This is the year to get a great internship, but you need to start right away. There is good news: According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), intern hiring is up 8.5% this year . There is tons of information out there about internships, but what are the key steps a student or new grad needs to know? To help, I’ve distilled them into 5 simple actions.
1. Decide on a field of interest.
You may not know exactly what you want to do in your career. But your best chance of scoring a good internship is to be as specific as you can to give your search some oomph. Otherwise, you will be viewed as one of the many students who is (desperately) looking for any place that will take them. So focus your vision and do some real research to identify the organizations, departments and people who could be good contacts for you. An internship is as much about figuring out what you’re interested in as what you’re definitely NOT interested in.
2. Check out internship websites.
If you don’t already know YouTern.com, you should. A website with internships from all over the country, they also feature opportunities for high school students. So see what they have to offer. Alternatively you can create your own internship, paid or unpaid, with the organization of your choice.
3. Get your resume in order.
When crafting or updating your resume, be sure to create a summary of experience and interests that will appeal to employers in your selected field. If you don’t create a summary, at least write a cover letter that specifies how your coursework, volunteerism, activities and workplace exposure are relevant for the field of interest.
4. Create and populate your LinkedIn profile.
Employers will automatically check your LinkedIn profile, and yours should be consistent with your resume, only with more detail. LinkedIn is also the place where you should spend time reaching out to contacts (yours and those of the people you know best) in order to connect with employers for informational interviews and possible internship ideas.
5. Reach out to prospective employers.
If you are applying for existing internships, try to connect with someone who works at the organization, to avoid having your resume fall into a black hole. LinkedIn is great for this, but so are Facebook, Twitter, your college alumni group or any other affiliate organization. Especially as a younger person you will gain points for networking if you try hard to make a connection.
It is also a great idea to create an internship from scratch, which may be done through contacts or simply reaching out with a compelling proposal. Try following an organization of interest on Twitter and reaching out to them with a few well-crafted tweets about what you have to offer. With internships there are fewer barriers to entry (especially if you are offering to work gratis for the experience), although you should be aware that corporations are typically required to provide paid internships. Plus, corporations usually have a prescribed application process, so check out websites for more information.
The most important thing is to act fast, because as May gets closer the new-grad competition heats up. So whether you’re in high school or college, the time to reach out is now.