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A Guide to Navigating Internships in College from a UCLA Student

Written by Jackson Hartz, University of California, College Contact Counselor


Greetings fellow students and aspiring interns! I'm Jackson, a senior at UCLA, majoring in economics with a minor in geography and environmental studies. I once found myself lost in the process of internship hunting during my underclassman years. The struggle was real, but fear not! Fast forward to today, and I've not only survived but thrived with four internships under my belt. Now, armed with the wisdom gained through trial and error, I'm eager to share my insights and help you navigate the sometimes perplexing world of college internships.


Embarking on the journey of securing internships in college can often feel intimidating and confusing. However, armed with the right tools and strategies, this process can transform into a thriving ecosystem of opportunities that align with your career goals. As a UCLA student, I've navigated this terrain and uncovered valuable insights that apply not only to Bruins but to students from various colleges or those still in high school.



1.) Building Bridges


One of the first lessons I learned in my pursuit of internships was the undeniable power of connections. It's no secret that the job market is highly competitive, and a strong network can be the difference between landing an opportunity and being lost in the shuffle. So, how do you build these connections? Start early. Engage with professionals in your field of interest on platforms like LinkedIn. Don't be afraid to reach out and request informational interviews. Most people are more than willing to share their experiences and insights with curious students.


2.) Navigating Internships During the School Year


Securing internships during the school year can be a game-changer. While it may seem daunting to balance academics and work, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. However, I feel that I should put this little disclaimer in, always prioritize school. Regardless of how beneficial internships during the school year can be, your number one priority should always be your classes.


Part-time internships not only provide valuable experience but also allow you to apply your classroom knowledge in real-world scenarios. It's a win-win situation that can set you apart from your peers when it comes to post-graduation job hunting. Nowadays there are an abundance of remote internship opportunities that make working during school even more accessible.


3.) Tapping into Upperclassmen Wisdom


Navigating the internship landscape can be a lot smoother with a mentor by your side. Seek out upperclassmen in your major who have successfully treaded the path you're embarking on. Their experiences can offer invaluable insights into the do's and don'ts of internships, application processes, and career development. Don't hesitate to ask for advice; most students are more than happy to share their knowledge. I've forged countless invaluable connections by actively participating in campus organizations. Allow me to stress the importance of this: becoming a part of clubs at your university is a game-changer. These college organizations not only offer priceless experiential learning but also provide a fantastic avenue to cultivate lasting friendships.


4.) Handshake: A Helping Hand in the Job Hunt


While there are various job platforms out there, I found Handshake to be particularly effective. The platform, available at many universities, connects students with employers looking for college talent. The interface is user-friendly, and it streamlines the application process, making it easier to discover and apply for internships tailored to your skills and interests.


5.) Spotting Fake Job Postings


In the digital age, job hunting has shifted online, and platforms like LinkedIn have become crucial in the search for opportunities. However, with the rise in online job postings, there's also an increase in fake listings. This is something I wish I had been aware of a few years ago. If the internship is offering $40 per hour or the company seems a little suspect, do some additional research. Be cautious and vigilant; if a job posting seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always research the company thoroughly, and trust your instincts when evaluating potential opportunities.


6.) Utilizing University Resources


Universities offer a treasure trove of resources to aid students in their career journeys. At UCLA, for instance, the career center provides resume review workshops, career search workshops, and interview practice sessions, just to name a few. Take advantage of these resources early on. They can help you polish your application materials, hone your interview skills, and build the confidence needed to excel in the professional arena. Also, they’re free!


7.) Researching Career Paths as an Underclassman


The quest for internships should begin long before you start applying. As an underclassman, dedicate time to researching potential career paths. I know it may seem trivial as a freshman to research career paths but it can provide clarity when it comes to searching for internships. Attend career fairs, informational sessions, and workshops to gain insights into various industries. This early exploration not only helps you discover your interests but also equips you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about internships and future career choices.


8.) Embracing Individual Progress


Perhaps the most important lesson I've learned is to embrace my own pace. It's easy to feel pressured when peers are securing internships left and right, but everyone's journey is unique. Don't compare your progress to others. Instead, focus on your individual growth, both academically and professionally. The right opportunity will come at the right time, and each step you take contributes to your personal and career development.


Navigating the internship process requires a combination of strategy, persistence, and a willingness to learn. By building connections, exploring part-time opportunities, seeking advice from upperclassmen, leveraging platforms like Handshake, and utilizing university resources, you can turn this journey into a fulfilling adventure. Remember, the key is to embrace the process, stay true to your path, and trust that the right internship is just around the corner.


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