If you're a new college graduate, you already know how difficult the entry-level job market is. And if you graduated without picking up any work experience, your job search may be even tougher.
But here's something you may not know: You can still do an internship even though you've already graduated, and it may give you a better shot at landing a full-time job later.
If you've graduated or are about to and are struggling to find a job, a postgraduation internship is an option to explore right now. Don't be put off by the myth that internships are for current students only. Consider these approaches.
Look for Programs That Offer Internships to Graduates
Sometimes companies and organizations develop internship programs aimed specifically at people who have already graduated from college. For instance, several areas of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago -- "especially those with severe labor shortages in this tight medical care market," according to spokesperson Chris James -- have created internship programs geared to recent grads.
Similarly, the Public Interest Program developed by Princeton Project 55, a nonprofit organization established by members of Princeton University's class of 1955, helps recent grads and current students do internships with nonprofit public interest groups across the United States.
Develop Your Network
People you already know in organizations large and small can tell you about informal postgraduation internship opportunities. School alumni are particularly good resources, notes Brandi Baran, associate director of career counseling and planning at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.
"We've had a lot of students reaching out to our alums via our Career Network to get advice and try to set up opportunities," Baran says.
Get a Job to Pay the Bills
Internships that are open to graduates often don't pay much -- or anything at all. That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't pursue them, says Nick Crounse, an assistant account executive for Sawchuk, Brown Associates, a public relations firm in Albany, New York.
"After having trouble landing a job immediately out of college, due partly to lack of practical job experience, I began looking for internship opportunities," Crounse says. "After interviewing and being offered a temporary gig, I realized I couldn't afford to take an internship."
Crounse took a survival job for a year to earn and save money. He then contacted the person who had made him the internship offer the year before, and she made the same offer again, which he accepted.
"So, one full year after I graduated college, I started my internship," Crounse says. "Three-and-a-half months later, after my internship had ended, the company brought me back to work as a full-time employee."
Create Your Own Internship
Andrea Dine, assistant director of the Career Development Center at Macalester College in St. Paul, tells of a 2002 grad who wanted to work in government. The student was passionate about the environment and had strong communication and persuasion skills.
"He researched political officials who had successfully campaigned with a proenvironment platform," Dine says. "He then contacted a state senator who fit the profile. This senator had never had an intern before, but my student successfully convinced the senator to hire him to research and write position papers on environmental issues and handle constituent correspondence."
An internship might not be your first choice for postgraduation employment. But in this job market, it may be the best way for you to build the experience and personal connections you need to land the job you want -- eventually.