How to Get Through This Internship Recruitment Season

Fall is approaching, coffee is brewing, job postings are loading, and tis’ the season for internship-hunting. Whether you’re a junior, a sophomore, or an overly ambitious freshman, you’ll know that getting an internship is necessary for preparing your full-time career. 

Around this time last year, I was a junior in college looking for my first summer internship. Like many novices, I was super excited to send my first few applications: “I can’t wait to start working!,” “I want to get a glimpse of the real world!” “I’m becoming an adult!” Oh honey, my naivety in the job-hunting world soon diminished after facing multiple rejections. 

Luckily, I was able to secure a full-time internship at a “big 5” company in March 2019, only three months prior to my start date. I learned many lessons throughout the journey, but the most important one was the ability to keep hustling even when the odds weren’t in my favor. In other words: I learned to build “mental toughness.”

If this is your first time applying for internships, brace yourself for sweat, tears, and 2 a.m. caffeine. It’s not an easy ride but it’s oh-so-worth-it! Having gone through the experience myself, here are 5 things that I want to share with you:

1. Stalk, message, and network with your LinkedIn role models (preferably people within your reach)

LinkedIn is a one-stop-search to find people who you aspire to be. It’s a place to learn from those who’ve been through the difficult task of getting their “foot in the door.” What experience did they have to be here? How do they brand themselves? What did they do in college to be where they are now? 

Find people who you see a reflection of your future and invite them for a cup of coffee over LinkedIn. It's very common for newbies to strike a shot at senior-level managers, but reaching for the "higher-ups" won't necessarily guarantee you a direct ticket to an internship. Above all, they’re too busy to make time for a collegiate kiddo like you (unless, of course, you make a stellar impression). Instead, look for people who are one step ahead of you, like former interns or recent graduates. They’ve closer to you in the journey and are more likely to give realistic, step-by-step advice on how to tackle the job-hunting process.

2. Your resume will grow and so will you 

My resume was drafted again and again every time I faced a new rejection letter. As pessimistic as I was, I kept asking “What am I doing wrong?” while brooding over my failure. Turns out, it's not that I'm not qualified for the internship but because I wasn't using language that matches the job’s expectations. Some common mistakes I found along the way were: not using persuasive language, not using vocabulary fit for the job, and not clearly describing my previous roles. This brings back to point #1: you need to stalk your role models, read their bio, and borrow the “language of the job.”

3. Have a personal mission statement

How do you think Akosua Boadi-Agyemang got an internship at Microsoft without "being bold"? How do you think Cassandra Hsiao got into 8 Ivy League schools without being true to her origin? You can only stand out from thousands of applicants if you give recruiters a reason to hire you - you must find your own "unique offering." Create a personal brand and show them what you're born to do! (At the same time you're reading this, did you know that Lady Gaga is humming to Born This Way in the background?)

At the beginning of my job-hunting process, my resume looked like a straw in a haystack - boring, invisible, and not so impressive. Then I started filling in the prompt “Hi, my name is [me] and I’m here to…” to help me find purpose in myself. This simple sentence changed multiple times through different companies. If I had a diary that documented my personal mission statement, I could see growth in my professional understanding. On a different note, you can use this prompt to help you answer the “Tell me about yourself” question or even write an awesome cover letter.

4. Find other internship-hunters like you

If you’re feeling hopeless because you haven’t been called for interviews, you’re not alone. All intern applicants, current and former, understand the hardship of finding their first real-life opportunity. For many, it's the point in life when they move from "nothing to something." 

We compete with each other for internships, but we also need one another to help everybody move forward. There are tons of Facebook groups dedicated to mentorship and student-to-student learning. You just need to ask “Hey, does anyone have experience interviewing with [company]?” in a forum and there’ll be tons of people who are ready to have your back. If your university doesn’t have a Facebook group, make one! It’s as simple as posting “is anyone interested in forming an interview prep group for [position]?”

5. Don’t stop applying! You’re going to get it!

It’s already March and you have already received hundreds of rejection emails. You’re tired of the “Thank you for applying to…” OK, OK, you’re rejected, you get it, but don’t let this discourage you from reaching an opportunity of a lifetime. Internships are super valuable. It’s one of the few college experiences that give you an advantage when you look for jobs after you graduate. You've been practicing the art of interviewing for months and you’re almost at the top of the mastery.

You need this. Hold your life onto it. Get out there and give them your all.