Internships are great for getting your foot in the door in your desired field. An internship plays a key role in equipping college students and recent graduates with hands-on experience that’s necessary for launching a professional career. Some college programs also require students to complete an internship before graduation.
According to a poll conducted by Gallup-Purdue, having an internship makes you up to twice as likely to land a good job immediately after graduation. And what’s more, having internship experience could also boost your starting salary. College graduates with at least one paid internship made $15,000 to $20,000 more in their starting salary than those with no interning experience.
While the benefits of internships are indisputable, landing your dream internship can be more difficult than it seems. Most internship openings aren’t openly advertised—with many companies relying on their networks to fill interning positions.
With that in mind, landing your dream internship takes some effort and luck. Here are some tips to help you snag a great internship position:
College graduates with at least one paid internship made $15,000 to $20,000 more in their starting salary than those with no internship experience.
1- Start Looking for Internships Early
It can take time to find a good internship position, especially in competitive fields. That’s why you need to start your search for an internship early.
Ideally, you should start looking for an internship six to nine months before you need it. Most internships are available in the summer (May/June to August/September) and most companies recruit from September to February. Bulk recruitments usually take place from September to December.
Starting your search early will give you time to research the target companies, network with the right people, get recommendations, and prepare your applications—all while also attending classes and working on your school projects.
If possible, applying for internships off-season is also a great idea. While most students will be competing for typical summer internships, you can boost your chances by going for a fall or winter internship.
“There’s a caveat to this though. Off-cycle internships tend to be more competitive as most companies fill their upcoming graduate roles through the summer internship—another reason to start your applications early. Graduate slots available from the off-cycle internships tend to be fewer, especially in competitive industries.
As you prepare for internships, start building desirable hard skills. Most organizations expect their younger team members to have more proficiency with digital tools—so take the time to learn and acquire the relevant digital skills in your field.
2- Be Clear About Your Internship Objectives
Before you even start your internship search, it’s important to have some clarity about what you need from an internship. Are you aiming for a paid internship? Do you want the internship to lead to a full-time position post-graduation? Which domains of operation are you interested in? Which skills are you looking to build as you launch your professional career?
Once you’ve defined your objectives, create a list of the top employers who offer internships in the area where you want to learn. Check out each of these employers’ websites and social media accounts to familiarize yourself with their company culture.
This will help you create highly-targeted applications, showing the company that you’re exactly what they’re looking for. Getting an internship with a company that aligns with your objectives will give you a head-start in your career development.
3- Craft Your Resume for Each Internship
Your resume plays a significant role in the internship application process. Bear in mind that recruiters spend just 6 to 7 seconds to quickly peruse your resume and decide whether you’re worth a second look.
With little or no professional experience, you might be wondering, “What should I put on my resume?” Consider what the employer or recruiter is looking for.
Highlight different elements of your college experience that show that you’ll be a great addition to their team. You can have sections that highlight volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, academic achievements, and part-time employment. You can also have a section that lists relevant skills, describing how you’ve acquired and utilized each skill.
If you’re responding to an internship listing, make sure to include the important keywords in your resume and cover letter. A great way to figure out which keywords to use is by looking at relevant internship postings in your field. Today, many employers and recruiters use applicant tracking software (ATS) to scan the applications they receive for open positions.
4- Update Your LinkedIn Profile
As we’ve mentioned, most internship positions aren’t openly advertised. Many company department heads simply reach out to their contacts or browse through LinkedIn when they have an open internship position.
Your LinkedIn profile is like an easily-accessible resume for potential employers in your desired industry. Make sure that you update your LinkedIn profile with all the relevant details and information.
It will be helpful to have a headline that indicates that you’re currently looking for an internship position in your field. Highlight relevant volunteering positions and detail the role you performed, the results you achieved, the impact you created, and what you learned.
Don’t be afraid to brag a little. If you are an honor student, including that in your summary is something that will catch a potential employer’s eye.
5- Tap into Your Networks
Networking is important for career development. Your existing network will come in handy when it’s time to look for an internship. Think about family members, friends, former colleagues, mentors, and professors who might be able to connect you to the companies you’d like to intern with.
On top of your existing relationships, work on expanding your network. As we’ve noted, LinkedIn is a great place to start building your professional connections. Don’t be shy about reaching out to managers of the companies you’d like to intern with. Introduce yourself and ask if they have internship openings in the company.
Most schools hold career fairs where students can meet prospective employers and recruiters. Take full advantage of such events. Dress professionally and bring at least 10 copies of your updated resume to hand out to the people you connect with. Ask for their contacts so you can stay in touch and follow up.
It’s important for students to keep their network warm even when they aren’t job hunting. This way, when the time comes, it’s easier to reach out to them for assistance. If your connections don’t feel that they have much of a relationship with you, they’re less likely to feel inclined to help.
Keep track of your important connections and make sure to keep adding value to each relationship. You can do this by engaging with their social media posts, sharing relevant articles and opportunities, offering your help, and congratulating them when they achieve a milestone.