Finding internships that align with your career goals and interests is half the battle; getting chosen is the next big hurdle. Open internship positions can be few and far between, especially if you’re competing for a role at a highly-coveted company or organization.
While there may not be a surefire way to get selected, the following tips can help to improve your chances of landing the internship you want:
Apply well in advance. Take note of upcoming internship deadlines and prepare for them well in advance. Finding an upcoming internship for a year from now, for example, might give the false impression that there’s plenty of time. However, some companies make their decisions far ahead of time, and the cutoff date for applying could be several months before the internship begins.
Missing the application date for an internship you had your heart set on can be devastating and will likely take you out of the running before you even had the chance to apply. But even if you haven’t missed the deadline completely, the application process isn’t something you want to rush through either.
This is a very important step, and if you don’t put forth maximum effort, or you accidentally forget to include the required materials, you might not be chosen for an interview.
Make sure your resume shines. Use this opportunity to make sure your resume is up–to-date or to create your very first resume. If you haven’t made a resume before, or could just use a second opinion, reach out to your college’s career services department to see if they offer resume help. Use your resume to highlight your best achievements and qualifications. It’s okay if you haven’t had a job yet – just be sure to focus on any other applicable experience that companies might find valuable, such as volunteer work, organizations or clubs you belong to, and so on.
Send a customized cover letter. Your cover letter is also very important, and each cover letter you send should be customized for the specific internship you’re applying for. You want to stand out, so you’ll want to avoid sending out a generic cover letter for each internship. Use the cover letter to let your personality shine through a bit rather than summarizing your resume. It’s great to express interest in the particular company and explain why you want to intern there, but it’s also important to explain what experience and skills you offer and how you’ll be a valuable asset to the team during your internship.
Include a killer portfolio (if applicable). You may or may not be asked to include a portfolio, but depending on what the internship is for, you may want to take the opportunity to showcase your skills. For example, if you’re applying for an internship at a local newspaper, you may want to include a portfolio of your writing samples. This is especially crucial if your resume is a bit lacking.
Consider the benefits of an unpaid internship. Many college students limit their searches to only paid internships. It’s easy to see why – after all, it’s fantastic to be able to earn college credit, gain job experience, and make some extra cash in the process. While paid internships are amazing opportunities that are always worth applying for, you’ll also want to cast a wider net by expanding your search to include unpaid internships.
These can be less competitive than paid internships, and by including them in your search, you can improve your odds. Although an unpaid internship may not provide a chance to earn money, consider the other advantages, especially if the internship is being offered at a company you’d love to work at some day. In fact, approximately 72 percent of interns are eventually offered jobs with the company, according to a National Association of College and Employers (NACE) Internship & Co-op survey conducted in 2016.
Brush up on your interview skills. If you’re called in for an interview, congratulations! This means you’re a serious contender for the internship. Going on an interview can be a little intimidating, especially if it’s something you’re not used to or if it will be your first job interview. This could be another way that your college’s career services department can help you, but if not, ask a friend or family member to help you out. Having a few mock interviews with someone you’re comfortable with can help you prepare for the real thing when the time comes.
Follow up. After you’ve had your interview, be sure to always follow up with a thank-you note. Sending a thank-you note by postal mail adds a personal touch, but sending it by email works just fine, too. If you don’t hear anything within the expected timeframe, don’t forget to follow up. While you don’t want to be overly persistent, expressing that you’re still interested is also important.
Talk to previous interns. If you know anybody who has previously interned at a company you’d like to work or intern for, this person can offer some very valuable insight. Ask about the application and interview process and if they can provide any tips on what you should or shouldn’t do. If possible, ask if you can get an introduction to the person who is hiring for the internship position, assuming it’s the same person the previous intern also worked with. This type of networking can go a long way and can perhaps be just what you need to get your foot in the door and land that internship.