College students are individuals who have diverse passions and interests seeking self-discovery. It is almost as if college students are expected to have a clear idea of their intended career path upon matriculating. Narrow-based curriculums do not allow students to experience different fields of interest. Internships, however, can foster the discovery of unknown skills and hobbies.
Traditionally, companies offer set programs to shadow a position or to include certain projects. Students who want the flexibility of exploration are now designing their own internship programs to meet their wants. Companies who have established programs are taking notice of these individuals and hiring them for positions. The Wall Street Journal published an article on this subject late last week. It featured liberal-arts students who pitched ideas to various companies about projects that anticipated the company's needs and combined the student's personal interests. For example, one girl combined her love of hip-hop music and helping children by organizing a program for underprivileged children for a non-profit art education organization.
Do not get discouraged if a company does not offer the program you want. Instead, design your ideal experience and pitch it to companies. Create a proposal that you can send to a targeted group of companies and/or organizations. In order to do this, you must first conduct research that can help you narrow the focus of your internship search. Consider what you want to gain from the internship (skill development, career exploration), what kind of responsibilities you would like to have and what kind of daily duties. Then, think about the field(s) you want to work in and whether there is a need for what you want to do. The proposal should be written in place of the cover letter and include the following information:
- Specific description of what you would like to do and why you think the company needs you to do it
- Description of the project or position you want to fill
- Description of what you have to offer the company/organization
- Dates of availability
- Attached resume that highlights strengths mentioned in the proposal
Developing your own internship takes time and effort. If you cannot locate a position that is customary, do not give up! You are a commodity that companies value and depend on. Be persistent until you find the right opportunity!