Many GW students flock to Washington, D.C. to get a foot in the door of our nation’s capital, the country’s locus of power. GW students are notorious for trying to balance 12 things at once (Classes! Work! Internship! Student Orgs! Exercise! Sleep! Well…maybe not sleep.) It can sometimes feel like everyone and their roommate has an internship, and that sentiment may not be just an illusion: the Princeton Review recently rated GW as the #1 school for internships in the country, besting 24 competitors.
The first few months of the year are the height of the season for applying for summer internships, and for novices (actually, even for seasoned pros!) the process can feel a little overwhelming. Luckily, Her Campus GWU has teamed up with GW’s Center for Career Services to offer some tips to keep in mind throughout the process from the search to the application, to interview and to success!
#1: Know Yourself.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is crucial! Take a moment to consider some of your strengths, be they technical (like software programming) or “soft” (like leadership or writing.)
“Pay attention to your skills and strengths as you identify and evaluate internship options,” says Rachel Brown, assistant provost for University Career Services at GW. “Does the position provide the opportunity for you to utilize your skills/strengths? Will the position help you to further enhance your skills and build new ones?”
Once you figure out your strengths, the next step is making sure those skills are articulated in places like your resume, cover letter, online presence, and even in casual conversation. Ultimately, you need to know your strengths to be able to voice them.
#2: Know how to connect.
The next step is connecting with employers. GW’s GWork website is a valuable resource for this, but also consider alternative resources like the GW LinkedIn Group to identify alumni with jobs or connections in your area of interest.
“Connect with employers at GW events such as career fairs, employer information sessions/meet and greets, employer site visits, alumni events etc.” says Brown. “There are numerous opportunities every week for GW students to connect with employers. Meeting a prospective employer in person when you are prepared is one of the best ways to connect. Even if the employer isn’t recruiting for an internship, if you make a good impression, the employer will remember you in the future.”
#3: Know how to be a professional.
Professional behavior is not only key to landing an internship, but also keeping one and ensuring your employer retains a positive impression of you afterward. You never know when you may want or need to use your employer as a future resource, for a recommendation letter or reference, for instance. “Being a professional is steeply based in values: acting with integrity, being honest, keeping commitments, being trustworthy, treating others with respect, doing your best,” says Brown. “Do not under rate the importance of these. Try to practice these principles in all your affairs. They are critical to your success and are guaranteed to enhance your internship experience before, during and after.”
#4: Put in the work and show your interest.
Some internship applications can be long and time-consuming, and you may not feel you have the time to sit and commit a lot of time to them. However, taking the time to research a position and express in an application why you are a good fit may actually save you time if you hear back early enough from an employer with a positive response! One Her Campus GWU writer once sent in applications for three different positions at the same organization, and was informed later on at the interview that she was only taken seriously as a candidate because each cover letter was tailored, individually written, and individually addressed. She was offered an internship, and that position helped her land a paid summer internship at a different organization!
The takeaway? It pays to pay attention.
#5: Don’t be fazed by unpaid internships.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Living in Washington, DC can be notoriously expensive (it’s got the fourth-highest rent in the country!) Most internships in the DC area are unpaid, which often scares away the many students who can’t afford to pay out of pocket to live in DC for the summer. That being said, there are resources out there (like GW’s Knowledge in Action Career Internship Fund) to help minimize these out of pocket costs. If you don’t toss your hat in the ring, you may miss a valuable internship opportunity!
Good luck with internship application season, collegiettes! Have any other internship advice? Leave a comment below!