Finding the Perfect Internship

Finding a job is never easy, but finding a job when you have no experience can be nearly impossible.

An internship—or several—can give you a valuable head start in your post-graduation job search by showing potential employers not only that you have professional experience, but that you have shown initiative and motivation in getting it. Here’s your guide to finding the perfect one.

Start Now

Summer may seem a long way off, but many companies start taking applications for summer internships in February or March, and competition can be intense. The sooner you get an internship lined up, the sooner you can relax and concentrate on school.

Check with the Career Office

Your first stop should be your college or university’s career office, which will have information on available internships in your field, and can guide you through the process of searching and applying.

Ask your Advisor

Chances are your advisor knows a few people in your field of study, and can give you some contacts for advice or opportunities in your chosen industry.

Network

Ask your parents, your parents’ friends—any adult you can think of about internship opportunities in your field of interest. Join clubs or groups, both online and in the real world, in your preferred career. Knowing people in your future field will prove invaluable in finding an internship, and eventually, a job.

Go Online

First, check out sites that cater to students looking for internships, such as College Recruiter, InternMatch, YouTern, Internships.com, Experience and Monster College. These sites offer hundreds of internship listings that you can search by title, industry and location, and also allow you to upload your resume so companies looking for interns can check out your qualifications. They also offer helpful resources, such as tips on finding the right internships, how to handle applications and interviews, resume and cover letter samples, and our favorite, Internships.com’s Internship Predictor, which helps you find the right job based on your preferences and personality.

Some general career websites also include postings for internships. Check both the big general ones (Indeed.com, Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com), as well as niche job boards that cater to a particular field (Journalismjobs.com for journalism; Mediabistro.com for media; Coroflot.com for creative and design; TechCareers for tech and engineering; Idealist for nonprofits; eFinancialCareers for finance, etc.)  If you’re interested in a specific company, visit the careers section of their website to check for opportunities.

Polish Your Resume

Your resume should be a comprehensive, professional one-page summary of your experience. Keep it informative, but concise—conventional wisdom says that recruiters spend only about five seconds looking at a resume. Make yourself sound good, but don’t lie—being caught in a lie on your resume can have devastating consequences. And make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. One mistake and your resume goes in the “no” pile.

Practice Writing Cover Letters

In most cases, your cover letter is your one chance to show a hiring manager you’re the right person for the job, and should convey that your experience, enthusiasm, goals and personality are the right fit for the internship you want. Get help in crafting the perfect cover letter, research the company and include details about why you think you’d be a good candidate, and proofread, proofread, proofread.

Prepare for Interviews

If you’re lucky enough to get an interview, show up on time, in professional dress, and be prepared to answer questions about your experience and goals, as well as open-ended questions such as: Where do you see yourself in five years? What interested you about this internship opportunity? Why did you choose your major? What skills would you bring to this position? Do some research on the company, including the key executives, so you’ll be prepared for specific questions about the company, and to show that you have done your homework.

Play the Field

Say you’ve found the perfect internship—it sounds like just the right position at a great company, you’ve interviewed and they seem to like you. That’s great, but don’t let your hopes derail your efforts prematurely. Cross your fingers, but keep applying for other internships until you receive an official acceptance.

Good luck!



StartwithChange.com: Finding the Perfect Internship

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