As a college student, searching for that perfect internship can be a stressful experience. Finding an internship position that fits our career goals and gives us the needed experience is only half the battle. Being a candidate that sticks out among the competition is the stress-inducing part. And likely, the search won't end there!
An internship is the first step in what could be a lifetime of searches. The internship ends and you're off to search for a first job. Then maybe after a while you're looking for a role change or promotion. Perhaps eventually you decide on a whole new career path! How do you continue through this searching process? How do you make it even better? While this process may not be “easy,” there are ways to make it go a little smoother.
Here are my insights as a Your Clear Next Step intern, but the base idea can be applied wherever you are in your career. Or maybe you're looking to hire interns and would like to view this process from their perspective. Perhaps you know someone who's looking for an internship and want to pass these tips along!
Getting an early start on applying for internships is vital to a less stressful experience and getting the internship you want. Procrastination is an open door for stress in any situation. You want to avoid finding yourself in May, just starting to apply for that summer position. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that an excellent placement will be filled by someone else. Allow yourself plenty of options by applying early and abundantly.
Use Your Resources
The job search is a task more easily done with the help of others, so use your resources! Talk to your advisors and professors about where to look, or if they have ideas for where you could be a good fit. Ideally, they can put a good word in for you somewhere. Networking is a powerful tool, but this requires the ability to build strong professional relationships. The better your professional relationship with your professor, the more likely it is that they will help you or write a strong recommendation letter. This is easier for a professor to do if they know you.
Another great resource is your school’s career services. Handshake, for instance, is a platform that creates a profile of your experience, education, skills, and achievements for employers to view. Handshake also sends you job opportunities based on your interests and education. There are other sites similar to Handshake, like LinkedIn.
Schools will often also provide services like resume help or interview preparation. Taking advantage of these services can help you become a stronger candidate.
Attend the Career Fairs and Meet and Greets
Attending a career fair may not be the most desirable way to spend your afternoon, but this task is at the top of the advice list for students. Career fairs are a prime opportunity to meet potential future employers and make connections. Meeting these people face to face is a powerful tool for getting an interview. Employers are much more likely to take an interest in your application if they recognize your name and you’ve already made an excellent first impression. Don’t limit yourself to only walking around and taking brochures; introduce yourself and network. It’s also important to dress professionally for these events.
Create a Strong Resume
Your resume is ultimately one of the most critical job application aspects. The resume is a representation of who you are before the employer meets you in person. It’s crucial that your resume sticks out from the pile. This can be achieved in a couple of different ways.
Your resume should be pleasing to the eye. The format and design should be professional, eye-catching, and logically organized. The most important information should go toward the top of the page, and your wording should be clear and concise. It may seem obvious, but it’s essential to go back through and check for errors. Remember that this is the employer's first impression of you, and mistakes like spelling or grammar in your resume or application will most likely cause them to lose interest.
It's advised to limit your resume to one page as best you can. This can be a challenge, especially when you have extensive experience. This is why having a solid format and being concise is necessary.
It’s also a good idea to ask for help with your resume. Ask someone experienced to look over your resume and offer suggestions or corrections. It’s always beneficial to get a different perspective.
Communication is a necessary skill for any professional and a redeeming quality for an applicant. Send a cover letter to introduce yourself and be up front you’re your intentions. If you haven’t heard back after a few days, send an email to check in – offer to answer any questions or provide more information. Provide a sincere “Thank you” note after you’ve had an interview. These messages bring your resume and conversation top of mind – and if it goes well, you’ll have them saying, “Oh yeah! Weren’t they great?” Following up and responding to messages promptly are part of being professional. This can also show genuine interest and commitment to joining an employer’s team.
Remember, try to start applying for that opportunity well beforehand, so you have plenty of options and be one of the first applicants. Use every resource available, such as advisors, networking sites, and your professors. Attend as many meet & greets and career fairs as possible; these are great for networking! Don’t forget to create a strong resume and keep it up-to-date. Remember to keep communicating - it may take a few days or weeks to get back to you, so remain patient during this process. They are looking for the best applicant(s) available, just like you are searching for the best opportunity available. Finally, have perseverance and gratitude no matter what happens in your application process!
If you're looking to hire an intern, check out Internship PROS to help connect you with those who may be a good fit, as well as a system for best practices!