For many college students, summer is the ideal season to complete an internship. With fewer (or no) academic responsibilities, students can devote their time and attention to cultivating important workplace skills.
[Download StudentAdvisor’s free guide: Get That Internship.]
Of course, as internships continue to grow in popularity, how can students sift through the available options to identify opportunities that will best benefit their career path? How can they ensure that their applications stand out? Here are five tips to consider as you go about the internship search:
1. Determine your goals.
Before you begin to identify potential opportunities, decide upon the experience you wish to have—the industry you hope to work in, the skills you hope to develop, and so on. What type of atmosphere would you particularly excel in? While internships can and often do introduce you to unfamiliar career paths, they can also be rare chances to “interview” for an eventual full-time position. Select a company you want to represent, whether that is an investment firm in a large city or an organic farm in the countryside.
2. Use multiple resources to find available opportunities.
It’s no secret that the internet is powerful and probably a student’s most used resource, but it is also just one method of searching for summer opportunities. Despite our growing reliance on technology, it may not always be the best way to apply. Instead, scour those networks you are part of (family, friends, school alumni) for connections to businesses that interest you. You can then reach out to that person and form a relationship (if one does not already exist). An encouraging, positive word from him or her on behalf of your application could do a great deal to separate you from the crowd of prospective online applicants.
[Consider a free online course in Professional Presence to stand out in your interviews.]
3. Showcase academic and work experience that speaks to your goals.
Résumés are not one-size-fits-all when it comes to opportunities like these. Internships with prestigious organizations are understandably competitive, and interviewers may have limited time to review your various application materials. Ensure that your personal statement, résumé, and other application items clearly address the position’s requirements (in terms of both submission and day-to-day responsibilities). If you have prior experience in the field—even in the form of an extracurricular activity—highlight it. What unique skills would you bring to the company? Why is it ultimately in their best interest to choose you?
4. Demonstrate confidence and polite persistence.
Now, you should not interpret this suggestion as permission to call, email, or visit a business five times in a single week inquiring about your application status. Rather, project the impressive capabilities you discuss in your application. In interviews, be open and positive. If you stumble upon a company that you believe is a perfect fit, but that does not offer an internship, approach them about possibly forming one. Successful individuals are generally those who create their own opportunities and pursue their passions so embrace doing the same for yourself. However, if a company flat out tells you that the opportunity is not an option, do not hound them about it.
5. Begin searching as soon as possible.
While internships may involve some scheduling flexibility, many start just as soon as the spring semester ends. Mid-May to early June is happening soon, but some organizations begin the selection process months before those dates. Do not delay your search! Widen your scope to include all surrounding areas in which you’d be comfortable working, rather than solely focusing on your immediate area for opportunities. Starting the process in May means you must work more diligently, but it does not mean you cannot secure an enriching and rewarding internship experience in the end.
Best of luck in your search!
Cathryn Sloane is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a private tutoring service in Los Angeles and 20 other markets. She is a graduate of The University of Iowa with a BA in English and a concentration in creative nonfiction writing.