The Importance of Internships From Lauren Berger, "The Intern Queen"

We had the chance to chat with Lauren Berger, "The Intern Queen," to get her input on the role that internships play in preparing college students for successful careers. Here's what the internship expert had to say.

What advice do you have for students who aren't sure of what major to choose just yet, but are looking to intern, build their resumes, and gain experience?

The internship is the best way to find out where your interests really lie. I remember when I was a freshman, I printed out a list of all the majors that my university had to offer and I just started circling, and what I noticed was that all of the things that I was circling were all within the communications world. So when I went after that first internship, I said, "Okay I'm going to get an internship that has something to do with communications, and from there, I will learn more about what I like to do and don't like to do and I can kind of fine-tune what I'm looking for."

What should someone expect out of an internship? Some people may be fearful of internships, while others feel "too good" to do certain work.

Well, I think everyone is going to be a little nervous before the first day of an internship or maybe before even starting to apply for internships. That's natural. You take deep breaths, you slowly build that confidence up, and you see your way through it.

In terms of people that may approach an internship with a more entitled sort of attitude, I say "Chuck the attitude! This is 2013." You gotta go out there and take initiative. You have to go after what you want, and you have to start somewhere. [W]hen I look at where a lot of successful people got started, [and] when I look at where I got started, it was at that very first internship, and I'm telling you, these internships can be magical. And yes, it is an investment of your time now, but I'm telling you that these internships are going to pay off in the future. And studies are showing that students with internship experience land jobs faster and at a higher starting salary than those without.

What's the best way to handle a difficult internship situation?

I think there are a couple of tips that I can add in there just on how to make that internship process run smoothly once you're inside of the position. First, if the company doesn't give you a professional email address, you should have a professional email address of your own. It's not hard to do, but you have to make sure that you come across as a professional.

I also think it's important that you have your technology. Everyone today needs things right now or they needed it five minutes ago, so you always want to ensure that you're connected and you have all of your documents and everything from your internship on you at all times. So again, it's about being connected and […] having all of your tools synced up at the same time.

You mentioned, "What do you do when you get into a difficult internship situation," and I think as soon as the student says the word "uncomfortable," that's a big red flag to me. If you're uncomfortable, that's when you talk to someone. If you feel uncomfortable, you bring someone else into the equation -- that could be your immediate supervisor, the HR representative from the company, it could be someone at your school or your school's career center, or it could be a parent. But the second that anything happens that makes you feel uncomfortable, you have to do something about it at that moment. You don't want that to continue to go on.

How do you get the most out of your internship?

Two big points there. I think that you need to go into that internship every single day asking yourself, "What do I have to do to get the most of this opportunity?" That is huge. And then, the other is making sure that you're networking with as many professionals inside the company as you can, because when you do need that job, it's going to be those people that you want to stay in touch with. And remember, you gotta stay in touch with employers once you leave the company, and a great way to do that is by connecting with them on all of their social platforms. Today, people are on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the list goes on. You have to stay in touch.

For young ladies looking to enter the workforce, what piece of advice do you have for them for juggling work, career, and raising a family?

Women should not feel limited by anything. You gotta take a stand on your own and show the world that you can do it. You can do whatever you want to do. You can have that great family and find a way to be a great mom and be a great CEO if you want to. I don't have a family yet, but I definitely plan to someday, and I think it can be done. I never take no for an answer and it's gotten me this far, and I'm going to continue to not take no for an answer for the rest of my career. I am confident that I am going to be successful in that. I really encourage other women to take that advice, to never take no for an answer, and to find a way to make things happen. It can be done.

Knowing the right technology and knowing how to work them is just going to help you along the way. They are going to help you get organize, they're going to help you balance everything, and they're going to help you land and continue to land the kind of jobs you want.

What advice do you have for landing your  dream "career" (not just dream job)?

I keep talking about getting organized. When you're looking for a job, you have to take yourself seriously, and so many people aren't able to do that. And what I mean is, every day you need to devote a certain portion of your day to the job search. Your job is to find a job, and don't be afraid to think big and reach out to people. Setting informational meetings with people who you admire or companies that you admire is a great way to get your foot in the door and to get real advice on how someone that is doing what you might want to do got started.

What's next for The Intern Queen? Lauren Berger is currently working on her second book and will be continuing her efforts to come up with the latest and greatest ways for people to get ahead in their job search. See more on the internship expert at her site www.TheInternQueen.com. You can also connect with her on Twitter at @InternQueen.

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(Photo Credit: Glenn O/Flickr)

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