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When is an appropriate time to start applying for internships and gaining experience for the desirable career path?

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Ashley’s Answer

Hi Ayen,

This is a great question. Generally, looking for internships for your 3rd and 4th year is a good time frame but there are a few other considerations to take in.

If you are trying to either figure out what career you're interested in or which specialization you want within a field, it is very useful to look for shadowing opportunities as early as possible (even 1st year). Shadowing allows you to tag along with a professional in the given role to see what day-to-day activities are like and to ask questions about how they chose their career, progressed within it and any other advice they may have. It's also an excellent networking opportunity and a way to help determine which company would be best to pursue an internship with.

You can also explore volunteer options as a way to get some hands-on experience. This can also be added to your resume. I used volunteering as a way to help me explore different fields - from tax accounting, to community development, to business projects.

Finally, be sure to compare unpaid and paid internships for the best fit. An internship can get in the door of a company for more permanent opportunities or help build your experience base. They take more time and energy than shadowing, so look to get one after you've narrowed down the choices for what interests you. If you know in your 1st year exactly what you want to be, then you can get an internship then. But if you are still exploring, use shadowing and volunteering to help narrow down your choices. Try to start an internship by your 3rd year.

Good luck!

Ashley recommends the following next steps:

Speak with an academic advisor or community leader to research local opportunities.
Use shadowing and volunteering to narrow down your preferred career choices.
Find an internship that gives you the best experience/future opportunity by your 3rd year at the latest.

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Ken’s Answer

As early as possible. Many people have been able to start developing internship experiences during high school. The first thing that one needs to do is to develop an appropriate career focus and use internships, coop programs, volunteering, part time jobs, and other career exposure related opportunities to see the inside view of a job and get to know what people do, how they got there, and what advice and suggestions that they might have.

Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many .

Ken recommends the following next steps:

The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.
Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
• It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##
Let me share an interesting real life story relating to internships: ## During my daughter's senior year in high school, the highlight of the year (and of the whole high school experience) was to be a several month long internship program. Everyone signed up and indicated the type of internship that they wanted - all except for one girl. This girl wanted to become a doctor and wanted her internship to be with the local EMS unit at the local fire station. So, she talked to the head of the EMS unit and got his approval and made arrangements with the school to create her own internship. Of all of the students about which I heard, she was the one who benefited the most by her internships. My daughter's was definitely not the highlight of her school career. Her first choice fell through and her final assignment was not really what she wanted and did not give her the type of exposure that she had hoped for. This shows that you can create your own internship! Locate a company that fits the parameters of the type of experience and exposure that you are seeking and work with them and the appropriate people in your school to put it in motion. After all, if there is an internship program existing today, anywhere, it had to be created by someone. ##

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Gerard’s Answer

In my opinion, it is never too early to start applying/looking for internship opportunities. Your college career center may have parameters (juniors and seniors only?), but that should not prohibit you from inquiring at an earlier stage on your own.

Your career will be with you for the rest of your life. If you plan on having it be enjoyable and fruitful, there is no reason to put off what you can do today.

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David’s Answer

Suggest to do an honest assessment of what's the internship offering you and what is it that you Ave to offer for the hiring manager. It's got to be a win win for all, you don't have time to do too many and bad internships (that bring you nothing) before you go full time.