Most college students understand the value of having practical work experience on their resume. But, competition is fierce and internships at major corporations are the most coveted and the first to be snatched up. Soon-to-be-grads need not despair. Non-profit organizations are almost always willing to take on an extra helping hand and can provide even more opportunities for involvement and exposure to several departments within the organization. They are also among the most overlooked gems of opportunity.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Your next question may be, “what is a non-profit?” Put simply, it is used to describe corporations that are organized to advance a public or community interest rather than for individual personal or financial gain. Thus, non-profits may not distribute earnings or pay dividends; any surplus must be used to further the corporation’s organizational purpose. However, all non-profits are permitted to hire paid staff to conduct their organization’s activities.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½These types of companies include:
Charitable Organizations (ex.) Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
Arts Organizations (ex.) Ballet, Opera, Symphony, Museum etc.
Civic Leagues and Social Welfare Organizations (ex.) local Jaycees
Trade and Professional Associations (ex.) women’s groups, society of paralegals etc.
Social and Recreational Clubs (ex.) YMCAÃ?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Students looking to intern should first remember WHY employers consider an internship a valuable addition to a resume. An internship is important because it shows:
1. You have book smarts as well as real life experience in a company
2. You have been in a situation where you have worked with other people to achieve common goals
3. You are well-rounded
4. You are responsible, came to work on time, etc.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Spending your time shadowing someone within a non-profit organization can provide all of the above and more. In some cases, the non-profit you choose will be small-a department of 50 or fewer. This is a prime organization in which to get your feet wet. After all, the more hats you get to wear, the better your understanding of the entire operation. Spend a week in Finance, Development, Marketing, Public RelationsÃ¢Â?Â¦ really broaden your scope of knowledge to the fullest!Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
A word of warning to the wise: be prepared to do the grunt work. You will stuff envelopes, do filing, copying and maybe return phone calls, if you are lucky. But you will do this working in ANY company internship-big or small, for profit or not-for-profit. This is not only a great test of character, but an optimum chance to be that proverbial “fly on the wall.” Observe the happenings around you, listen to how people handle conference calls, watch how executives manage subordinates, pay attention to the little micro-universe in which you work-and learn. If nothing else, learn what NOT to do when you get a job of your own.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
It’s never too early to intern. A common misconception about internships is that many think these positions are only for college students, but opportunities for high school students exist as well. A high school internship can open the doors to the working world, showing you what it’s like to have a boss, attend meetings, and meet deadlines.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
So what should you do to begin your search? Flip through your local phone book or research some non-profit organizations that you may already be familiar with online. Many resources exist for finding internships. Employers often advertise internship positions through schools. Ask your career counselor about these opportunities. To expand your search, look for recent internship guidebooks. Peterson’s Internships lists hundreds of opportunities for high school students. The Best 109 Internships and The Internship Bible also list high school positions.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Before you pick up the phone, ask yourself two things: 1) Is pay is important to me? 2) How much time can I commit? These may be important points for the organization during the first phone call. Perhaps if the company cannot give you an hourly wage, they can give you a nominal stipend of $100-500 for a 3-month period. See if they will negotiate. If money is not as much of an issue as experience, make some phone calls to each organization and ask if they would be willing to let you submit your resume for an unpaid internship.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Most students will spend 10-20 hours weekly interning. Also, keep in mind that some last for a summer while others continue through the school year, so you should ask the company of any requirements up front.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Remember, the single-most important aspect of internships is that they introduce you to experienced people who can help guide you toward a career. Take advantage of a mentor’s wisdom, experience and references in your future job search. Who knows… if you shine as an intern, it may even open a door to a full-time position before graduation!