There are many ways to gain this experience, whether it’s through student organizations, practicums, or experimental learning in the classroom. But overall, the best way is to get out there and experience it hands-on in the real world. And internships are your key to doing just that.
So, here are 8 tips and tricks that will help you land your dream internship, which will ultimately lead you to a successful and rewarding career.
1. Utilize your network: Whether it’s professors, friends, family, national organizations, co-workers, or your Greek affiliation, make sure that you utilize your network. They can provide tips to prepare you for your interview, point you in the direction of an amazing opportunity, or even right a killer reference letter. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. No matter who they are, they are there to help you through your professional development.
2. Customize each and every resume you submit: As tempting as it may be, the worst thing you can do for yourself is send in the same resume over and over to every employer you apply to. Each organization is looking for someone specific, with different qualifications and skills. And, odds are you have a plethora of experiences and skills that aren’t even highlighted on your resume! So, take the time to tailor each resume you submit to the right employer and job description. This will allow you to truly showcase why you are right for the position.
3. Don’t undersell your skills, but don’t oversell them either: Highlight your accomplishments, your experiences, and your skills. List in detail the experience and knowledge you would use to benefit the organization, and sound confident while you do it. Don’t sell yourself short with a few brief descriptions of your position. You have done some great things – so prove that to the employer!
But at the same time, don’t be that person who comes off too arrogant. While it is important to sell your skills, don’t do it in a way that is unattractive to the employer. But overall, stay confident and professional.
4. Always send a cover letter: Even if an employer doesn’t ask for, always send a customized cover letter. This gives you a chance to express why you are perfect for the position, and why you are interested in it. Also, it gives the employer a chance to get to know your personality and not just base it off of your resume.
5. Provide tangible proof: If it’s applicable, provide samples of your work to the employer. Whether it is a research paper, marketing campaign, or portfolio, providing samples of work allows the employer to see your qualifications and skills come to life. Plus, you will stand out amongst your peers – especially if samples of work are not required.
6. Never be afraid to ask questions: The most common thing for an employer to ask at the end of an interview is “Do you have any questions for me?” This is your time to show the employer your interest, knowledge, and experience. Prepare a couple questions to bring to the interview. Example questions include “What qualities would make someone successful in this position?” or “What do you enjoy most about working for this organization?”
Once the employer answers your question, always tie their response into your qualifications or interest. The employer will be impressed at your level of engagement and will enjoy that you care to know more about the position.
7. Haven’t heard back? It’s okay to follow up: It’s nerve wrecking to contact an employer and follow up on the application process because you don’t want to come off pushy or impatient. Any time you finish speaking with the employer, make sure you know the time frame they expect to contact you next. If a week rolls by after that date, feel free to reach out and touch base. The real world is hectic and deadlines and projects are always changing, so odds are that life just got too far ahead of them. They will appreciate you contacting them and staying on top of it, and it will also give you the chance to get your name back out there and show your interest in the position.
8. When in doubt, apply anyways: Does the job description say they are looking for a junior and you’re a freshman? Is it a requirement that applicants have at least a year of experience, yet you have never stepped foot in the industry? Situations like this often lead students to not apply for the internship of their dreams because they don’t meet the requirements in the job description.
Truth is, it’s a job description. The employer has no idea who is behind that computer looking at it. They are simply trying to attract and find their ideal candidate. If you think you would be perfect for the position, then apply! The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get the position, and that’s okay. Employers are trying to find the right fit for their organization, just like you should be finding the right fit for you. The last thing you want is to be placed in an organization that you aren’t happy with. So, take the application and interview process as a learning experience. Each one offers a new opportunity to learn and grow in your professional career.
Overall, it’s important to be yourself. Let employers know the real you, and you will end up with an outstanding internship opportunity. Once you land that position, take each new challenge, project, and day as a learning experience, because this position will teach you more about the real world than you ever thought possible. Your professional career is just beginning.