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Home Blog Navigating Internship Opportunities as a Veteran College Student

Navigating Internship Opportunities as a Veteran College Student

May 31, 2024

Contributing Author: Alley Bardon

7 mins read

Whether you're preparing to start college as a military veteran or are already nearing the end of your program, one fact remains. Taking advantage of internship opportunities (both during school and after graduation) can help you increase your chances of landing a job offer, while providing you with valuable hands-on work experience.

Still, internships as a veteran college student can be easier said than done, especially if you're already feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of being in school. Fortunately, there are some practical tips and tricks you can keep in mind to take full advantage of internships for student veterans and grow your career prospects. 

Value of Internships for Veteran College Students

There are many reasons to explore internships for veterans, whether you're still in the middle of your degree program or have plans to graduate soon. 

How Internships Can Lead to Job Offers and Other Career Opportunities

Perhaps the biggest advantage of internships for military veterans is that these experiences can provide you with hands-on experience and professional connections that could lead to real job offers or other career opportunities down the road. For instance, it is not uncommon for employers to extend real job offers to interns at the end of their internships. 

Even if your veteran internship doesn't turn into a full-fledged job offer, there's a good chance it will give you the opportunity to build valuable professional connections that could lead to a job elsewhere. 

Hands-On Experience and Skills Relevant to Civilian Career Paths

Many military students initially have a hard time adjusting to the realities of civilian life and the college experience because their own experience in the military was anything but typical. This is where having the opportunity to participate in an internship experience can help veterans build practical, marketable skills through hands-on experience in civilian jobs. These are skills that can more readily translate to a paying job in a field of your choice. This is especially true if you end up finding an internship in your specific field of study that allows you to put classroom concepts and theory into practice. 

Building Networks and Connections Within Civilian Industries

Another great thing about landing an internship as a military veteran is that these opportunities empower you to build professional connections within civilian industries where you might otherwise have a more difficult time building a network. 

Whether you work in an internship for a few weeks or several months, you'll be working alongside other interns and professionals with whom you can develop a professional relationship. Down the road, having an established network in your field could open doors of opportunity for different jobs and other exciting projects. 

Identifying Internship Programs for Veteran College Students

Interested in applying for internships for military veterans but not sure where to begin? The good news is that there are plenty of internship programs specifically designed for military veterans. The key is knowing where to look for internships for veterans and how to find opportunities most relevant to your field of study and your career goals. 

Researching Internship Programs Specifically Designed for Veterans

USAJobs is just one example of an organization that offers specific internship programs for veterans. This is a federal program with internships available across a wide range of fields, many of which have the possibility to turn into paying jobs. 

Indeed.com is another great resource where you can filter your internship searches based on many criteria. You might consider entering the keyword ‘veteran’ into the search bar at the top of the page to find some specific internship opportunities available for military veterans. 

Utilizing Resources Like Veteran Organizations, Career Centers, and Job Boards

In addition to internship programs and job boards, you might also be able to get some assistance finding internships for military veterans through your school or veteran organization. If you attend a military-friendly school, be sure to take advantage of the support they have in place for military veterans and even current military students. 

This might include a career services and/or professional development center. Here, you can get help locating and applying for internship opportunities relevant to your chosen field of study. You might even be able to get help preparing for an interview or tailoring your resume for the position. 

Consider attending career fairs hosted by your college campus or elsewhere as a means of locating possible internship program opportunities, too. These career fairs are a great way to meet potential employers face-to-face, and some might even offer you an internship on the spot. 

Navigating the Internship Application Process

Once you've found an internship (or perhaps several internship positions) that strike your interest, you'll most likely need to go through a formal application process to be considered. Before you submit your application, there are some things you should keep in mind. Focus on polishing your resume, preparing for interviews, and leveraging the resources available to you as a military service veteran. 

Resumes That Highlight Military Experience and Transferable Skills

In most cases, your resume is going to serve as your first impression with a potential employer. Likewise, you are likely to be one of dozens or even hundreds of applicants applying for the internship position. This is why it's so important to have a polished resume that stands out from the rest and truly highlights your relevant skills, education, and experience. 

Not sure where to begin when it comes to tailoring a resume to a specific internship opportunity? Your school's career services center can be a great resource. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your resume should generally fit on one page. It should also cover only the most relevant skills and experience that apply to the exact internship for which you're applying. 

Preparing for Internship Interviews

If you're called in to interview for an internship opening, this will be your next big chance to leave a positive impression on your potential employer. While serving in the military, there's a good chance you underwent a fair share of stress. That said, even for military veterans, an interview for an internship can be nerve-racking. 

Fortunately, there's plenty you can do to prepare for an internship interview. Start by checking with your school's career services or professional development center to see if they offer mock interviews or interview practice. This can be a great way to gain some hands-on experience answering common interview questions and learning some other great interview tips. 

Leveraging Military Resources and Support Networks

Finally, don't forget to lean on the military resources and support networks available to you as you prepare to navigate the internship application process. From the VA's Pathways Internship Program to other federal resources, these are here specifically for you to rely on, so be sure to take full advantage! 

Making the Most of Internship Experiences

Congratulations! You've been offered a veterans internship, and you're planning on accepting it. Before you show up to your first day, there are some things to keep in mind that may help you make the most of your internship experience. 

Setting Goals and Expectations for the Internship Experience

Before your first day, take some time to consider what you're hoping to get out of the experience. Write these down so you can refer to them throughout the experience and make sure you're meeting your goals. 

Also consider what your expectations will be as an intern. If you're not entirely clear on what your daily responsibilities and duties will look like, get in touch with somebody from human resources or a relevant department for further clarification. Knowing what will be expected of you as an intern will help you set yourself up for success. 

Building Relationships with Supervisors, Mentors, and Colleagues

In addition to gaining some valuable hands-on experience that you can apply to your future work in the field, a great internship experience will also result in lots of new professional connections. This ultimately results in an overall stronger network that you can use to your advantage down the road. 

As you prepare to start your internship, remember to go out of your way to make those connections. This means building meaningful professional relationships with other interns, mentors, and even supervisors. You never know what you could learn from others or what these networking relationships could do for you later in your career! 

Tips for Showcasing Skills, Accomplishments, and Contributions

Finally, remember that just because you're an intern, this doesn't mean you don't deserve to be appreciated and acknowledged for the work you put in. Don't hesitate to show off your skills by applying what you've learned in the classroom to your internship position. To add, be prepared to take what you've learned from your internship experience and add it to your resume. This should include any notable and relevant accomplishments or contributions that you made during your time with the company, even if you weren't getting paid. 

How a Military-Friendly College Can Help

Internships can be truly incredible opportunities for student veterans, especially when it comes to building skills and developing professional connections in civilian industries. Ultimately, the experience is what you make of it. 

If you're still looking for the right college that will understand and support your needs as a military veteran student, Lindenwood University Online has you covered. We always welcome active military and veterans and have been consistently recognized as a top military-friendly school. Learn more about our many degree programs offered or get in touch to request additional information today.  

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