Many college women are all too familiar with the stress of internships – we somehow have to squeeze hunting for a summer job and stressfully competing with fellow classmates for seemingly impossible-to-get positions into our busy schedules full of classes, homework, and clubs. It can be frustrating and a little bit heartbreaking to see your hard work go without success after yet another “we appreciate your application, but you have not been selected” email. So how do college students set themselves apart and secure one of those coveted internships? We talked to a few experts and got the inside scoop on the best things one can do to get that summer job.
Before starting to submit any applications, make sure you know what your goals are and where your interests lie. Diana Mendez, Assistant Director for the Wasserman Center for Career Development at NYU, advises researching into the industries, fields and positions you are considering to narrow down your options and concentrate your efforts on areas that you can truly see yourself in.
2. Start early
Beginning your internship search early is essential to jumping ahead of competition, maximizing available options, and alleviating stress. Many positions fill up quickly, so it can never hurt to get a head start on personally reaching out to recruiters, attending employer panels, and knocking out applications as soon as internship opportunities open up. Don’t wait until a month before final exams to start thinking about your summer job!
3. Connections, connections, connections
Darlene Johnson, Director of External Relations for the Career Center at Hofstra University, says, “The best thing that any student can do to make their internship search easier is to make connections as soon as possible.” Networking is essential when hunting for an internship, so Johnson recommends attending any and all career fairs or panels your college is hosting. You can leave resumes, get contact information, practice face-to-face professional interactions and put a face to your name.
4. Reach out to family and friends
Also along the lines of the importance of networking is utilizing your family and friends. The more people who are aware that you’re searching for a job, the higher chance you have of someone being able to help connect you to a company or contact. Johnson says spreading the word can be incredibly helpful since “you never know who will know someone who is working in a company related to your desired industry.”
5. Make use of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great resource that combines social media and professional opportunities. Having an up-to-date and extensive LinkedIn profile can facilitate faster and easier communication between you and employers, help you maintain past connections, and assist you in searching for current job openings. Madeleine, a junior at the University of Virginia says, “My LinkedIn account has helped me follow up with companies I’ve networked with and showcase my skills and resume to potential employers.” Plus, you can have a fun photo shoot for your headshot!
6. Visit your school’s career center
Almost every college has a department or center dedicated to helping students with career counseling. If a career fair is being hosted, Mendez also recommends investing in nice professional clothing. Quality business outfits can convey your seriousness about the position during an interview or conversation, and you’ll likely wear them down the road in a full-time job!
Conversations with recruiters and interviews can be intimidating and a common place for mistakes, so conducting mock interviews with friends or brushing up on your personal pitch (talking to yourself in the bathroom mirror works, too) are great ways to prepare for your internship hunt and help you succeed in leaving a positive impression upon employers.
8. Polish up that resume
Tailoring your resume towards specific jobs or companies is another must-do. Mendez suggests incorporating relevant information and showcasing related experiences into a resume, as well as personalizing your cover letter for each application, in order to gear it towards whichever position and industry it will be submitted to. This will show employers that you have a personal interest and can set you apart from less-qualified candidates.
9. Improve your tech savviness
In today’s world, almost everything is becoming digitized. With this growing electronic dependence, companies need those who are proficient in such tech skills. Barbara Bellesi-Zto from the University Career Services at Rutgers University points out that “your future employer is expecting you to be well versed in technology” and taking steps to improve your current knowledge can be as simple as watching tutorials about Microsoft Office or virtual presentations on YouTube. Tacking this on to your skill set will undoubtedly be an added bonus to your resume.
10. Keep calm and carry on
Don’t let a rejection email (or ten) discourage you; no one can go through life without getting turned down from a job or botching an interview from nerves. It happens, it’s a part of the process, and it can provide an opportunity for you to learn from any mistakes made and improve for the next time. The founder of Starbucks had his business pitch for a loan turned down by banks over 200 times, and look where our favorite coffee chain is now! Rejection can hurt, but it just means something different and better is waiting out there for you.
These tips and suggestions show that just little things can greatly distinguish you as an applicant and help secure you that internship you’ve been fantasizing about. Even setting aside just fifteen minutes or so a day to tweak your cover letter or send an email to a head of a company could be what pushes you to the top of the list of candidates. So what are you waiting for? Put on a cute outfit and a pretty smile for your LinkedIn profile picture and get working.