So what do you do if you already missed the internship boat? The Volunteer Intern Technique is a great technique for college students who still lack "real-world" work experience. If you missed the opportunity to formally intern or gain work experience in your field during your earlier years of college, you still have a chance to get that experience, even up to (and after) graduation. To gain that experience, you may want to consider volunteering. Yes, volunteer. No pay. Gratis. Why? Because as a volunteer intern in a career related position you will be getting as much as you are giving (and sometimes even more). Whereas some of your friends may have been able to land a paying internship during the preceding years, your best choice, if you are in your final year, is to give up some of your free time and volunteer. By volunteering, you have flexibility that might not otherwise be available to you. If you volunteer during the school year, try to put in at least eight hours per week (two mornings, two afternoons, two evenings or one weekend day per week is usually the minimum required for gaining experience that can later be referenced). And by volunteering you will have many more companies willing to take you on in exchange for gaining experience and further building your resume.
Many companies will be very willing to take on volunteer interns.There are plenty of not-for-profit organizations (such as schools, government agencies, associations and community service groups) that would appreciate your offer of service. The key is getting into a position where not only are you doing work, you are also working under someone else. Shadow the person, learn from the experience, and use the internship as a period of training for your upcoming professional life.
The net result is twofold: first, it will provide you with valuable experience to list on your resume, one that will pay back monetarily many times the dollar amount you "lost" by volunteering; second, your potential future employer may be right in front of you. You are now on the inside—so if you are interested in working for the company after graduation, let them know! Even if they do not have something in that particular department, they will usually feel a debt of gratitude and may be willing to help you find other job possibilities within the company. Or be willing to refer you to other employers. As you have given to them, so they will likely give back to you in return.
A recent grad used this technique to go from being a very average job seeker to being one of the most sought after in his class. He had worked in outdoor physical labor his entire college career until the second semester of his Senior year, when he volunteered as a Networking Intern with the Telecommunications Department at the college. He worked there only three months, yet parlayed that experience into the resume experience he needed to compete for meaningful work. He got a job with a company that "wasn't hiring at the entry level" as its new Network Administrator. Remember, with his experience, he was no longer entry level. Pay does not matter. Experience does.
This technique can be used even after graduation to keep moving forward in gaining experience. Not only will you avoid lapses of time in your resume, you will have real experience to show for the time you have invested.
No experience? This is a quick and simple solution to the problem. A small sacrifice now, even late in your college career, can pay handsome rewards for years to come.