How To Score The Internship Of Your Dreams

Say it with me: Finding an internship is STRESSFUL.  Some majors, like mine, require internship experience to graduate, and even if an internship isn’t required it can still be expected on your resume by the time you graduate. Plus, college may be the one time in your life when it will be possible for you to get unpaid experience without jeopardizing your finances. With all that in mind, even typing your field of study into a job search site can be daunting. Follow these tips to be on your way to working your dream internship in no time. 

1. Make a list

 Start by scouring every job site you can, including your own school’s resources. Ohio State has so many resources for finding internships, and some departments, like the School of Environment and Natural Resources, even have career offices just for your major. Make a detailed list, or even an excel spreadsheet of every internship that interests you. Include the title, location, pay (if any,) link to the application, application deadline, and a few bullet points where you can list what you have done towards the position so far and keep track of which ones you have applied to. Even if you aren’t sure if you have the experience or the means to get an internship you’re interested in, put it on the list anyway! This is just a way for you to start organizing your opportunities in one place, so that you don’t have to panic when you forget which website you found what internship on. Aim for ten to fifteen internships on your list, even if you think you won't apply to all of them. 

2. Fix that resume!

You may think a resume should be the first thing to focus on in your search. However, looking up potential positions and seeing what kind of language they use in the descriptions will help you know what employers in your field want to see on your resume. Create one, master copy of your resume in the form of a word doc, and put everything you can think of, from work experience to extracurriculars to relevant coursework, even if you end up with several pages. Then, when you begin applying to internships, you can move things around, or cut them out if they aren’t relevant to the position. Also, by creating a master resume with all of your experiences, you’ll have something to reference when writing cover letters or preparing for interviews. Copy and paste your master copy over to a different document to edit, then convert it into a pdf to submit it so your formatting stays crisp. Different viewing programs will support word documents in different ways, and sending in a pdf will help you avoid any risk of an unprofessional-looking resume. 

3. Start applying

Once you have your list and your resume, focus on your top choices first and work your way down to internships that you aren’t as interested in. You should put as much work into an application as you can, but getting the more important ones done first will leave you some breathing room if you get busy. You may also save yourself some extra work if you begin to hear back from your top choices before you apply for internships that are lower on your list. If an application asks for a cover letter, make sure it is unique to the position, but don’t be afraid to have a template that you can work with and change according to each application. Update your list as you apply, so that you can look back and see which internships you’re waiting to hear back from and which you still need to apply for, especially if you applied for several positions within the same company. The last thing you want to do is realize that you never even sent in the application for an internship that you were interested in.

4. Interviewing and Correspondence

While some applications will have an explicit note that says not to follow up, be sure to follow up on any applications without this note that you haven’t heard back from within a few weeks after the deadline. A follow-up email with a few sentences about why you’re so interested in the position can mean the difference between a company passing up your resume and recognizing your name. If you happen to know anyone already involved with the company, ask them if they would be willing to forward your resume to whoever is doing the hiring, especially if they are a well-known name within the company. Networking MATTERS. Once you send in your applications, most employers will choose to get in touch with you over email or phone to set up an interview if they’re interested. When you start to hear back from companies, try to answer emails and return phone calls as soon as possible, so they know you’re still interested and are willing to communicate. Have a portfolio with a few copies of your resume and a notebook for questions ready for in-person interviews, and also to reference if you have phone interviews. It looks really great to have questions prepared for an interview, because it shows that you are as interested in them as they are in you.  Within a day or two of an interview, remember to send a thank you email to your interviewers to put your name back in their heads and remind them of what a great addition you would be to their company. Keep your original list handy too, so that you can keep track of what interviews you have and what emails you’ve sent.

5. The Waiting Game

Once you’ve had interviews and sent your thank you emails, there can still be a significant amount of time between this and finding out if you got the internship. Right after interviews, treat yourself to some relaxation time and be proud of yourself for making it this far. Try not to obsess over it, as hard as it may be. Focus on your classes and keep yourself busy with building the other sections of your resume, or even applying for more internships if you can. Resist the urge to jump at your phone every time you get an email notification and give the employers time to make a decision. Remind yourself that even having the courage to apply and interview for an internship is a big deal, no matter what the results are. If you end up having to decide between more than one internship, weigh your options carefully, and make sure you are polite and grateful in declining any offers, in case you want to work with that company in the future. If you don’t get any offers this time around, ask your top choices for feedback, and give yourself some time to reflect before jumping back into applying for more internships. 

I followed the steps above, and I’m currently preparing to start my dream internship at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium this summer! Don’t be afraid to jump at opportunities you weren’t expecting, because college should be a time for you to explore your options. Follow the tips in this guide, and you’ll be on your way to scoring the internship of your dreams!

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