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The internship hunt: What students should know about landing a great position

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Updated: 1/17/2013 10:10 am

(BPT) - This is the time of year when companies converge on college campuses looking for the best and brightest students. Recruiters - from financial services firms to high tech companies - battle it out to lure potential interns to their branding and recruiting events in hopes of enticing them to intern at their company. For students, it's the ultimate opportunity to get a foot in the door at a company where they'd like to have a career.

“This is a great time to be a student in the market. It's not only exciting to see the all opportunities that are available, but students can learn a lot from the process of finding an internship,” says Ebony Thomas, director of campus recruiting at Prudential Financial.

Thomas says there are many things to love about finding an internship this fall, but here are her top reasons.

* It's all about dressing for success. If students don't have the appropriate clothes for recruiting events, it's time to shop for a look that sends the right message to recruiters and hiring managers. Most college students have clothes for the classroom that pull double-duty for social outings (aka rush party, clubs, etc). “Those looks will get you noticed in the wrong way at recruiting events,” Thomas adds. Though funds can be limited, she suggests finding two to three interchangeable pieces for interaction with corporate recruiters.

* The ability to expand personal networks and make new friends is one of the best perks of finding the perfect internship. At each event a student attends, there are opportunities to meet and get to know representatives from many different companies. Thomas also suggests networking with upperclassmen who have connected with the employers in the past. “Networking with them will give you tips on how to be successful in social, teaming and interviewing segments of the process,” she notes.

* Many companies are getting more innovative in their approach to draw you to their events to get to know potential interns. “We see companies offering new experiencesto broaden your horizon and creating challenges that are meant to be memorable for the intern candidates,” Thomas says. These recruiting experiences could range from rock climbing, gourmet cooking classes, to whitewater rafting. “Events like these allow companies to get to know how you'll work in teams and under pressure.”

*Interviewing is an essential part of landing the internship, and by far, the most challenging. Knowing what to say and how to say it is invaluable. Meeting with different company representatives and recruiters can help you polish interpersonal skills that are key to successful interviews.

* For those who are truly committed to finding an internship, it's the perfect opportunity to learn to sell yourself. Learn to be an advocate for your skills, knowledge and potential.

* Learningnew skills that may lead to leadership opportunities and also transfer back into the classroom are key reasons why finding the internship is both useful and fun.

* Finding a paid internship is essential. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average intern wage for a senior in a four-year undergraduate program is $17.57 per hour. Compare that to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and students who land internships will be light years ahead of peers working in service or a job not connected to their field of study.

* Landing the job is the one of the top reasons to love finding the internship. The NACE 2012 Job Outlook survey found that nearly 75 percent of employers prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience - and that work experience is gained through interning in your field of study or interest.

As an additional point, Thomas recommends that college students who are in the market for an internship shouldn't overlook the obvious: Start early and get to know the school's career services counselors, who can offer students a great deal of support. “Career counselors can be the ultimate match maker to introduce you to many internship options and help you find companies that could be a good match.”

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