As the spring quickly approaches, the “what are you doing this summer?” question arrives as well. Summer internships are a fantastic way to get real-life experience without the stress of working during the school year. If you live in an area that allows school-year internships, though—take advantage of that!
Everyone has that one perfect internship in their mind—whether it’s a fashion internship, an engineering co-op or student opportunity to write and travel, internships offer a good match for every student and every major! Here are some tips to help you land the summer and experience you’ve always dreamed of.
1. Start Early. You’re never “too young” for a fabulous internship. While some companies only take on upperclassmen, others are more than willing to have a variety of ages and will teach you so many lessons in one summer than you ever could’ve hoped. Take a plunge because your internship one summer could lead to an even better experience later on to build on your knowledge and skillset. On another side of starting early, look at the websites of your dream companies in the beginning of the school year. Oftentimes major internship programs (Like Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, etc.) will take summer applications in October because of the large influx of applications and long interview process. Don’t miss your chance! For the majority, however, internship applications will be due somewhere in-between January and March. Check often and start an Excel sheet to help you keep track.
2. Have References + Make Connections. Make sure you have someone who wasn’t your 10th grade English teacher ready and willing to speak (well) on your behalf. To have the credibility of a professor or SGA adviser at a major university share your skills, charming personality and hard work ethic will speak volumes to intern recruiters. In addition to having solid references, don’t be afraid to have your dad’s friend’s daughter that used to babysit you talk with her boss to at least get your resume on the top of the stack. Use those connections—if you know someone who just so happens to work at your dream internship company don’t be afraid to reach out! The most she could get you is your resume read, but in the mass of students applying, sometimes that’s all it takes.
3. Keep it clean and genuine. I can’t stress enough how often colleges and employers look at your social media! Depending on your field of study, be especially careful that you’re using Twitter to network with other PR majors, for example, and not for subtweeting your ex-boyfriend or rude neighbor. If you have an active blog, bonus! This is a great way for employers to see your writing skills and see the sorts of things you care about—if you blogged about a fun weekend roadtrip or a great product you’ve just discovered, they’ll see the variety of interests and knowledge you can offer them. If you don’t have a blog, don’t freak out! Just make sure what are you putting on the internet is something you want your employers, coworkers, and grandparents to have seen. (If you don’t want them to see it, why would we want to?) If you want to be able to retweet “Sassy Flirty Girl Probz” regularly, go for it—just be sure that your account is private. Be who you are and always try to be the same person on Twitter as you are in person.
4. Always Have Questions. People who have questions prove that they have done their homework. Always research the company, their internship program, and if you’re feeling really ambitious, check out the LinkedIn profiles of some of their employees to see if you could see yourself being part of their company. Don’t ask questions that could easily be answered via Google, but do have some you can reach out about and some to tuck away for a future interview. Usually an application will say “Contact Jane by phone or email with questions.” If phone is an option, call. Always. Especially in our time, a phone call will stand out to an employer because everyone just goes directly to email. A phone call is more personal and if you don’t already have a connection, it will help your name and personality stand out beyond your resume and cover letter. People also tend to share more detailed information over the phone, which can guide you to better prepare your application.
5. Be Prepared. Do your research and start plugging away. Employers look for interns they can develop and teach, but they will only give their summer to interns who already have a solid foundation. If your cover letter is three pages long and has typos, you’re toast. Use your cover letter as a chance to concisely share why you want the job, how you are a good fit for it, and and that you are ready to build on your existing skills. Have a recent resume, and shape it (do not embellish) to show your relevant experience. If you start your resume and cover letter the day before they’re due, they won’t be the best they can be. Refer to your Excel sheet from #1 and really work ahead. By setting aside an hour on a Sunday afternoon to polish your resume and cover letter, you’ll be ahead of the crowd and on top of your game.
It may seem overwhelming, but by taking initiative you’re guaranteed to find a great fit in an internship position. You’ll earn the opportunity to work with some of the best professionals in your field, and when fall comes back around you’ll have an entirely new set of skills to open the door to even more fantastic experiences. Your network of connections will grow and so will your future!
Do you have some great internship tips or a question about interning? Tweet me @SarahDougherty or leave a comment below!
By: Sarah Dougherty, University of Alabama