This article is part of The Diamondback’s 2021 Career Fair Guide. Click here for the rest.

For many, the first step to getting a job is getting an internship. Don’t turn the page just yet, most internship opportunities aren’t the stereotypical coffee-get- ting, frantic note-taking positions you see on TV.

Internships are an incredible pre-career experience where you get to learn and work in a field that hopefully aligns with your interests. Think of it as a sort of trial run before you get a job — you get to see what a day in the life of a certain field entails, and you get to practice living it.

But internships aren’t a walk in the park. They can be competitive and time consuming, and there’s a few things you should know about them before you send out your resume.

What you can get out of an internship

At its best, an internship will give you real-life experience in a field of your choosing. Hopefully, you’ll be doing work that you enjoy, and learning the ins and outs of the job that will one day become your career.

Coming out of an internship, you’ll most likely have something to show future employees besides a line on your resume. For me, it’ll hopefully be a published story, but for others it could be a project they worked on for a tech company, a policy memo they helped draft and debate or a set of data they collected and analyzed, among others. What you get out of an internship isn’t just an experience, but often a tangible example of your capabilities and proof of what you could bring to a future job.

And with an internship also comes connections. As any future employer will tell you, in many fields, what you do is all about who you know. Networking is a major part of the job hunting process, and interning somewhere where you make a good impression may just be your golden ticket to getting in the good graces of the people in your future field.

How to find an internship

Students at this university can access multiple resources to find internship opportunities. Most academic departments have an internship or job coordinator, and this university’s online career portal, Careers4Terps, has career advisers as well.

The portal also has job postings, tools to help you practice interviews and ratings for some employers and industries.

Another great way to find an internship, or even just to network, is to use LinkedIn. By creating a profile, uploading your resume and making connections online, you can both market yourself as a future intern and keep an eye out for openings at companies of your choosing that you would be qualified for.

What to look for in an internship

There are several things to be wary of when deciding whether or not an internship is worth applying for.

First off, not all internships are paid. If you’re looking for an experience that will both benefit you career-wise and financially, make sure to take note of whether or not an internship comes with a salary. Some internships can be full-time, so there may not be enough time in a day for you to work another job on the side.

Going off of that, make sure you know exactly how many hours are expected before you apply. If you’re applying for a summer internship, you might be able to swing that 40-hours-a-week opportunity, but if you’re looking at an intern- ship for the school year while you’re still a full-time student, make sure the hours you sign on to are manageable for your schedule.

What to do once you have an internship

After sending your resume to every hiring manager imaginable, you shouldn’t be doing anything but celebrating after getting an internship. But even once you’ve got the internship in the bag, there are still a few things you can do.
For starters, make sure you are putting in your utmost effort every day of the job. Remember, you’ll most likely be asking people at the internship program for recommendations for future jobs down the line, so a good work ethic and rapport with coworkers is key.

Work hard, but also remember it’s expected that you’re still learning. You’re not a full-time employee yet, so it’s understandable if you don’t know what you’re doing all the time. Ask questions, take the time to learn and be patient with yourself.

And at the end of the internship, make sure to send a thank you note to your employer to show your gratitude for the opportunity. This personal touch will help staff to remember you, and just like you want to start the experience off on the right foot, you want to end it on the right one as well.