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It's Who You Know: 5 Networking Resources For Your Internship Woes

By Gregory John "G.J." Vitale on February 6, 2014
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Want an internship? Who doesn’t, right? But how do you find the right one?

For many of us college students, internships mean monotonous online applications and accepting silence as a form of rejection. Seriously, how hard is it to send out an automated reply if we don’t get the position. Have it just say, “Sorry. We went with another applicant. Good luck to you.” That’s all we’re asking for.

Former Director of Student News at Uloop, Karl Hughes, once told us writers that online applications were a less than ideal way of finding internship opportunities. I’m paraphrasing of course, because I don’t remember the exact words, but the sentiment was that online applications for random internships usually don’t work out for the average person. Instead, he suggested finding positions in places where you knew someone, or at least concentrating on starting a dialogue (either through email, phone, etc.) before applying.

Tufts Career Center says “many students find useful advice about the internship search by speaking with Tufts alumni, faculty, friends, family and others who work in their fields of interest.” These are resources not a lot of us take advantage of, but are resources we should further explore.

Image courtesy of Flickr

Having said that, I still apply to random online positions that I find interesting on the off-chance that the employer likes what I have to say enough to get me on the phone or something. I think Hughes would agree that the point of his advice is not “Stop applying to random internships that sound interesting,” but it is rather to emphasize a different approach to the process.

Bringing on a familiar face, after all, is easier than hiring whoever it is you gauge from a resume and perhaps a cover letter.

Tufts knows this as a practice common across each step in life, not just internship and job searching:
We conduct research every day. When you’re applying to college, you don’t rely on online resources; you talk to teachers, guidance counselors, family members, and students at your target schools. Later, when you’re moving off campus, you ask for advice about realtors and apartments. When your family comes to visit, perhaps you get tips about good restaurants in Boston. Each of these scenarios involves collecting useful information. When applied to career search, networking is a process of asking people for information about occupations, employers, and industries. With each person you speak, you learn more about the world of work and where you best fit. People are your primary sources.

There you have it …

When I think of outlets for networking available to college students I think of the five that I’ve written about below. Go ahead and keep using LinkedIn, Intern Sushi and even Facebook to find internships because they are still viable options; however, real people are the key to the secrets of the real world. As our title above already stated, it’s all about who you know.

1. Alumni

Image courtesy of Flickr

Now that I am a part of the Tufts Alumni Admissions Program, I get how much wisdom we acquire over our four years in college. An alum from your own school, especially, has insight into his/her past (your present) and the future. Chances are, you can find a willing alum out there who can help you along in your internship search. Most schools offer some sort of resource to help connect current students and former students. Some schools organize meet-ups and luncheons to meet alums. Go with a friend if you’re nervous … you’d be surprised how friendly and willing alums are to give their advice and contact information.

It helps when these alums are in your field of interest, of course. As a biopsychology major, for example, I know there are not a whole lot of schools who offer that degree. Sure, you could double major in biology and psychology, but it is different. Talking with some recently graduated seniors who also had that major gave me a pretty specific and informative perspective on my options. Devin Merullo, someone I interviewed for a previous article (go check it out), gave me some good advice on graduate programs and said he’d put in a good word at a Tufts lab I was trying to intern at last year. I didn’t get the gig, but it was cool to have that reference.

One could even put classmates into this category since what we do on a daily basis in classes is working together. With Facebook nowadays, we take for granted how connected we all are, but later in life, we may find our former classmates able to help in the same ways an alum might.

2. Professors

Obviously, part of this process is up to your ability to judge people’s personalities. Do not confide in alumni whom you knew as an undergrad if you remember that person as a mean human being. Same goes here: don’t force a relationship with a professor you do not like. Take the good with the bad. Of course I would never recommend you to pass up an opportunity, but there are few things worse than pretending to be nice to someone you abhor.

With that said …

You can always hold on to that professor’s name and contact information and, down the road, could always whip it out if need be.

If you like a professor, do your best to participate in class and perhaps ask them to be your academic adviser if you haven’t selected one yet. My adviser has given me a lot of good advice and an experienced ear to throw ideas off of. When I mentioned I was looking to get more hands-on experience in my sophomore spring, she suggested I help with some research being done in her lab. That semester I worked with one of her graduate students who has now gone on to do pretty well in the field of spatial psychology.

3. Family Members

Maybe you want to be a lawyer and Mom has a friend from high school who just happens to have a private law firm. Maybe Mom can ask her friend if you could intern there one summer. No? At the least, Mom can give her friend your name and vice versa. Maybe Mom’s friend has a buddy who actually needs some help around his office …

These things happen more often than you might think.

Luckier still would be if Mom herself was a lawyer and could open up a few doors for you.

4. University Career Services

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Use these places while you can. As a senior, I’m just now realizing the qualities of Tufts’ Career Center.

They have free drop-in times every day of the week where you can do pretty much anything during those allotted times with one of the career center employees: a resume check, internship search or just a talk about your future.

They might even give you names of people who have contacted them about opportunities.

For networking services specifically, Tufts has multiple programming events for students: Tufts Career Advisory Network, Tufts Career & Internship Fairs, Career & Internship Connection, Campus Events, Social Media Outlets, etc.
Obviously, you have to seek this information out, but part of working on your networking is just that … work. For the professionals hired at your university’s career center it is their job to help you along your way after graduation. There is an enlightened self-interest involved here since they do so and care about you mainly so they can bolster their post-graduation employment numbers, but hey, what do you care? If they’re going to give you top notch assistance, you should be happy.

5. Past companies

Through Uloop I have made so many connections with fellow writers across the nation. I was able to pursue a three-month internship with Bleacher Report because of Uloop. Not in the “I put it on my resume” way, but because Hughes directly put me in touch with the internship program director over at Bleacher Report. This one may require you to remember your manners at your current job. After all, no one wants to help out that guy who never did his work, never contributed, etc. Be a team player and who knows what doors your peers or employers might fling open for you.

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South Florida native. Student and employee at Tufts University. Uloop National Columnist and former Campus Editor. Brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon Mass Zeta. Probably an insomniac. Check out my writing portfolio here - https://gregv.contently.com/ and my personal blog here - http://vitalewrites.blogspot.com

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