Getting an internship is one of the most important things you can do to start your career off right. Decades ago, a college degree would have been the only thing you needed to get hired at a major corporation. Now, employers increasingly look for actual experience. Your prospective employer wants to know whether you can handle the challenges of the job before they take the risk of hiring you. By getting an internship, you increase your chances of getting hired after graduation.

Why Getting an Internship Is a Valuable Opportunity

Your internship is valuable because it allows you to gain experience while growing your professional network. Normally, you have to pay for each course you take in college. Unlike your college courses, your internship is free. In some cases, the employer will even pay you to learn during your internship.

Other than networking with potential employers and colleagues, an internship allows you to get a feel for the job. Sometimes, students do an internship and realize they are in the completely wrong field. By experiencing the career field early on, students can see if their initial career plan is actually what they want to do.

Look at Your Qualifications

Students frequently waste their time applying for internships they will never get. They fire off applications for every listing they see instead of making professional, customized applications for the internships that suit their skills the best. Instead of applying to everything, target positions that suit your experience, skills and goals. Think about a few of the following things as you determine which openings are right for you.

  • Skills: A position might not be in the field you want, but it may offer transferable skills. For example, an accounting internship could help a business major learn more about the financial side of running a business.
  • Degree: Try researching internships that are common choices for people in your degree field or major.
  • Interests: You will spend most of your time at work until you retire. Try to find a field you actually enjoy working in.
  • Experience: If you want to get hired, you really need to consider if the position is right for your work experience. You should also consider which roles will help you prepare for your future dreams.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so do not be afraid to start with a small internship at first. Often, you can use your initial experience for getting a different internship next year. Begin exploring local organizations or volunteer positions if you need to build your resume.

Start Looking

There are many places you can go to find an internship. Try checking job sites and your college’s career resources. You can also leverage your network by asking friends, classmates, family members and professors for ideas. If you know exactly what you want to do, reach out to a company directly to see if you can become an intern there. Even if they do not offer internships, you can always offer to be their first intern ever.

Put Together an Application

If you want to get hired, you will need to have all of your application materials in order. Your resume is one of the most important documents you have. It showcases your professional background, skills, education, a professional summary, work experience and contact information. If you have never made a resume before, a template is an extremely useful tool to use.

Designing the Perfect Resume

For your resume to work, try using the STAR format. This acronym for your work experience bullet points stands for situation, task, action and result. Then, work to quantify your impact by showing how you actually achieved your goals at your previous position. You should highlight important awards, accomplishments and skills. Your employer may have to read through many different applications, so make your resume as concise and easy to read as possible.

Your Cover Letter Matters

A cover letter helps to add flavor and depth to your application. While your resume and application show what you have done, your cover letter will often demonstrate who you are as an applicant. It is more than just a list of what is in your resume. Instead, your cover letter is an example of why you are perfect for the job and a demonstration of your passion.

When you write your cover letter, try beginning with a unique, interesting opening line. You should also do some research about the company and drop a few of the things you have learned about them into the cover letter. This will show the employer that you really care about the job and took time to learn about the organization. As you write your cover letter, try connecting your previous work experience to the new role. Share ideas about what you can do for your personal contribution to the company. Since each company and position is different, you should change the cover letter for each position you apply for.

Adjust Your Social Media Profiles

Job recruiters frequently use social media to research a candidate. Since candidates know this, many applicants will even link their social media accounts to an online application or LinkedIn. If you do not have a professional profile already, it is time to get one. You can pick a professional headshot and add your work experience. Make sure to avoid any inappropriate or suggestive content.

Some people set their accounts to private so that their employers cannot see it at all. While this is one option, it is often better to set up a professional account instead. Not having any social media accounts will seem extremely suspicious to a modern employer. Instead of making them question what you are hiding, make sure any searchable posts or profile photos are job appropriate.

Tailor Your Online Presence

Some fields are ideal for creating an online portfolio. If you are going into marketing, web design, writing or similar fields, an online portfolio will help you stand out. You can use a platform like Wix to show off the best examples of your previous projects. Highlight the kinds of projects that are relevant to your internship application. Then, make sure to update your online portfolio as you work on new projects.

Get Ready for Your Interview

Once you get an interview, the hard work begins. Interviewing for a position can be intimidating, but you can make the process easier by preparing for it in advance. Before your interview, research the company. Learn about the kinds of products they make, recent milestones and their mission statement. You may be asked about all of these topics in the interview, so learn as much as you can beforehand. Prepare some questions of your own to show your interviewer that you are prepared and interested in the position.

In addition to learning about the company, practice answering interview questions with a friend or classmate. When you answer questions, always remain positive and enthusiastic. Be specific with your answers by including examples, statistics or personal experiences. If you are uncertain about what to say, you can always ask for a minute to think about your answer. While an interview can be intimidating, try to be yourself. You want to be successful in your internship, so your employer needs to know who you are in order to know if you are actually a good fit.

After you have successfully finished your interview, you still have one more step to do. First, prepare a thank-you note for all of the people you spoke with at the interview. This letter should be sent within 24 hours of your interview. Make sure to end it with a call-to-action that encourages them to contact you for anything else they need. After you send off your thank-you note, it is time to sit back and wait for the job offers to roll in.