Part One of eCollegeFinder’s Two-Part Internship Series
Want a job straight out of college? Give your resume a boost by becoming an intern before you graduate! Similar to an apprenticeship for a trade or vocational position, internships are designed to complement your classroom knowledge with real-world experience before you enter the job market.
Many students begin interning as an inexperienced college student and leave as a more hirable entry-level employee. In fact, an internship may even guarantee you a job after graduation. A study by Internships.com reports that in 2012, 69% of companies with 100+ employees offered full-time jobs to their interns.
You may be the perfect candidate for an internship if you’re looking to:
- Build your resume while still in college
- Practice your learned skills in a real-life setting
- Expand your field knowledge
- Find out if your chosen career path is the right one for you
- Create contacts that may help you further your career
What is an Internship?
Depending on your major, an internship can either be a learning position in the field or a research position supervised by an experienced mentor. Treat internships as you would a normal job: show up on time, adhere to the company’s dress code, and make sure you’re completing assignments when they’re due! However, most internships offer more flexibility than typical employment.
Standard internships are six to twelve weeks during the summer or a half-semester or semester during the academic year. Interns are normally compensated for their time with both valuable on-the-job experience and college credits. Some positions also offer monetary compensation in the form of regular pay or a stipend.
Finding an Internship
Before you begin your search for an internship, outline the goals you’d like to achieve. Having an idea of what you’re looking to get out of your first position can help you decide the types of internships and companies that will help you achieve your objectives. For some advice on how to determine which internship is right for you, check out this article on Monster.com.
Once you’ve decided what to look for, utilize all of your resources to help you find the perfect position. Depending on how competitive your field is, application season for a summer internship may begin as far in advance as the fall of the previous year, but most accept applications in spring. If you plan to intern during the fall or spring semester, apply well before the semester begins. Some companies’ schedules are more atypical, so continue applying until you are offered a position!
Utilize these four main outlets to find your internship:
Your college’s career services department is an invaluable tool when it comes to developing your career path. Career services advisors are there to not only help you find an internship, but to also help you determine your career goals and set you on the right path. Good advisors have a wealth of knowledge to share and a large contact base to connect you with.
Drop by your college’s career services office or search your college’s website to learn which resources are available to you. In addition to helpful advisors, many schools offer in-office job postings and maintain a website that lists internships that are available to students.
When looking for an internship, there are a number of websites you can visit to conduct your search:
- General internship and job posting sites. To start, check out:
- Career-specific sites. For example, the AIGA Internship Posting site for graphic design majors or the ASME Job Board for engineering majors.
- Specific companies’ websites. Even if the company you want to work for doesn’t have a posting noting a need for interns, it never hurts to send your resume with a convincing cover letter letting them know why they need to hire you.
When you’re searching for an internship, looking to your contacts is sometimes the best way to succeed. Ask your professors, advisors, family, and friends to keep their eyes and ears open for available positions. Utilize social media as well. A post on Facebook or LinkedIn about your search can start some very useful conversations, sometimes with those contacts you’ve completely forgotten to seek help from or didn’t realize you could seek help from.
When you apply for an internship, remember that a potential employer will be shaping their entire first impression of you from your cover letter and resume, so make them count! If you can, deliver your resume in person and introduce yourself for a more memorable touch. Depending on an organization’s preference, you can also deliver your application via mail or email.
Here are the materials you’ll need to send when applying for an internship:
Your resume should clearly list your personal information, career objective, educational experience and GPA, skills, certifications, work experience, activities & interests, and references. For more information on what constitutes each of those subjects, visit Experience.com’s Internship Resume section. You can also find sample resumes tailored to various fields on Monster.com.
Quick Resume Tips:
- Limit your resume to one page
- Provide short, but clear and informative descriptions of your qualifications
- ALWAYS proofread for grammar, punctuation, and spelling (and then have someone else proofread to find those mistakes you’ve missed)
- Tailor information to the job you’re seeking and include as much relevant experience as possible
Your cover letter will be what attracts an employer’s attention and inspires them to open your resume. This short note should summarize your passion and experience while adding personality to your application.
According to the student resources section of Internships.com, a cover letter to a prospective employer should answer these four questions:
- Why am I a good fit for your organization?
- How are my qualifications well-matched for an internship within the organization?
- Why now?
- What should be the next step in pursuing an interview?
Click here to read the full article and learn how to make sure your cover letter accomplishes these goals successfully.
If the internship you’re pursuing pertains to other work you’ve completed, whether at another company, in class, or of your own volition, it may be appropriate to send samples along with your resume. Samples are especially important in creative fields like writing or graphic design. For these fields, potential employers will often require that you send a writing sample or portfolio along with your application.
Once you’ve applied for an internship, be sure to call the company within a week or two to ensure they’ve received your resume and let them know how interested you are in the position. However, it’s important to always pay attention to all of an employer’s requirements for applicants. For example, some companies will specifically request in their job listing that you not follow up on your application.
If the hard work you put into the application process pays off and you’re called in for an interview, preparation is paramount. The more you prepare, the easier it is to present yourself as a confident, intelligent, and passionate employee – three things all employers love. Here are the things you need to keep in mind during prep-time:
Here are the things you need to keep in mind during prep-time:
Research the company and the industry
In order to convince a company that you want to work for them, you’ll need to know who they are, what they do, and what’s happening in their industry. Before arriving for your interview, make sure you’ve thoroughly browsed the company’s website and read their mission statement, executive biographies, and recent news, press releases, and blog posts. You should also brush up on recent industry news that may affect the company.
To get a job, you have to look the part. Show up for your interview looking coordinated, clean, and professional. This means dress nicely, hide any tattoos, and remove any large piercings you might have.
Bring multiple copies of your resume and samples, as well as a pen and paper for taking notes. You may also want to write down a list of points you hope to address in the interview, especially if your mind tends to go blank when you’re nervous.
Questions will make up the bulk of the interview. Both the way you answer an interviewer’s questions and the questions you ask can make or break your chances of being hired, so prepare yourself for both beforehand! Questions will also provide you with a ton of company insight.
You should be ready to answer any questions about your knowledge of the company and industry, yourself, and your previous experience when you enter an interview. We strongly suggest checking out this ABC News article to find some specific questions that you may be asked.
Pay special attention to the types of questions your interviewer asks and his or her demeanor when asking or answering questions. By reading your interviewer, you’ll not only be able to respond appropriately, but you can also pick up on the subconscious clues about the company that your interviewer is providing you with. For example, did your interviewer wear a button down shirt or a dress casually? Did he or she hesitate when you asked if your new team is enjoyable to work with?
Equally as essential, you should be able to ask an interviewer thoughtful questions that convey your passion and interest for the company and industry. Here are some great examples of standard questions you should ask:
- Forbes’ “4 Essential Questions To Ask At The End Of A Job Interview”
- Monster.com’s “Six Must-Ask Interview Questions”
- U.S. News’ “The 10 Best Interview Questions to Ask”
Throughout this process, be sure to maintain a positive, passionate attitude. At the end of an interview, request a business card or contact information from your interviewer. In addition, ask what the next step in the process is and when you can expect to hear from your interviewer next.
After your interview, you can improve your chances of being hired by following up. A note and phone call will reaffirm your interest and fit for the position in addition to keeping your meeting fresh in the interviewer’s memory. Send an email or hand written note within a day of your interview thanking your potential employer for his or her time, describing how something you learned at the interview has furthered your interest in the position, and recapping why the company should hire you. About a week later, call to check in on the hiring process and see if any further action or information is required of you.
After your follow up call, it’s time to patiently wait for a (hopefully positive!) response from your interviewer. Before you are hired, a company may request that you come in for a second, or even a third interview. Be prepared for this possibility.