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A Month-by-Month Guide to Getting Your Dream Internship

While summer internship applications are probably the last thing on your mind as you’re getting settled into your dorm room at school, time flies, and before you know it, you’ll be swamped with contacts to reach out to and cover letters to write. Don’t worry, HC’s got you covered! Here’s our month-by-month guide to getting your dream internship by next summer.
We know it has only been a few weeks (or days!) since your last internship ended, but don’t get out of the career mindset quite yet. As you are saying your goodbyes, make sure to maintain good relations with your employer. It’s a definite possibility that you will need to use her as a reference in the future and you’ll want to stay on her good side.
The beginning of the school year means figuring out where you stored your stuff last spring, long lines at the bookstore, and meeting new friends. It’s also when your school’s career center will be putting on some interesting events that will give you a head start in the internship application process. Try to get your foot in the door by attending orientation seminars and informational workshops.
You’ll also find yourself bombarded with sign-up sheets for every club imaginable. Extracurricular participation is an important component of your resume and shows interests and initiative – all things that employers like. If you want to pursue an internship in journalism, consider signing up for your school’s newspaper. Finance instead? Your school’s student investment fund would be great interview fodder. If you see yourself on Capitol Hill, check out the International Relations Club or student government. No matter what, try to get involved!
To Do:

  • Shoot an email to your boss from last summer just to say hi and check in. Who knows, she might know of some good opportunities that she’ll send your way!
  • Head over the career center for some helpful info as you start your search.
  • Sign up for clubs that you are interested in. Not only will you get a great experience that will help your application, but many times they’ll advertise internship opportunities exclusive to only their club members.

After you get settled into school, you should start thinking about what internship programs you are interested in. Make sure you do your research!
According to career coach Dr. Randall Hansen, the early part of the semester should be spent making a list of possible internships by talking to upperclassmen who have just returned from internships, meeting with the Career Services Office and chatting with professors.
While you still have a lot of time to figure out future career plans, this summer’s internship will definitely open more doors for next summer and potentially even full time opportunities. Some of the most prestigious internships require prior experience in the field. Make sure you keep this in mind as you do your research!
This is a good time to figure out your school’s credit policy. Whether you’ll be able to receive credit and the process for obtaining credit will be important as you narrow down your list of potential employers. Many popular internships are unpaid and are for-credit only. If you’re considering an unpaid internship, think about how you’ll budget your money and if you’ll need to get a part-time job too.
While you want to keep your options open, make sure to keep your list reasonable. If you have to write 40 cover letters, you’re much less likely to spend time perfecting each one and making them personalized.
“As you are building a small list of the best internship opportunities, you should also be working on perfecting your resume and basic cover letter. You will, of course, want to tailor both to each specific internship opportunity,” Dr. Hansen said.
To Do:

  • Chat with upperclassmen friends about their internship experiences.
  • Browse company websites to get more details about their internship programs.
  • Make a list of companies you want to work for.
  • Put together a basic resume (tips here!) and cover letter (tips here!).
  • Heads up! Some internships have an early deadline of November 1st.  So if you’re interested in applying for the State Department or the American Society of Magazine Editors internships, for example, make sure you get on it as soon as you get back to school!

Internship application season should be in full swing by this point. There will be networking opportunities and career fairs for you to attend. The most important thing you can do right now is to schedule a meeting with a career counselor, either through your career center or another service. They will be able to proofread your resume and cover letters to make sure they are absolutely spotless. They can also serve as a mock interview to help you prepare for any tough questions that may come your way.
You should also be aware of what industry-specific things will be required for the application, such as published clips or writing samples, so as to not get caught in a bind moments before the application is due. Recommendation letter requests should also be made with ample time as not to leave your recommender in a bind. Remember, you want them to tell the company that you are organized and have good time management skills, not the opposite!
If you have contacts at a firm that you are interested in applying to, now would be a good time to reach out. People are less likely to be helpful if you email them the week before the application deadline. Give yourself a few weeks to build up a relationship – suggest an informational interview to learn more about the industry and their jobs. Ask how you can strengthen your application. When your name is circulated around the office as an applicant, they will be more likely to remember you.
To Do:

  • Schedule an appointment with a career counselor to discuss your applications and any questions you may have.
  • Start putting together your application, including all recommendation letters, writing samples, and transcripts.
  • Reach out to any contacts you may have at companies to get to know the program and the company better.

According to Dr. Hansen, some of the big “national” internships with Fortune 100 and other organizations have deadlines before the end of the year. Make sure you do your research and keep a calendar to keep all the deadlines straight. 
To Do:

  • Keep track of deadlines in your calendar and make sure you get your applications in with plenty of time to spare!

This is interview season for many of the biggest and most popular of the internship programs. Make sure you research all about the industry, the company, and the position for which you are applying. If you are interested in consulting or finance, industries known for their rigorous interview processes, make sure you talk with people who have done it before and practice!
After the interview, make sure to send a thank you note! This is very important, as it indicates that you are appreciative and are serious about getting the job. Figure out whether a card or a letter is appropriate, or if an email will suffice. Either way, let your interviewer know that you are truly appreciative of the opportunity!
Many internships programs also have spring deadlines, so keep track of these in your calendar!
To Do:

  • Schedule mock interviews with your career counselor to practice before your real interview.
  • Save all of the contact information of your interviewers to send out thank you notes. 

If you haven’t landed your dream internship yet, don’t fret! Many times, things will come together towards the end of the recruiting process. Stay updated on new job postings at the career center and be proactive about reaching out to companies that may not have advertised their internship program already.
“You might also start looking more locally. Typically smaller organizations have no specific deadlines. Some places may not even have a formal internship program – but you can be proactive and even offer to help develop it as part of your internship,” Dr. Hansen said.
To Do:

  • Continue checking internship postings on your Career Center’s website.
  • Reach out directly to companies you would like to intern for.
  • Focus on looking for smaller, local internships.

This is our fool-roof, tried and tested method for being successful in your internship search. If you’re reading this article, you’re already on the right track. The sooner you start, the more successful you’ll be in landing the internship you’ve been dying for. Good luck!
Dr. Randall Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers

Dawn Hu is a senior at Georgetown University majoring in International Economics in the School of Foreign Service. She is originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, but spent her high school years in New Hampshire. In addition to contributing to Her Campus, Dawn currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, and was formerly the Senior Campus News Editor, as well. Some of her favorite things are frozen yogurt, eating out, spontaneous trips with friends, and epic Law & Order SVU marathons.