Finding the perfect internship is every college student’s’ dream. Even more important, is the impact that it will have on your overall career. I know all too well the amount of hard work that goes into making this dream a reality. Here’s what I wish I knew on finding and applying for internships before I went off to college:
1. Start as early as possible in gaining career experience
Don’t wait until your junior or senior year in college to find a career-relevant internship. Here’s what you can do along the way in order to land that dream internship/job:
- Start joining clubs.
- Get work or leadership experience.
- Network with industry players.
Start doing all of this as early as your freshman year. By starting early:
- You’ll have more opportunities to try lots of different internships.
- You’ll be more likely to get accepted for an internship program.
2. Clean up your resume and tailor your cover letter
To get noticed by an intern hiring manager, your resume must be pristine! Make sure:
- No grammatical errors steal the show.
- You resume is short, sweet, and simple (no more than 1 page long).
- Input some creative flair, if your profession allows (like graphic design).
Always write a cover letter in addition to submitting your resume. Tailor your cover letter with details on what makes you a good fit and why you chose this company for an internship.
3. Start looking about 5 months in advance
This means if you’re looking for a summer internship, start looking in January. Although some companies start hiring toward the beginning of the summer, many start earlier and will stop taking applications as early as February-March. No matter the season, starting early also allows you more time to find the perfect internship for your field.
4. Where can you find internships?
When looking for awesome internships, it’s important to think outside the box. Use some creativity during your search:
- Check out your school’s career or internship page.
- Chat with professors to see if any of their connections are looking for interns.
- Ask your parents or family friends for introductions to companies you’re interested in.
- Internship websites, like InternMatch, BostInno’s Internship Hub, and YouTern constantly update with new opportunities.
- If you have a specific company in mind, visit their career section to learn more about opportunities there.
Also remember to apply to as many places as possible. If you count on one employer to give you an offer and that falls through, you’re stuck. It’s always best to have options.
5. Don’t get tunnel vision when applying – just get the experience
Don’t restrict yourself to internships or companies that are well known. If you’re open-minded about where you look for opportunities, great experience will follow. For example, interning with a small, local radio station might not be as glamorous as interning with a big network TV channel, but the hands-on experience you’ll gain will be invaluable. And having that experience on your resume, early in your college career, may lead to a bigger internship down the line.
6. You won’t always get your dream internship, but don’t let that stop you
If you miss out on an internship with your dream company, don’t let that stop you from re-applying in the future. Getting denied from a company you love should only encourage you to try even harder to land the gig next time. In your next round, evaluate why you were denied and work to improve your chances. That could mean taking on more leadership roles at school, diversifying your course experience, or networking with the right people.
When searching for internships, remember that it’s never too early to start thinking about your career, and that any experience helps.
Photo via Flickr user oooh.oooh
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