Don’t Get an Internship. Take a Field Trip, instead.

by Rich DeMatteo on June 21, 2010 · 0 comments

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This is a guest post from Lauren McCabe.  Lauren is the chief-blogger at KODA (http://koda.us), a community that helps young professionals and employers connect directly.  You can read more of her blog at http://blog.koda.us.

Remember what field trips were like in grade school? Glorious days at a museum or alligator farm or bog (clearly, I’m from New Orleans) where you learned about the world firsthand, not just from textbooks.

When you’re on your first job hunt, you also need to explore careers firsthand.  And what better way to do this than on a field trip?

In business jargon, a field trip is a company information session or casual chat with an employee without the pressure of an interview.  It’s about asking genuine questions that will help you decide if you want to eventually pursue an internship, job, or even career in that industry.

It may seem intimidating to go after field trips because they may require a lot of cold calling. But usually, people are more than happy to talk about their company and their experiences, as I learned when I sat on the NYC subway with my surfboard and random people offered to take me on tours of their companies all the time.

Here’s how to start field-tripping your way to career exploration in four simple steps:

1. Make a list of employers (or industries) that are field trip worthy. This list should be diverse, since field trips are about bringing your passions to your career. Do you have a soft spot for numbers?  Add investment bank to your list.  Are you a people person?  Try a PR firm.  Are you Rich DeMatteo from Corn on the Job?  I bet the Flyers are on your list.

2. Make a list of people who may be able to hook you up with a field trip. You can reach out to anyone, friends, family, professors, whoever. My friend reached out to her dentist when her mouth was half numbed up:

“I’m thinking about going to dental school.”

The dentist nearly dropped his drill. “Really?! You must spend a day in my office and see what I do!“

3. Make contact. You’ll probably have to cold call, so introduce yourself with your background (AKA recent grad exploring careers) and why you’re interested in that company.  Say that you would like to meet with them to find out more about their industry, and see how they respond.

Maybe they’ll invite you into their office—success! An invitation to “coffee” or “lunch” is good, too.

4.) Make sure you have a business card and a resume handy. The great thing about field trips is that you may stumble upon your dream job and dream company, so make sure you have something you can give someone to let them know you’re interested.  If you’re unemployed, you can still have awesome business cards.

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