asking if you can meet with them,” Kume said. “Using the ‘I’m a college student’ excuse is a great way to meet people in the industry. It will almost always at least get you a response.” Not only will you learn something new about your future career, but the networking you gain could lead to a stellar recommendation letter.