Intern first

Three reasons to do an internship before graduation:

Full-time offers: Internships help build a professional network that can lead to a full-time job.

Resume-builder: Industry-specific experience is a great resume booster.

Experience: While working in the industry, you'll learn about various positions within their chosen field, which can help narrow the job search upon graduation.

Source: Lisa Lovett, internship program coordinator for CU Career Services

D uring a down economy, students need more then just a degree to grab their dream job. The perfect summer job or internship could be the boost that sets you apart from hundreds (or thousands) of other applicants when competing for a full-time gig.

Lisa Lovett, internship program coordinator for CU Career Services, said there are multiple benefits for students willing to use their summer to gain real-world work experience.

"They give you industry-specific experience to enhance your resume," Lovett said. "They help you build a professional network that can lead to full-time job offers."

But it's not just about getting the job -- it's about getting the right job, she said.

It is important for students to gain experience in the field they would like to work in, Lovett said. Industry experience will give students a better understanding of their chosen career path and impress employers if their experience is specific, she said.


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Employers are increasingly looking to students working in-house through internships or co-op programs when hiring full-time employees, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2010 Internship and Co-op Survey.

"Of the students hired from the class of 2009, 44.6 percent came from employers' internship programs and 34.9 percent came from their co-op programs," Lovett said about the survey results. "This is a significant increase in the reliance employers place on such programs to find new full-time college hires."

But to lock down a great internship for the summer, students will have to get an early start this spring.

Build a resume

Lovett said building a good resume makes a big difference for employers. She recommends talking to an adviser at Career Services for help editing a resume and cover letter.

"There isn't a difference between a resume for a job or internship," Lovett said. "For each opportunity you will want to highlight experiences that are relevant to the position."

Adding relevant experience to her resume isn't the problem, said CU sophomore Kiki Sper. It was getting a job in her field.

"Most of my jobs have been teenage jobs," Sper said. "You know waiting tables or retail or summer camps. They're the easiest to get."

In the fall, Sper, who wants to go into teaching, said she was able to work as a teaching assistant while taking classes, which is something that will look great to employers as she looks for more relevant jobs.

Do your research

Lovett said research is the best starting point for any job hunt.

"The steps to finding a summer job or internship are identical to finding your first professional full-time position," she said. "You will want to create a resume and do research into the type of organizations you would like to work at, as well as the type of work you would like to do at those organizations."

Researching the different types of organizations and how they can change the position is important for students who may not know exactly where they hope to work. Internships or temporary summer jobs are a great way for students to discover the kind of organization that best suits them, Lovett said.

"The best part about internships is that they are short in duration," Lovett said. "If a student thought they would like the large corporate environment, but in the internship they discover it isn't a good fit, they have only committed to being in that environment for a short time."

Sper said she talked to friends and other students planning to go into her field about openings and companies.

"Since they're looking for similar jobs, they usually have good advice or tips on things they've seen when they were looking too," Sper said. "Just talking to people in my field has been the most helpful thing."