Looking for an internship as a college student is challenging. There are lots of questions going through our minds: am I experienced enough? How can I stand out as a candidate? What if they take advantage of me and I end up just running errands all day? It’s okay to feel this way and be uncertain about what the internship search process will look like, especially if it’s your first time going through it. This is why I will be discussing some tips and tricks I’ve personally found helpful in the past. I’ll be dividing the internship search process into three parts: prep, search, and secure.
Be Aware of Your Strengths
When drafting a resume for the first time, it’s hard to know exactly what to highlight under the skills section. Apart from the more practical abilities such as Microsoft Excel or Photoshop, one should also provide insight into the day-to-day tactical know-how. Think about experiences you had in the past and how you navigated them. Maybe you have been in charge of a group project (teamwork) or ran an Instagram account for a club (social media management). Sit down and think of instances like these that you know you have learned from and can comfortably tackle in the future. And even if you feel like there are some skills you haven’t mastered yet, step out of your comfort zone and be willing to experience them.
Sometimes we tend to underestimate the importance specific experiences might have when thinking about skill-building. Make sure to make the most out of every involvement you’ve had in school, work, volunteering events, or even personal projects. Building a resume or a portfolio is all about knowing how to sell yourself. For instance, it’s not the same saying you were part of your school’s music group as phrasing it as “vocalist/instrumentalist in charge of musical repertoire for school performances.” The latter does not only show involvement, but in a way, it also makes your skills look more transferable to other possible opportunities an employer might consider.
Know What You’re Looking For
Even though it’s important to search for multiple positions that look for varying skills, you should be aware of your boundaries when it comes to responsibilities. What do you want to get out of your internship experience? What would help establish your career in the long term? When looking at different offers and what they expect candidates to do, have these things in mind.
Make sure you have connections that can provide letters of recommendation for programs you’re interested in. Go to office hours and talk to your professors, reach out to past employers, or even shoot an email to that cool high school teacher that always supported you!
Take Advantage of Your School’s Resources
Does your school have an office for professional development? Does it host career events and job fairs? Do you have advisors from your major? As a college student, the answer to these questions is very likely to be yes, so take advantage of these resources, even though you already know what programs you want to apply to. Networking, being exposed to new resources and hearing different perspectives always contributes to a safer and more researched internship search; put yourself out there!
LinkedIn’s Your Best Friend
After speaking with many alumni that have already established themselves in their respective industries, I’ve found it very common to land jobs through LinkedIn searches and connections. Make sure you update your LinkedIn page to look like an electronic CV: describe your experiences, write an about me section, interact with other people’s posts, and, most importantly, use it to look for jobs! Many employers list their vacant positions and openings there—make sure you play with the platform’s filters to find many opportunities you probably wouldn’t on a typical google search!
Use Multiple Platforms
Even though LinkedIn’s great and one of the most widespread professional tools you’ll find, you should also check out different job search platforms and even industry-specific websites! For instance, if you’re looking for entertainment industry internships, I recommend looking into Entertainment Careers and ShowbizJobs alongside other broader platforms such as Glassdoor, Google Jobs, and indeed. I would also recommend utilizing Handshake, a platform many college campuses use to connect employers with students.
Reach Out and Be Consistent
Don’t be shy! Reach out to recruiters or even people working in the industries or companies you’re interested in. Even though it feels intrusive at first, everyone has been in your shoes and is generally very eager to help. Keep in mind that some people are very busy, which is why it’s important to circle back from time to time if you’re really interested in a specific opportunity. Consistency is key! It’s more likely someone will reach back if they notice how eager you are to connect.
Lastly, get used to requesting informational interviews with professionals you find on LinkedIn or other platforms. Asking questions about the field that interests you to someone currently working in it can be very helpful when determining if it’s something you really want to put time in. For instance, maybe you’re not too sure if you’d rather pursue an internship in Marketing or PR—meet up with professionals in both fields for short informational interviews to get an insight into what the day-to-day of both professions looks like!
Always Keep Track
Keep track of the people you reach out to and the internships you apply for. I always recommend using the app Notion, which allows you to create your own templates to organize information. For example, I made my own Job Applications template—available by clicking the link! In it, you’ll find designated columns to keep track of your submission documents (CVs, cover letter templates, and portfolio links). However, its star asset is the main “Applications” table, which allows for easy categorization of each job/internship you apply to. Keep track of application status, deadlines, dates, location, salaries and more in just one page!
Again, Be Consistent!
After applying for internship opportunities, you’ll typically have to wait until you get the first response. Then, if you’re invited to touch base with your employer, make sure you show interest by circling back from time to time. This doesn’t mean “go and harass recruiters!”—just reach out every couple of weeks after being contacted to reassure the company that you’re very eager to work with them.
Being a good interviewee is a skill you build over time, which means that practice will always help in many ways. Eventually, you won’t only feel more comfortable answering complicated questions for someone you don’t know. You’ll also get to hone your people skills and learn more about what you’re looking for career-wise. Furthermore, remember to ask questions yourself—professional interviews shouldn’t be one-sided! And finally, make sure you show interest in learning about the company’s ethos and culture; let them see you want to be part of the team. For more interview tips, check out an indeed article that goes in-depth about making a great first impression.
Is It a Match?
Every internship search process is different. You might find an opportunity you really like very early on, or you might struggle to stand out as a candidate in a very competitive field. No matter how the process flows, keep one thing in mind: there is an opportunity waiting for you. It may not happen as soon as you think. It might take longer for you to find it, but it’s out there. Don’t close yourself off from trying new things and reaching out to people; you might stumble upon an opportunity you had not even considered during your search. Lastly, keep in mind that an internship should be a match between you and the employer, so make sure you’re also satisfied by an opportunity’s requirements and responsibilities—just like interviews, job and internship offers should benefit both ends!