6 Key Tips for Applying to Internships

It’s been a couple months into the new school year, and personal connectivity with others has dwindled drastically since the sudden end of the spring semester last year. Now as a sophomore, it is time for me to begin considering my career prospects more seriously—meaning I have to start the process of looking for internships to gain professional experience. As I've found out so far early in this academic year, this is difficult given the ongoing pandemic situation. Many students are already struggling with the transition to online classes and lack of socializing, and to keep track of internship applications on top of everything else can feel daunting. Here are some tips to help you with finding internship opportunities, and potentially lead you to the position you want!

  1. 1. Search for Internships Everywhere

    With so many companies and programs around, how exactly should I start? Where do I find these internships? These were some of the questions I asked myself when I opened my laptop a couple of months ago, ready to hunt for some internships. Turns out, internships are everywhere—just search up “[insert position] internships” on Google and you’ll find a whole catalogue of sites that will have a long list of them, such as Indeed or Glassdoor. The real difficulty is finding an internship that matches your tastes and location. There are internships that are either paid or unpaid, and places that require or don’t require a long list of skills. Initially, I was nervous about the wide range of skill requirements for an internship, but I eventually learned that these descriptions only explain their ideal candidate, so don’t be afraid to apply. The site I found most helpful for internship lists is LinkedIn, but something more useful than online searching is asking peers and professionals for opportunities. Having a referral to back up your application goes a long way!

  2. 2. Organize Your Long List of Potential Internships with Spreadsheets

    After finding a bunch of interesting internships related to your career field, what do you do with all of these tabs and bookmarks? Spreadsheets are especially useful in these situations for sorting out a lot of information. I currently use Microsoft Excel, but any other related applications will work for this. To keep track of internships, I find that creating a table helps to sort out applications by deadlines, given how due dates are the most difficult to keep in mind throughout everything else in the school year. Some of the other essential information to add in your table are the company’s name, the position, whether it is paid or unpaid, and a link to the job description. Comparing the conditions of different internships will help you prioritize certain applications over others.

  3. 3. Network with Others on LinkedIn

    If you haven’t already, it will be helpful to set up a LinkedIn account even if you aren’t applying to internships at the moment. Not only will it be useful eventually for that purpose, but it also gives you a perspective on the thoughts and skills of other professionals. Following a certain company you want to work for will also notify you of any opportunities there. Job recruiters, employees, and the alumni of your school are often active on LinkedIn. If there is someone that matches your education and has experience in the position you are looking to apply to, LinkedIn allows you to request making a connection with them. Networking is difficult if you’re like me, when you find yourself weary to reach out and ask questions to unfamiliar people. I was initially apprehensive, but after taking the challenge to message other people, I realized that users are far more likely to respond politely and generously answer any concerns or questions about internships.

  4. 4. How to Write the Most Self-Conscious Emails

    In a time where casual text and social media messages dominate our online reading and writing, it becomes more difficult to send formal emails to professionals and job recruiters, especially towards ones who you want to make a good impression on. The key to writing these kinds of emails is to use a tone of gratitude and positivity, while maintaining a sense of distance. For example, the greeting and salutations should be more formal. I often use “Dear Ms./Mr.” at the beginning and “Sincerely,” at the ending to keep it safe, but there are several other ways you can address them. If you want to further connect with the recruiter, it’s a good idea to close the email by mentioning how you’re looking forward to interacting with them more. Another thing to be aware of is the subject line—make sure it is to the point and it explains what kind of email it is.

  5. 5. Prepare Well for Interviews

    If the recruiter happens to take an interest in your application, that’s great! Now comes the next big step, which typically happens to be the nerve-wracking interview stage. But, it doesn’t have to be dreaded if you’ve taken the time to be ready for the questions they’ll throw at you. They will usually ask some common interview questions like “tell me about yourself,” so prepare beforehand what you want to say. To go into the interview confident, practice in front of a mirror or record yourself to ensure you can answer from the top of your head. Not only will the answers be important, but it is also crucial that you present your strengths and involvements in a way that shows you’ll contribute to the job they’re offering.

  6. 6. Take Time to De-Stress

    Anxiety naturally comes before an interview, but there are ways to help soothe some of those nerves. First, make sure to take care of yourself with healthy habits such as sleeping well, exercising, and drinking water. For me, the most effective way to reduce stress is to believe that this interview would never be the end-all for my career prospects. I find it helpful to take a walk outside to get fresh air before and after a job interview, so I can ease my mind a little bit. When I’m outside, I find it easier to remind myself that this trial will not dictate everything in life.

There are plenty of internships out there, so apply to many of them and try out different opportunities. At the same time, being unable to get an internship will not be the end of the world. Creating your own projects and learning new skills are aspects that can also appeal to recruiters. Everyone works towards their own goals in a different manner, and nobody is an exception to that.