As I’ve been searching for internship opportunities for this upcoming summer, my standing as a current college sophomore has served as a consistent obstacle for me.
As freshman, most students aren’t stressing too much about finding real work – it’s impressive enough to have had any type of work experience coming into college, or even your sophomore year. Up until this point in our academic lives, we’ve all been busy just trying to figure out our intended majors and working to finalize our career goals. Now, it’s second semester of sophomore year, and I’m realizing that the experience I’ll have this upcoming summer will be the one that sets me up for ideal future opportunities.
Companies are looking to hire juniors and seniors for their internship programs in the hopes that those students will then master the trade of that particular company and work there post-undergrad. Unfortunately, this is why most recruiters emphasize upperclassmen applications and tend to brush underclassmen apps under the rug. But how are underclassmen expected to be qualified enough for internships as upperclassmen if we cannot lay the groundwork and gain those valuable experiences now?
Here are a few suggestions I have based on my personal job-finding struggles:
1) Look for opportunities through your university.
No matter what university you attend, chances are high that there are plenty of resources you have not tapped into yet, and may still be completely unaware of. For example, specific job listings can be found online through your universities’ website or through your school administrators. If you go to the main office of your college, you will find plenty of people whose sole purpose is to help struggling students find ideal work opportunities.
There are also occasional internship opportunity fairs, where students get the chance to mingle with potential employers. Although these public fairs tend to be fairly crowded, it is still worth exploring and at least picking up a few pamphlets that interest you – you might be surprised what you find.
And don’t forget that these recruiters are coming to your university for a reason: to find bright young college students just like you who are willing to take the initiative in finding a job. Even a five-minute conversation or quick email exchange can leave a great first impression and open up potential doorways for you.
2) Ask your advisor for guidance.
Even if you aren’t really sure what you’re looking for in terms of a summer experience, meet with an advisor and just talk about your academic interests. Schools offer general advisors as well as advisors that specialize in particular areas of study, and both can help give you some direction. Sometimes just having to verbalize your thoughts can make you realize what’s really important to you, and you can then self-direct yourself from there. Personally, I was very unsure of my available minor options coming into college, and was able to discover so many interesting programs through the help of an advisor.
3) Utilize your connections.
One of the most frustrating aspects of this process has been that, despite applying to multiple internship programs, I cannot seem to catch the attention of these employers enough to even receive a response. Without a real interview, it’s difficult to distinguish yourself from the other candidates and earn a decent chance at that position.
But, this is where your relationships and networking can come in handy. Dig deep and think about any possible people you may know that could have beneficial professional connections for you. Even if you may not know the person very well, still reach out to them and at least ask about their experience. Especially as an underclassman, a recommendation can serve as a little extra push, and can really go a long way.
4) Continually update your public resume.
Beyond the opportunities made available to you by your university, there are plenty of other job boards out there that allow you to apply to internships very efficiently. Many of these sites have the option to create a public resume and profile that employers can then access and use to recruit you without you even having to initiate any interest. The job boards I have found most useful include LinkedIn, SimplyHired and Internships.com, which all allow you to search key words and geographical locations in order to find your ideal internship match. Keeping these profiles as up-to-date as possible is very important, as it might just be that one detail you recently updated that caught an employer’s eye.
5) Make your cover letters personal.
It can be a little bit of a hassle to have to rewrite a cover letter for each company you apply to, but it is so crucial that you personalize each one. Especially if you’re looking to apply to national or global brands, the pool of applicants is enormous, and it is easy for students to get lost among their competitors. Before writing your cover letters, make sure to really check out the company’s website and make sure you understand and agree with their missions statement and perspectives as a company.
6) Have confidence!
No one else is going to boost you up during the application process besides you, so don’t sell yourself short. Even if you haven’t had much work experience, make the experiences that you have had sound as valuable as you can. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t receiving positive feedback from companies – you probably just haven’t found the right fit yet! Stay positive and remember that this is a tough couple of years for us ambitious underclassmen, but your work ethic and persistence won’t let you down in the end.
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