Summer Internships: Tips, Tricks & Helpful Hints

For many fields, right now is the time to apply to summer internships (if you haven't already). Internships are a great way to get real, hands-on experience before applying to jobs post-grad. Specifically for me in PR, employers want to see about three different agency experiences before hiring.



Narrow your search down.


Before you start applying willy-nilly, I recommend narrowing your search in terms of location, size or scope of company and/or position. This will not only give you a starting point, it will nail down exactly what you want out of this summer and that passion will come through in your applications.



For me, I chose a location first. Many choose to apply to internships in their hometown because free lodging and food, but if you can swing it, a new city with possibly better jobs for what you're looking for is a great option.


From the location you might have inadvertently chosen a size of company, depending how big the city, but if not, this can be a pretty defining decision. Larger companies will typically have a very specific role in mind for their interns, whereas small to medium-sized companies may have a position that is a blend of a few.


Those smaller companies may give you a broader knowledge of the industry and give you a more well-rounded experience. Larger companies are a great choice if you have already had an internship and seen different aspects of the industry, and therefore know what you specifically like to do or are good at. This could also be an opportunity to specialize yourself for the future.


Knowing what position to look for is extremely important because this will determine the tasks and experiences you'll have for a couple of months. Additionally, if you apply to several different position types, you will create more work for yourself having to create new cover letters and resumes targeted to that given position. When you apply to similar positions, you are able to personalize your cover letter and resume without having to change most of the content you're citing.


Get organized.


As soon as I started accumulating the internships I wanted to apply for, I created an excel to help me stay on track. Each row of internships has a place for the company name, position title, paid or unpaid, location, contact info, link to application, application status (applied, interview, rejected, offered, etc.) and a miscellaneous column for extra links or information.


I also put them in order of deadline so that I could work my way down the list.


Once I complete an application, I highlight the entire row green, and honestly there isn't much out there that makes me feel more accomplished.


Apply with your best foot forward.


It's easy to go through the motions with these applications...but please don't. I recommend applying to between twelve and twenty positions, which sounds like a lot but sometimes that's what it takes. If you are serious about getting an internship, you will need to stand out-- and there are several ways to do that.



Resumes and cover letters can be a drag (I think I agonized over my resume for three-ish weeks). Typically, the first thing an employer will see is your resume, and then cover letter so it's extremely important to start off right.


Make sure you personalize each version to wherever you're applying. Employers will notice this and look for this amongst their candidates because those that personalize show they want the position most. Use keywords that are listed in the position description or in the section titled something like "Who we are looking for." Some companies use a software that immediately weeds out applications that don't use their keywords.


I always like to address the person who will be reviewing the cover letter, which might take some digging or asking through a friend of a friend, but again, they'll notice. Also, I really like tying my resume and cover letter together with a theme (color and/or style) to make it stand out and stand together.


Take those writing prompts seriously. You should write them with plenty of time to edit and perfect before submitting. Often times, these prompts are where they look for creativity and uniqueness, so take some time to think about what your writing says about you.



Make sure to attach supplemental documents. If you make it to the final round of reviewing applications, it may come down to experience or prior work (that they have access to and know about). If you don't have a lot of experience, attach class work or you can write or create a sample specifically for the application.


Specifically with my field, they look for online links indicating I have been published or have an online presence. Being published really matters to employers so if you have anything online (could again be a class project), be sure to polish it and send it along.


References and recommendations are also a great way to prove the things you present in the rest of your application. Most people think of themselves as a great candidate, but what do others think of you? Try to find a recommendation from a professional relationship and not personal, but one personal recommendation, in addition to others, from a peer or distant family member is perfectly fine.  



Follow up and be professional.


If you get to the next few stages of the internship process, it is really important you maintain your composure but also show persistency.


If a company doesn't get back to you within one to two weeks, don't be afraid to send a personalized email, which will show your determination and willingness to go beyond simple expectations.


Interviews can seem daunting, but if you stay true to yourself while maintaining professionalism and passion, your odds are much higher.


Remember, you won't get everything you apply for. You might only get one out of twenty or so, and that's fine, because one is all you need. One internship can lead to something great, possibly a career.


Take your time and be intentional with everything, be yourself, know who you are and what you want and demonstrate it. It's easier said than done, but you can do this!!


Go out there and get yourself an internship.