So you’re a college student and while you really want a summer internship, you either haven’t gotten around to working on it or have made some inroads but given up. The good news is there are still plenty of internships available if you’re willing to apply yourself to the task.
You should know that the most competitive, structured and paid internships are mostly gone by now. And because of the regulations around paying interns, some big companies have abandoned their internship programs, so there may be fewer paid internships available. This means that finding a good internship will take some real sleuthing, but if you follow the instructions below you should be successful.
Keep in mind that the same principles apply to finding a job, so it’s a great idea to hone these skills now.
- Be specific about what you’re looking for. The way to get a job or internship is in fact to not be open to whatever comes your way. The opposite approach is needed – you want to take control of your own future and declare a particular interest, even if you change your mind later. So decide what you’re looking for, based on your interests and the research you’ve done to corroborate your ideas. You may want to select more than one path, as long as both play to your strengths and you have put real thought and energy into understanding the roles and organizations in those fields and why you would be a good fit.
- Seek out internship descriptions that match your criteria. Use LinkedIn to locate people whose career paths appeal to you and save their profiles so you can contact them once you complete the next step. Find specialized websites featuring job descriptions in your field of interest. These might be trade associations, job boards devoted to your field, non-profit job aggregators like Idealist.org or NetImpact.org, or specialized entry-level job sites like FindSpark.com, Youtern.com or Mediabistro.com.Be sure your resume has a summary reflecting your experience and area of study. Your LinkedIn profile should have a professional headline (the area just below your name) that identifies your field of interest instead of merely “Student at X College”. You should write a summary describing yourself and your skills and interests, and it should be in the first person. Your goal is to encourage potential employers to want to meet you, so be personable. If you’re not a great writer, get some help.
- Reach out with purpose. You should be adding LinkedIn connections regularly to build your network and increase the research power of LinkedIn, which is massive and under-utilized. There are two basic types of contacts you should focus on: personal and professional, and they should be addressed differently.For personal contacts, put together a brief note explaining what you’re studying, your interest area(s) and 3 bullet points about the skill set you bring to an organization. This makes it easier for those who know you and want to help to do so quickly and easily. Email is your friend here since you won’t find everyone on LinkedIn.For professional connections and those whose profiles you’ve saved on LinkedIn, now’s the time to send them an InMail or connect through someone who is your first-level connection, to ask if they would be willing to spend a few minutes on the phone with you. If you’re in town, see if they will meet you in person.The more contacts you make and speak with, the higher the rate of potential return. If you see an internship online that looks like a fit, apply and then find someone who works there who is willing to advocate for you.
- Apply to as many opportunities as you can. Do not wait to hear back from one organization before continuing to look for other opportunities. Never assume the internship is in the bag before you get that offer letter, and keep making contacts and applying to internships until that point.
- Do the hard follow-up. Most candidates fail to follow up, so doing so will automatically make you stand out. Create a contact management system to be more systematic about it. Whenever you send your resume and cover letter to an organization, do your best to follow up approximately a week later. Be persistent. If you call, you get extra points since Millennials typically communicate electronically.
- Once you land the internship, let everyone know. This won’t be your last job, so make sure you give your contacts the courtesy of following up to tell them you’ve had success. You want to carefully and consistently build your network, and keeping everyone in the loop as you develop your career is key. Once someone is helpful to you they will feel invested in your search and it will make them very happy to hear that you’ve been successful.
Have you followed these tips with success? Do you have more? I’d love to hear from you!