How can I find an internship/co-op that matches my skill set?

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Jeff from Capital University asked:

I’m 32 years old and have been working in commercial real estate my entire professional life.  About 6 months ago I decided to back to school to complete a BA in Business Administration, and I plan to attend law school soon after (about a year from now).   I am having trouble finding a company/position that is right for me.  I want an  internship/co-op that allows me to learn the business side of the company then allows me to transfer into a legal department.  Is anyone interested in my skill set?

Hello Jeff

Perhaps you saw my recent response to another question about internships – How can I find an internship when I’m not enrolled in school? 

I am going to be perfectly honest with you – finding an internship is going to be a serious challenge given your circumstances.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try- you just need to understand the obstacles you have to overcome.

You state that you are “having trouble finding a company /position that is right for you.”  How clearly can you articulate what you mean by that statement?

Knowing what you are looking for is very important. Knowing what you offer to those employers you are targeting is equally important.  You need both to demonstrate a good fit. Every search for a job, internship or co-op must seek a win-win result.  That is, the company and position have to fit you (you win!), and you have to be a good fit for the company and the position (they win!).  You need to build your search on that Win-Win Principle and use it to decide which positions you will apply to and which you won’t.

Also, it is not very common for a business to hire someone into one part of the business and then transfer them into a legal department after working in these other areas of a company.  It is more typical for a company to hire a lawyer (or put one on retainer) when they need a lawyer. So – I’m not certain that your strategy is a great one (of course, I don’t have all the details of your situation, either!)

Be sure that Law School is the right decision for you.  Law School is a huge investment of time and money – guaranteed.  However, there are no guarantees that you will make a lot of money as an attorney.  If you are going to spend that amount of time and spend (or borrow) that amount of money, be sure you know what you are getting yourself into.  And, if you want to go to Law School, why wait the year to do so?  If you need that year to prep for the LSAT, get applications in, etc., then I recommend looking for temporary/contract work in a law firm or in a corporate legal department and being up front about your plan to enter law school within the year.

You mention the possibility of a co-op.  These days, co-op positions are most typically offered by technology and engineering companies seeking technology and engineering students, and they tend to be coordinated through the college (because they are part of the curriculum).  Does your college have a robust co-op program for business students?  If not, the co-op path may not be a viable option.

Lastly, you asked – “Is anyone interested in your skill set?”

The easy answer is probably. The real path the right answer begins with another question: “To what extent are  employers fully aware of the skills, experience, education and qualities you offer?” Answer this question, and you will be able to answer your original question.

Looking for a job or internship is just like being a sales.  Effective sales people understand their product/service really well, and they study the market looking for likely buyers.  They don’t try to sell to everyone because, in most cases, everyone is not a likely buyer.  Once they identify likely buyers, they invest time presenting their product/service to these likely buyers in terms aligned with the buyers’ wants, needs and motivations. Effective sales people follow this strategy to identify potential customers, win new business, and keep existing clients.  Ineffective sales people try to sell to everyone and hope they will make a sale (which is frustrating for them and the people they are selling to and not very efficient).

Effective job seekers do the same things effective sales people do, while ineffective job seekers simply send out lot of applications and hope someone will call them in for an interview (which is also very frustrating for them and for employers getting the applications and not very efficient.).

If you approach your career transition the same way you approach a business opportunity and apply the same principles, you should find success in you search.

Good luck!

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