By Meredith McMasters, TSCPA Student Ambassador for the West TN Chapter
As college students we are always hearing, “You need an internship!” We hear this all the time, but sometimes finding an internship is not as easy as it sounds. How do students find out about an internship? Where do we apply? When do we apply? These are questions many college students have.
One key to finding an internship is timing. If students are wanting an internship for the summer and start looking around February or March, chances are very slim of actually finding one. That was me. I was in my sophomore year, and I had no idea finding an accounting internship could be so hard. I probably applied for over 20 internships online, but most responded to me that the position was already filled. This was so disheartening. I had waited too late. Originally, I had wanted to go big and find an internship in a large firm, but instead I settled with a smaller office in my home town, and it turned out to be a great experience for me!
The office I worked in last summer does not normally hire interns. There was no application and no interview. It was all about connections. This does not seem quite fair to me, but it is how the business world works. I got the internship because my aunt works in the office next door and is friends with lady who was my boss. Connections really are key, and this is only one example. I have also been in the situation where I did not receive an internship because I had no connections. I attend college three hours away from my home town. An internship came available at a well-known local firm. Another student and I sent in our resumes. We were in the same classes, in the same year in school, involved in similar extracurricular activities and my GPA was a little higher. No interviews were conducted. The other student got the internship. I later found out the student’s mom was really good friends with the HR director of the firm. In this case the other student had the connection to get the internship. My point in sharing this is that students have to make connections! One of those connections may very well be the reason as student gets an internship or a job.
I was very thankful for my internship during the summer in my home town, but I wanted more. I still wanted to intern for a big firm, so I decided to change my game plan. I started looking for an internship for 2017 in the summer of 2016. This might have been a little early, but I was determined. Instead of applying online to standardized forms and receiving automated emails in return, I went straight to the source. I had a booklet of firms from TSCPA, and I picked out all the firms I was interested in interning for. The booklet had contact information for every firm. I took it upon myself to email my resume to every firm I was interested in. Although some did not respond to me, most of them did! The ones that did respond had very encouraging things to say. By the next week I had three phone interviews scheduled. Since then I have been invited to have coffee with a partner in Nashville and to a firm’s social event at a Memphis Redbirds game. By July 2016, I had an offer to intern during tax season at a firm in Nashville. The firm is one of the top ten largest firms in the nation. I accepted the offer, and I began the internship in January 2017. For me, going straight to the source proved to be key in finding an internship!
Although finding an internship can be hard, it can be accomplished. My advice is to start early, use connections (and make connections) and go straight to the source. Don’t be afraid to go big, and if it doesn’t work out the first time, try again!