5 Lessons I've Learned From Internship Searching

The world of college internships is cutthroat and competitive. As a junior finance major, I have firsthand experience with many different interview and job application processes. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few years of countless applications.

  1. 1. Always, and I mean always, personalize your application

    In the modern age of boundless technology, applicant tracking systems are becoming increasingly common: 99% of Fortune 500 companies use them. Therefore, it’s important to use keywords from the description of the internship you applied for in your resume to make sure it’s selected by application software as a match to what the company is looking for. Never lie, but make sure to adapt all parts of your application to show how your experiences and qualifications are relevant for the job. Consider saving many different versions of your resume for each different position you apply for instead of simply editing one document; this can help keep you organized.

  2. 2. They might not be the right fit for you (not just the other way around)

    Puzzle with missing piece

    Even if the pay is great, the company’s mission resonates with you and the location is convenient, this internship and/or team might not be right for you. As college students — often with little professional experience — we aren’t always picky enough about where we want to work. We may be devastated when rejected from an opportunity, even though it probably wasn’t the right fit for us. Consider what you want out of a work environment, boss and position, and take this into account, because employers can tell when you’re simply desperate for a salary and not excited about the specific role.

  3. 3. Cramming works for exams, but not interviews

    Coffee next to planner

    Sufficient and early preparation is the key to a successful interview. Before you even get an interview offer, research the company and role you’re applying for, and record what you learn. Who is the CEO? What do they believe in and what is their leadership style? What’s happening in this company’s industry right now? Has this company been in the news lately? These questions, and more, could help you decide that you do (or don’t) want the position in question. Once you get a call asking for an interview, write down your answers for all common interview questions (adapted to fit skills and traits listed in the job description). By leaving yourself ample time to prepare for an interview, your anxiety levels will be lower and you’ll be able to think clearly on the day of.

  4. 4. Apply ASAP

    Many listings on Handshake, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc. remain open for many months at a time, but applying as soon as you see the listing is critical. A majority of the positions are filled sooner than the listed deadline, and employers often don’t promptly remove their descriptions. Your exquisite resume and cover letter may not have garnered an interview offer because the winning candidate was chosen weeks before you applied. Be careful that you don’t waste time on too many old listing applications and take initiative to apply early in order to receive the most responses.

  5. 5. Investing time into a job you didn’t get isn’t a waste of time (even though it feels like it is)

    During every evaluation process, you’ll learn valuable lessons. You’ll learn about interview questions, different companies’ procedures, various tests, and more. Every “no” is one step closer to your “yes,” and a weak spot you notice in one interview could help you in the next one. Through your rejections, you may learn more than you will through your successes.

Whether you’re offered the first internship you apply for or you’re rejected 20 times, you’ll gain valuable insight from those experiences. Growth isn’t comfortable, but it’s invaluable, so don’t be afraid of the sting of rejection. Use denial to fuel you and show you where you can improve — whether that’s through interview practice, gaining technical skills, resume overhauling, or something else.