For some, the path to a job starts with an internship, which can be a great way to build experience, establish contacts and "try a job on for size." Especially in a field like corporate responsibility, where the focus is relatively new, positions are few and interest is beginning to grow. You can hold internships during the school year, during vacations or after you graduate. Because they are often unpaid, internships may be much easier to land than paying jobs.
If you can find a way to do them, internships or other volunteer endeavors can be a splendid way to learn what real-world environmental work is like. They also demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm to future employers. When evaluating applicants for jobs, Robert Freudenberg at the Regional Plan Association (see a typical Day in his Life), for example, takes into account internships and volunteer activities that demonstrate the applicant is publicly engaged, and has taken the initiative to work in the community or with public officials.
Internships can even help you get your foot in the door of an otherwise very competitive employer, and might also lead to paying jobs down the line. For instance, an internship or volunteer position at a national park is not only a great way to see if National Park Service work is right for you, but it will give you a boost if you later choose to apply for a seasonal or permanent position in the agency, according to Park Ranger Joshua Boles. (The National Park Service provides a small stipend for interns and may also provide housing, while volunteer positions are unpaid.)
Whether you intern at a park, a business or a nonprofit, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity being offered to you. Conduct yourself professionally, be assertive and take on as much responsibility as you can competently handle. By making a great impression, you increase your chance of getting a sterling recommendation letter that will open doors down the line. (In fact, it's a good idea to ask for a recommendation letter before you leave an internship so that you can keep it on file should you ever need it.) If you're extremely lucky, you might even get a job offer from the organization you're interning for.
Finally, remember that internships are not all about the work; they are also about learning. So ask lots of questions, request to get exposed to different areas and invite your superiors to a brown-bag lunch, where you can pepper them with questions about their career paths. Remember that the organization is getting free or cheap labor from you; in exchange, you should extract as much information and mentorship as you can.
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