For many college students, internships are a source of experience and field exposure before committing to a job. For students seeking graduate educations, internships are sources of experience hours and prerequisites for obtaining admission. Personally, I am planning to attend medical school after I complete my undergraduate degree. Gaining admission to medical school requires me to do a variety of things, but some of the experiences that will make my application stand out are internships.
This is an opportunity for me to show that I am interested and investing in the medical field before committing to four years of education and at least two years of residency. As valuable as internships are, they can also be confusing for many students.
One of the first things necessary to obtaining an internship is to actually look for one. If you are in high school, looking up local businesses you are interested in is one of the most effective ways to find opportunities. If you are in college, there are often clubs or offices dedicated to connecting students to opportunities both locally and globally. To find out about these opportunities, subscribing to a club's email list or announcements from an office is ideal.
Once you find an opportunity you are interested in, you should apply using the unique process for your particular position and company. Some companies ask candidates to submit a resume and cover letter, come in for an interview, or submit a portfolio. There are lots of resources online for how to create effective resumes and portfolios, as well as for practice interview questions and tips. Many universities have resources on-campus or online to help students be successful. These resources are meant to be used as guides, but ultimately you want to be original and authentic when applying for an internship.
Once receiving an internship offer, there are tons of questions about dress and responsibilities that come up for students. The ever elusive "business casual" dress code is a source of stress for many students. The best advice I have ever received is to dress like your supervisor does and make sure you are following all company policies. At my internship, this meant wearing dress pants and a blouse or a dress. Most companies have specific rules about things like jeans, so when in doubt, just ask! It is much better to ask your supervisor what is appropriate to dress in, rather than being embarrassed.
At every internship, the responsibilities will vary, but they are typically explained during the application process or during orientation. My responsibilities included greeting patients, checking them in for appointments, answering questions in-person and over the phone, calling patients, making coffee, making copies of documents, and conducting interviews. The responsibilities of an internship can seem menial, but getting coffee and answering phones are important for making an office run smoothly and learning work skills.
Internships are super great opportunities for gaining work experience and field exposure before committing yourself to a degree, graduate program, or job. Internships are also great opportunities to diversify your resume when applying for programs or jobs in the future. I think every student should complete an internship in a field they are interested in, even if they are not pursuing that field of study.