How to Land an Internship During College
Internships are valuable opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of their future field, develop soft skills that employers are looking for, and pad their resume. But competition for internships is often very fierce. Follow these steps to increase your chances of landing a great internship.
If you want a summer internship, it’s best to start researching during the fall semester. You’ll need time to find internships, research companies, collect documentation, and prepare for interviews. When looking for internships, focus on the areas that interest you the most within your field of interest. The career center at your college is a good place to start.
Network, network, network
Experience proves the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This may seem unfair, but it really makes sense. If you know someone who can refer you, the recruiter’s job is half done. Someone he trusts has already vouched for you. So try some of these networking opportunities:
- Join a club or society – this shows commitment to your field and provides opportunities to learn more and to meet people
- Attend career fairs and info nights – you meet the people who make the decisions
- Join networking groups and create a LinkedIn profile
- Ask upperclassmen or graduates where they interned, how they liked it, and if they can pass on your information to someone in the company.
Perfect your documents
Research the company you’re applying to so that you’re creating an application that shows you understand their work. Have your resume, cover letter, and application thoroughly critiqued and proofread by people who know what they’re looking for. The career center is perfect for this, but you may also want to reach out to a career coach. Ask for references early, giving them at least several weeks to respond. They may ask for your resume or ask you a few questions in order to write a good reference for you. Send a little reminder a week ahead of time if they haven’t done it yet, and then send a sincere thank you afterwards. (If you get the internship, let them know and thank them again.)
This is an important step that many students forget. The company now wants to see if you’re as impressive in person as you are on paper. If you’ve researched the company already, you have a good starting point. Now go through all your experiences and highlight the skills and successes that might be most desirable for that company. Then research the most common interview questions and think about which of your experiences, challenges, and successes can be used to answer each, showing your ability to learn, to interact well with others, and to succeed. Attend a mock interview or two or three. Your career center should offer this service. If not, find a career coach.
A few final tips
Send an immediate follow-up thank you email to the interviewer, and then follow with a written thank you note the next day. The more often he or she sees your name the better, and your courtesy will be appreciated. Remind the recruiter of one or two positive things you discussed during the interview. Plan to apply to 5-10 internships. And just as you did with college, apply to a couple that are “reach” internships and a couple that you think are “safe.” Most internships are unpaid, so while you’re hunting for internships, hunt for grants and scholarships that help young people cover costs of living while interning. Reach out to us if you have any questions or need help with this important step in your career.