Traditionally, internships have been considered standard college student fare.
Once they've chosen their major, undergrads usually take internships during the summer months to get more hands-on training and work experience in their industry of choice.
Now, with so many experienced professionals vying for entry level work, internships are vital for young job candidates, and even high-schoolers are getting in on the game.
More worried about getting into college than getting a job?
An internship may be just the edge you need for admission into top colleges and universities. It shows maturity and a commitment to the field you're majoring in, which can set you apart from a pool of hundreds of other students with top grades and extracurriculars.
Different kinds of internships
The first thing you need to know when starting your search is: what exactly is an internship? An internship is an opportunity to learn about an industry, organization and career path. In other words, you can test drive a potential career.
There are lots of different kinds of internships out there: paid and unpaid; formal and informal (some internship programs have set intern projects and interns work on those projects for the duration of the program; others are much more casual and intern duties can change from day to day).
Most full-time internships are during the summer (and it's the most competitive time of year to apply for one) but there are still lots of opportunities available throughout the year with a part-time structure so that you can balance them with school and other responsibilities.
So how do you decide what internship is right for you? Think about what you like to do. Are you on a sports team? Do you like to write? How about working with children? Do you volunteer anywhere? These are all things that can translate into a career, and are great things to put in your cover letter when it comes time to apply.
Once you've figured out what you're already doing that you enjoy, it's time to start looking for internships that incorporate those things. Go online and research the industry you're interested in. Read about the history of the industry, as well as recent news. Good places to start searching are nonprofit organizations and professional associations within the industry; their websites often have historical information, as well as news summaries.
Then, armed with industry insights, start looking for an actual position. Tons of internships are posted online on job boards and websites like Vault. But don't be afraid to reach out to people too—tell friends and family you're looking (they might know someone who knows someone who needs interns!) and start following companies you're interested in on Twitter.
When you have an idea as to the appropriate person to contact, send a letter or email to them introducing yourself, describing why you love the company and want to work there, and what you think you could bring to the table--a passion for PR? Great business experience working in your dad's store? Get creative!