Internships are a common feature of almost any student’s college career. Some students have to complete an internship as a requirement for their major, while other students pursue an internship to evaluate future career options. Landing an internship can help you gain a wealth of knowledge and career-related skills that can put you ahead of other students in your field. It can be stressful to think about what you’re going to do after graduation, and being an intern can help you increase your chance of finding the perfect career path. Here are some critical steps to follow when applying for your first internship.
1. Find an internship you’d like to apply for
Internships are common, but finding an internship that matches your major and interests can be difficult. Some of the first places to begin searching for internship opportunities are career websites or job boards posted by the career services office of your college. After sifting through the internships offered on the job board, you could try reaching out to the professors in your department or contacting other professionals in your city. Your classmates can also be a valuable resource for finding opportunities and can add to your personal and professional network. Networking in college can help you find both internship and job opportunities at smaller companies in your area that you may have overlooked, allowing you to get your foot in the door and lead you to extraordinary career development opportunities.
With many internships available, it may seem intimidating to evaluate which opportunity you would be a good fit for, but keep in mind that an internship also needs to be a good fit for you. You’ll want to match your skills, interests, and major with the qualifications the company has set for the position. You should also consider how much time you’re able to dedicate to the internship. During the summer, you may seek out an internship that’s full-time, but during the school year, your schedule may only be able to handle a part-time position. Evaluating unpaid versus paid internships can make the difference in your choice too. Once you find an internship that appears to match your requirements, thoroughly research the company through their website, social media, and employer review sites like Glassdoor.
2. Polish your application materials and interview skills
Applying for an internship can be extremely competitive. That’s why it’s important to spend some time polishing up your application materials, like your resume and cover letter. Confirming that your resume is error-free and up to date can allow you to put your best foot forward. In addition to your contact information, your resume should include campus involvement, related work experience, and any current skills that you’re passionate about. You may also want to attach a portfolio of your best work if it’s applicable to the position, such as writing samples or graphic design projects.
Furthermore, you may want to ask a few people in your network to be a reference for you. It’s always better to ask for permission than to allow the company to cold-call your reference. Plus, attaching references or a well-written letter of recommendation when it’s not required may help you stand out. As you create or update your attachments, remember that tailoring your materials to fit the organization you are applying to can give you a better chance of landing the job.
After your resume, cover letter, and portfolio are polished, you’ll want to practice your interview skills. Ask your friends and family members to help you conduct a mock interview, which will allow you to practice your answers to common interview questions. During the mock interview, you’ll get a sense of how well you communicate with your words, but you’ll also need to focus on your nonverbal communication. Be aware of your body language, and try to keep your elaborate gestures to a minimum. You should also try on your professional attire during the mock interview, kind of like a dress rehearsal. Working out your interview kinks before you are called for an official interview can prove to the hiring manager that you want the position.
3. Submit your internship application
An important step in the job search process is to know submission deadlines. Creating a document with all of the due dates can ensure you don’t forget. You'll also want to make sure that you have completed all of the requirements and attachments. Your application may be the perfect fit for the company, but the internship coordinator probably won’t consider your application if it comes in late or is incomplete. Finally, always send a thank you letter or email to show your appreciation for the business’s time.
Once the application is turned in, make sure you’re prepared for the next steps in the process. Checking your voicemail and monitoring your email daily is crucial in order to respond promptly and professionally to inquiries about your application. The company might have additional questions or may request a response to see when the best time is to schedule an interview. If you don’t receive a response within a reasonable time-frame, it doesn’t hurt to follow up. There could be a delay that has nothing to do with you or your materials. Reach out to the phone number or email address listed for your hiring manager.
If you find out that you didn’t land the position, don’t worry; getting an internship is not the only way a college student can achieve a full-time job after they graduate. You can always apply to another internship, get a summer job, take online courses, or perfect your hobbies to ensure that you’re not doomed to a summer of boredom. Even without an internship, you can always perfect your skills and polish your materials so you’re ready for the next time an opportunity comes around.
Now that you know the three-step process for an internship application, you’ll be able to identify an internship, gather all the materials, and turn in your application with plenty of time to spare. Completing an internship can help you decide if the job is something you can see yourself doing in the future or something you would rather avoid. While an internship is a common requirement for certain majors, you make the most out of your opportunity by growing your professional network and learning as much as you can during your time as an intern. Even if the internship is different from what you expected, you can still use the knowledge and skills you learned to make yourself a better applicant for a future full-time job.
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