The Job Before Your First Job
Certification Magazine|October 2020
The Job Before Your First Job
An IT internship can be your strong first step toward a rewarding professional career
EMMETT DULANEY 

Whether looking for a first job while attending school as a student, or beginning a new career, finding an internship can be a good first step into the information technology (IT) field. It can be a daunting task even knowing where to begin, of course, and you should know that finding the right internship can be nerve-wracking for almost anyone — but it is well worth the effort.

One great thing about IT is that it is something every business, charity, and government agency needs. Not only do major corporations have IT departments, but so, too, does your local museum (with a database that surely needs to be updated) or state park (which likely needs someone to update software on some older machines).

While not every internship may be what you want, each one, whether in the public or private sector, presents unique opportunities that are worth considering. The tips that follow will help you navigate the internship hunting process and increase your odds of finding a place that’s a good fit for you.

Starting to look

As mentioned, looking for an internship can feel overwhelming at times, particularly if it is your first step into a new career. Just remember that you’ve already worked hard to get to where you are now — and expect to work harder to show others your work ethic, tenacity, and skill.

You have to accept that finding an internship is a process: a job in and of itself. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes luck and a great deal of patience. Repetition is something you will likely tire of quickly, as so many applications are similar and ask the same tiring questions: “What is a past situation in which you faced an obstacle?” “Name one time in which you had to solve a conflict.”

Completing forms, even with the aid of autocorrect and cut-and-paste, takes time and gets old quickly. It’s best to find a strategy that helps keep you going. Some like to set a goal of a certain number of applications completed and sent within a day or a week. For others, it is easier to do as much as you can and keep detailed lists or spreadsheets.

Whichever approach works for you, the chances are good it will be similar to the study or work model that has served you well in the past. However you approach it, keep track of where you’ve applied, when, and responses that you get — this can help you identify patterns that you may want to change if your current approach does not work as well as you hope.

Finally, professionalism can be a dealmaker or breaker. HR departments and volunteer coordinators expect you to put your best foot forward when applying, so any mistake stands out. For example, spelling errors on a résumé are one of the fastest ways to have it red flagged, so spellcheck it first, and then have a friend look it over for good measure.

Where to look

It may seem simple, but the best place to start is with whatever place (or places) you want to work at when you’re ready to work full time. One outcome of many internships is that they will lead to job offers — so it makes sense to have a great internship and impress a company enough to give you an offer that you can then accept.

It may seem simple, but the best place to start is with whatever place (or places) you want to work at when you’re ready to work full time.

If you have no idea where you’d like to work, then turn to you network. Talk to friends, acquaintances, family members, and so on who are in the IT field. Find out what they like about where they work, as well as what they don’t like. Ask them, if they were starting out anew, would the organization they work for be their first choice — or is there somewhere else they would rather go?

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October 2020