Getting an internship can be challenging. And if you want to increase your appeal to a potential employer, it's absolutely essential. In the business world, internships are considered applied, real-world experience, and recent graduates with internships under their belt usually get stronger consideration.
Here are 8 effective strategies you can use today to snag a rewarding internship, and take a step forward in your career!
- SHARPEN YOUR RESUME. An employer looking to hire an intern will understand that you don't have professional experience in your field. But that doesn't mean you don't have relevant experience. Here are some items to incorporate into your resume which will make your resume "pop":
- Courses you've taken which are relevant to the internship. List any course which directly bolsters your qualification for a particular internship role.
- Technical skills. If you're a programmer, and you know C++ and Java, include them. An accounting major likely has had exposure to cost accounting, accruals, and bookkeeping. Graphic design students should know Photoshop.
- Class projects. These show a potential employer you have an understanding of and exposure to the work you'd be doing. And if you served as the project's lead, make sure to indicate this.
- Grade Point Average. The higher, the better. If your overall GPA is lower than the GPA within your major, include your major GPA as well.
- Relevant leadership experience. Were you elected to Student Government? Did you serve as a Resident Assistant? Perhaps you captain the Chess Club. Or maybe you founded a campus community service organization.
- APPLY EARLY. Companies often receive thousands of applications for a single internship position. And, they'll try to fill the internship months in advance – if the internship starts in June, the employer may want to fill the role by February. If you wait until May to apply for a June internship, you may be too late.
- BE FLEXIBLE. In the U.S., Summer internships are by far the most popular, but many companies offer internships during the Fall and Spring semesters; consider applying forout-of-season internships, or a part-time internships for while you're attending class. Take a long view in terms of the work you'll be doing during the internship – perhaps the projects aren't that interesting, but sometimes gaining the real-world experience with a brand-name company will do more to position you for career success than a role which seems more exciting but doesn't provide you with any real value.
- HIT THE ON-CAMPUS CAREER FAIRS. While these take place really early in the semester (usually the beginning of the semester – See #3, above), employers often use the on-campus fairs to gather resumes for internships. You've got a great chance of meeting hiring managers at the booth – and they'll pull you aside for a deeper conversation if they like how you present yourself and the skills you offer. You can find more tips for optimizing your time at a career fair here.
- UPDATE YOUR LINKEDIN. Recruiters comb LinkedIn to identify internship candidates. Ensure that you have the phrase, "Seeking Internship Opportunities" in your headline and summary. And take the time to build out the profile so that it contains all your skills, projects, and experiences, as these contain valuable keywords.
- GET TO KNOW THE CAREER PLACEMENT OFFICE. The school's Placement Office spends its time cultivating relationships with employers. By building a collaborative relationship with the folks in the Placement Office, they can directly refer you to opportunities with companies. Remember to register your resume in their database, and to regularly check the employer job postings so that you can apply for positions directly.
- NETWORK. AGGRESSIVELY. When applying for internships with AAA companies, you're competing with students from the best schools with the best GPAs – snagging an internship can often boil down to a positive recommendation from an employee at the company. Work hard to let the world know that you're available, interested, and highly qualified. Network with your parents, relatives, friends, and anyone else who may be able to open doors for you. And talk with your professors, as they often have contacts at employers, to whom they may refer their best (or best-liked) students. Be sure to approach everyone with the utmost respect and humility – remember, if they submit your resume to a potential employer, they're doing you a favor, and they're staking their reputation on you.
- BE PROFESSIONAL. Don't give an employer any reason to doubt that you'll treat the internship as anything less than well-polished – an unprofessional presentation will kill your chances, regardless of your qualifications. Remember to:
- Record a professional outgoing message on your voicemail.
- Use a nice, non-offensive email address. Sorry, but email@example.com will kill your candidacy.
- Return calls or emails from employers (or anyone else). Promptly.
- Dress professionally for any interview.
- Use your manners. Say "please," "thank you," and all the other polite sayings your parents taught you.
- Send "Thank You" notes to anyone you speak to or meet with. Email is fine, but follow up immediately after conversations. And don't omit anyone.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.