College isn’t just about going to classes; it’s also about finding a great internship.
“Internships enable students to take their career plan for a test drive,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “You might discover by interning in your planned career field that it’s not what you thought it would be like or that one niche of your field is a better fit for you than another.”
These jobs can also help you jumpstart your career, as interns who give 110% may secure full-time employment after graduation at that company. Even so, an internship can provide you with experience and connections integral to your job search after graduation.
Experts discuss tips to help you secure an internship.
Connect with your school’s career center at the start of your freshman year, when many companies start on-campus recruiting. Career centers are great resources for internships while providing other services like resume critique, mock interviews and information sessions about recruiting.
“If you don’t understand or realize the process on your campus, you could miss the boat if you’re not educated on the recruiting process for certain companies,” says Natasha Stough, EY Americas Director of Campus Recruiting.
Write Your Resume
“[Your resume] is a way to build a picture to potential employers for what you bring to the table,” says Lori Almeida, Chief Talent Officer at Siegel+Gale. Include information about your degree, work experience and how you’re engaging on campus to show that you’re a well-rounded candidate.
Tailor your resume for each job by matching your skillset with the position’s requirements. Start with a professional summary at the top that explains who you are and how you can contribute to their business. “Very few employers will care what you want out of the internship,” says Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor. “They care about the skillset and values that will help them.”
Show the soft and technical skills you’ve gained from your work experience, no matter the job. “Waiting tables and working retail is hard work and helps enhance your people and communication skills and customer service — those are the types of critical skills that are important to [an employer],” says Stough.
Quantifying your success helps you stand out. “Any numbers or measurements you can put around your success are a great thing,” says Dobroski. “If you fundraised $500, write $500. If you sold something and sales are up 80%, that’s really impressive to a hiring manager.”
Include your anticipated major and current GPA, experts recommend, but leave test scores off.
Research and Network
Talk to professors, mentors, family and friends; search job sites; and work with your college career center to identify companies where you’d like to work. “Unless you’re talking about an internship that’s very technical or scientific, people know people who know people — it’s six degrees of networking separation,” says Michael Baldwin, author of Just Add Water.
If a company doesn’t recruit at your school, you’ll have to do more work to get that internship. “Take more initiative to leverage your network, know the timing of recruitment so you can submit your application and follow up directly with a campus recruiter,” says Stough.
Previous summer interns, especially someone who went to your college, are also great resources about a particular company. “You have a better chance that they’ll respond to a LinkedIn message,” says Almeida, “and they could potentially connect you with the hiring manager.”
Prepare for the Interview
By preparing, you’ll walk into the interview confident and ready to outshine the competition. Learn what you can about the role and the company beforehand. “Make a list of the skills, knowledge and professional and personal qualities required by the employer, then make a list of your assets and match them to the job requirements,” says Haefner.
Be ready to answer questions and have a point of view about what makes the company special. “Everyone wants to know why you want to work there, and it can’t be a boilerplate answer,” says Baldwin.
Websites like Glassdoor and Indeed offer insight on the interview process at different companies. Ask questions too, like what you’ll be doing during a typical day. “Do practice interviews if it helps you get more comfortable,” says Almeida.
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