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Finding a Practicum or Internship

These are the steps you should follow in selecting and obtaining your fieldwork location. Students who carefully follow these procedures should have little difficulty in finding a beneficial internship experience. Your internship director will be happy to answer any of your questions and give you additional suggestions—we encourage you to work closely with them!

STEP 1

Decide What You Want to Pursue as a Career Field

We realize that many students are not at all sure what area of hospitality and tourism they wish to enter. Some have two or three areas that they find equally interesting while some would consider a job in almost any area of the industry. The most important thing you can do is put a great deal of time, thought and research in to potential opportunities in the hospitality and tourism management industry starting with your introductory courses. Variables such as time of year, location, the type of organization and pay (or lack thereof) need to be considered carefully. The practicum and internship are not just another class but an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from the thousands of other graduates all competing for the limited number of jobs. Once you decide on your path, the department has many assets in place to help you find the opportunity that is right for you. A word of caution though—you will only get out of the opportunity what you put in it. If you don't take the selection of your opportunities seriously, it is doubtful that it will be a meaningful experience or that you will gain the experience necessary to compete for a position in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry.

STEP 2

Attend a Practicum or Internship Briefing

Practicum and internship information briefings are held each semester at various times. You are REQUIRED to attend one of these briefings. Notices will be placed around the Coliseum and e-mail notification will be sent to all students who have signed up to receive departmental e-mails.

STEP 3

When to Begin Your Search

When should you begin? Right now! While this is a bit of an exaggeration, it is never too soon to begin thinking about what you want to do and identify possible organizations you may want to work for. You should be on the department's email list on which many opportunities are presented. Even if you are a year or more away from one of your internships, these opportunities should be scrutinized to see what is available. Many organizations have recurring internships and what is available now will very likely be available next year as well. You should begin your search in earnest (sending resumes, etc.) six to nine months prior to your intended internship semester if you are serious about getting the internship you want. It is strongly recommended that you have the USC Career Center review the resume and cover letter prior to their use.

STEP 4

Where to Look for Your Internship

We want you to have the best internship experience possible, so we place no geographical limits on you. We encourage our students to get diverse experiences. Even international internships may be approved. All internships must be approved by the department and if your internship director feels the site will not provide appropriate educational experience, the student will be advised to find another site. This situation may be avoided by working closely with your internship director throughout the process.

Where do you find your internship site? The first step is to make sure you are on the department's email list. You should also use your professors as contacts for potential internships. See your internship director for leads, but be specific in your search criteria. Almost all industry organizations have a website also. There are also many opportunities to volunteer and be active in the community (Hospitality Days, Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, local festivals, etc.). This is a great way to connect to the industry and begin building relationships with potential future employers. Networking is a great way to find fieldwork and every day is a chance to network—start small with your peers, professors, and industry friends who come to visit the School of HRTM. Every time there is an employer, career fair or networking opportunity, you need to take advantage of it!

There are also websites that may help you in your search. Many employers also allow you to enter your internship / job criteria and sign up for emails when new positions are posted. These are a few general websites we use:

www.hcareers.com
www.indeed.com
www.monster.com
www.internships.com

USC's Career Center is another great resource for everything from etiquette dinners, resume " critiquing, internship/job postings, interview preparation, and so much more! They host CareerFest in the fall and spring semesters. Students enrolled in either fieldwork experience in the fall and spring will be required to attend these events. All students should attend them every semester. There are new employers added each semester and it gives you the opportunity to practice your networking skills.

Remember that you are not limited to only these resources. In fact, you are encouraged to find better, more appropriate sites for your interests. There are many opportunities; you have to be "plugged in” to find the opportunities and secure the position.

STEP 5

You Have One Opportunity to Make a "GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION!”

Your cover letter and your resume will be the first contact the industry professional has with you, and if the resume and letter are not impressive and professional, it will often be the last impression as well. Organizations receive many applications for internship opportunities, have time to interview only a few, and can select only the best. To get to the the interview, it is crucial that your resume and cover letter help you make a "good first impression” when you are applying for internships.

Many students have never written either a resume or a cover letter. It is important that you get help in completing this important task. Your best source of help is Career Center located on campus. The main role of Career Center is to help students in securing jobs and internships. You may obtain free materials, sample letters, online seminars, and other help from them.

For the most success

  1. Go to Career Services and pick up the materials they have for you
  2. Based on that information, type a draft of your resume, letter of inquiry, and/or cover letter
  3. The Career Center will read and critique it
  4. The Career Center will then post it to JobMate, where companies go to find employees and students can go to find internships and jobs
  5. Bring it to a faculty member and ask them to review it
  6. Print it on appropriate paper (resume paper) with a laser printer (or have it done professionally).

STEP 6

Applying for a Practicum or Internship

Once your letters and resumes are prepared, you are ready to email or mail these to the sites you have selected. The following are some suggestions that you should follow:

  1. Select the six sites that you would most prefer. It would be wise to check about the suitability of these sites with the Internship Director at this point.
  2. Be certain you send these to the person who is in charge of selecting interns. If you do not know who that is, call the organization to find out.
  3. One week later, CALL THAT PERSON to be certain your material was received. At that time you should have a good idea of their interest. YOU MUST CALL IF YOU WANT THE INTERNSHIP. If you are not willing to make that call, save your stamp because very few businesses are going to call you and chase you down.
  4. Personnel at many organizations may not be familiar with our internship program or with the internship process in general. The Letter to the Sponsor, found on the following page may be reproduced and used to inform the organization about the program. It should help to answer many of the questions that may arise.
  5. If several of the sites indicate that they do not use interns or are not interested at that time, send out letters to some more sites that you would like.
  6. If you get one or two "maybe” responses, DO NOT WAIT hoping they will come through. This tactic can leave you with no internship. Send letters and resumes to other companies at once. It is better to have too many companies wanting you than not enough.
  7. When you have three or four companies that seem genuinely interested, then you need to pursue them. Most will want to interview you. Be certain you dress in business formal attire for the interview. You can get some pointers on successful interviews from the Career Center, the Internship Director, or from other faculty member.

NOTE: Some companies will have a date that they must wait for prior to confirming your internship, if that date is near the time you will intern, you must operate under the assumption it is going to fall through and pursue something more definite.

STEP 7

Seal the Deal

Once you and the organization have reached an agreement — they want you as an intern and you want to intern for them—you are ready to register for HRTM 290 (Practicum) or HRTM 495 (Internship). You will bring your completed Practicum or Internship Information form to your internship director. He/she will then give approval to your advisor to clear you to take the course. The advisor will then manually enroll you in the class.