So, you’re almost done with college, and you have absolutely no idea what to do with your degree, and you know even less about how to make it in the real world?
You’ve come to the right place!
I’ve gathered all of the important and relevant information that you should know before you start your hunt for the right internship, so after reading this article, you’ll know how to make a good strategy and what you should do when you do get called for an interview. Here’s what we’ll go through:
Now, let’s go and get you that internship!
Getting An Internship – What Are The Benefits
Getting An Internship – What Are The Benefits
Internship programs may not seem like they’re worth it since they aren’t seen as a “real job, “especially when they are unpaid. And what experience could you even get when you’re inevitably going to be signed off to coffee duty, right?
Well, not really.
Internships are a very common occurrence in the business world, and it’s not only because companies might get free or cheap labor. If it was only for that, not so many people would prefer to go to an internship before starting their job search.
So, let’s see what the differences are between a paid and an unpaid internship, as well as what are the main reasons why you should start your internship search sooner rather than later.
Paid Internship vs. Unpaid Internship
When there are options for both a paid internship and an unpaid internship, it’s always advised to go for the former. But, you won’t always get the opportunity to choose.
Internships, in general, are a type of training program, as companies prefer to teach their future employees how the job is done in their company before hiring them. That’s why it’s still profitable for them to pay you, even if you aren’t doing everything that a regular employee might do.
The question of accepting an unpaid internship is always hanging in the air, and different people will have differing opinions on this. I have decided to gather some benefits of accepting such an offer, or more precisely, I’m giving you a list of situations when you should accept an unpaid internship:
- A reputable company that holds a lot of cards in your field: if you happen to get an offer from a company that is the leader in your field and that you know will make future employers want you on their team when they see it on your resume, then go for it. This is the type of company that, even if they don’t hire you after the internship is over, you know, will give an instant boost of chances with another employer. If you’re unsure what companies in your field hold such power, make sure that you research that first and ask around.
- You come from a very competitive field: nowadays, there are some fields where the competition is so big that people will be trying to win each other over, even when it’s an unpaid situation. If you are in a field where there are few employment options, but there are a lot of you, then going for an unpaid internship can be the right choice. However, if you’re in a field with many demands, like software engineering, then going for an unpaid option won’t make much sense since you could probably find a good job right after college.
If you happen to land an offer for a paid internship, then you should definitely consider staying there after the program is finished. A lot of recruiters like to have college students that were once interns work for the company, as they already know people and how the company works, so it will be an easy transition.
Of course, before signing any deals, make sure that you consider all of the factors besides the salary. Did you like the environment, what are your insurance options, how do they stand with vacationed days and bonuses, and so on.
What You Actually Learn During An Internship
An internship experience can be an amazing way to get the experience you need before you can get a job in your field, and it’s probably the best preparation for the career ahead of you. In college, you’ve learned how it should be, but in an internship, you get to find out how it really is.
It really is a learning experience more than anything. The main things that you should focus on while you’re there are talking to your colleagues and finding out all the nitty-gritty details about what your job is like in the real world, from the perspective of workers that are in it on a day-to-day basis.
Also, this will give you an insight into how organizations work as a whole and behind the scenes of what your future career will look like. Besides how to do it, you will learn whether this is really the job you want to be doing.
Being in there only part-time and deciding that it’s not for you will give you much more time to figure out.
Think About Your Qualifications – What To Consider
I’m sure that you have a lot of things written down on your LinkedIn profile and that you have many extracurricular activities to brag about. Still, you should probably reconsider bombing your internship company with all of that.
Let’s see what you should keep in mind and which activities don’t have to make an appearance when you’re trying to get your internship.
Considering things you’ve already worked on isn’t beneficial only when you have already found the internship you want to apply for. It’s also helpful when it comes to deciding what type of internship to look for.
It’s highly unlikely that you have no experience at all, especially if you did do a lot of extracurricular things in your day or if you’ve volunteered often. For example, if you did something for your university’s paper, you’ll know it will be relevant for a journalism internship.
If you’re looking to do this in smaller companies, you don’t have to worry about everything being top-notch, so if you don’t have such a long list, then definitely consider going for a smaller collective.
When I say work experience, I also mean considering your volunteering experiences. You might have done something during high school that could be used for this, and your dream internship will be one step closer t you if you state what your volunteer experiences are.
If you don’t have any, and you are reading this before your last year of college, then you probably have time to work something out. Ask around your campus, or even some family members, if there’s an organization that you could join, and maybe dedicate one summer to doing volunteer work.
Besides relevant experience, it’s also important to point out some relevant skills. In the academic world and the business world, transferable skills are very valued, so identify what you have that will help you during the application process.
In many career fields, skills like organization, critical thinking, and time management come as highly rated skills that job boards are looking for and are commonly found in any job description.
And even if you’re not sure what skills your job requires, this is just a quick google search away from you. It even might be described somewhere on the company’s website.
It doesn’t really matter whether you’re getting a full-time job, a summer internship, or a paid long internship, the skills that are valued are mostly the same throughout the whole career path. It just differs on what levels of said skill are expected from you.
If you aren’t the best at these things, then the main career advice I could give you is to make sure that you’re trying something every day to develop them a bit more, as organization often isn’t something you just have. It has to be trained.
Starting The Hunt – Where To Look For Internships
If you’re in your finishing years of college, then you’ve probably learned by now that the career center on your campus and career fairs are the places that you should probably consider visiting when you’re on an internship hunt. Or a job hunt, for that matter.
However, let’s get a bit deeper into how you should go about this and what exactly you should look for when you go there. Also, let’s see whether contacting the company directly can do anything.
Job fairs are places where everyone goes and where everything is happening, so it might seem a bit overwhelming at first. It also might seem like you couldn’t possibly get a deal out of that.
However, even if you don’t land a deal at the job fair, it is a great place to have a look into what demands are there in your field, to look for potential job postings, and also network.
Networking is potentially a highly overused term in the business world, and you might think that the act itself has lost its meaning, but that’s not true. Job interviews and internship offers are made by humans, not robots, so getting to know them and being social will definitely help.
And there shouldn’t be any pressure on you, as there is no perfect way to do networking; you just have to be chatty and open for discussions. Ask around, take the flyers, and maybe even leave your email address here or there.
You never know where a conversation might take you, so don’t be afraid to strike one up.
Job And Internship Boards
If you prefer to search the Internet than go to a real-life event, then looking up job boards and their websites is what you should do. Fortunately, there are a lot of them.
You could get overwhelmed by how much choice there is, and the primary tool to help you with that is to filter the location. Most, if not all, websites like this have the option to filter results by different criteria, and simmering things down to only your will give you a better insight.
Some of the most prominent websites include Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, WayUp, LinkUp, InternshipFinder, ErasmusIntern.
Each of these has its benefits and downsides, so it’s best to check everything out before deciding which one to focus on.
Simply Sending An Email
Just sending a direct email to the company that you have in mind might seem a bit old-fashioned, and you might think that no one does that these days. Well, it’s really no one, but the fact that it’s not a common practice might be used to your advantage.
Most companies will have some type of contact email up on their websites, and if you research the website just a tiny bit more, you will probably find the email address of a manager that’s responsible for handling internships and employment.
This could end amazingly well, and you get an internship or job offer, or you might just never get an answer. Either way, it’s very important that you’re assertive as a grad student, and when you’re looking for a new job, no matter if it’s your first job or not.
The email you send should be straightforward, brief, and polite. Just remember that being polite doesn’t equal talking in a twisted manner, and just because you’re direct doesn’t mean you’re rude.
But, since answers aren’t guaranteed when you do things this way, make sure that you’re not putting all of your eggs in one basket. Try this route for the companies you want to be an intern with, but still keep your options open on other fronts, too, and look into job fairs and internship board websites.
Application Material – What Documentation You Should Prepare
It might seem overwhelming to have to collect all the documentation you need for applying to an internship once you’ve found ones that are up your alley, so that’s the next thing we’ll tackle. Just scroll down, and you’ll have all the information you need before you start writing resumes and cover letters.
As you know, resumes are documents that are meant to show everything you know and the things you’ve done that are relevant to this specific internship in a straightforward manner.
One common mistake that people make when writing their resumes is dropping down every single thing that they’ve ever done that sounds nice, without considering if those things are even relevant to things that they plan on applying. That’s why you must consider the relevance of your experiences.
One of the main reasons why recruiters skip resumes is because the resumes are too long and have way too much information on them. In these situations, it’s on them to consider what things are relevant and whether you could be a good candidate for the job, and most of them will prefer to just not consider it at all.
Another common mistake is lying about your skills without being able to prove that once you do get on the job or the internship. So, when you do decide to spice things up a bit with non-truths, make sure that you’ll be able to live up to the hype you’ve made, if not completely, then at least for the most part.
Some practical tips that I’ll give you about writing the resume are:
- Use a template if this is your first time writing a resume
- Highlight the most important experiences and achievements
- Emphasize the skills that are relevant to this specific type of internship and are stated in the requirements
- Try to speak in numbers and quantify the achievements that you’ve had in the past
- Don’t use needless fancy words and long sentences. Keep it simple and straightforward
- Don’t list your day-to-day tasks
- Focus on soft skills and transferable skills
Finally, feel free to tweak each resume you send, depending on the specific requirements each internship offer might have. If you do that, it will show that you’ve put a bit more effort into things, which the recruiters will always see as a plus.
Cover letters have the bad reputation of being modern-day hells, a verdict that’s waiting for every millennial in the afterlife. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure, but I do know some tips and tricks that will make it easier for you to write yours.
This can be especially hard if you’ve just graduated or are in the last year of your studies because you probably don’t have the experience that you think people your age should have.
The main role of the cover letter is to charm HR and make the final decision for the internship to go to you. That’s why your main focus when writing should be on your motivation and the experiences you wish to make for yourself since that’s a unique thing about you at this stage.
When you talk about your motivation for getting an internship in this specific company, you should basically provide reasons why you want the job so much. Also, point out how you could do something good for the company in that role.
Here are some more specific tips on how to go around writing the cover letter:
- Make the opening line unique. While the rest of the cover letter can be done by following a safe template, the opening line is the place where you should put some quotes, anecdotes, or fun facts that will set the tone for the rest of the letter. Since the quality of the opening line can be a big factor in whether the recruiter will even bother to finish reading the letter, the effort will absolutely be worth it.
- Know your facts about the company, and sprinkle them throughout the letter, stating the ones you found especially inspiring. This will show that you have done your research before applying and that you know where you’re going to, which is a big plus, compared to people who seem clueless in the letter (and there are more of them than you would imagine, even when in reality they do know things about the company).
- Don’t be afraid to share your ideas! Adding some ideas for hypothetical improvements that you would and could make in the company is always a great direction to take when talking about motivation since it shows that you really are interested in the company, as well as goal-focused.
- Make sure that each cover letter you send out is customized to fit the requirements of the said company. Same as with the resumes, it will be seen as a big plus when they notice that the letter was customized rather than sent out together with a bunch of uniform letters.
Some recruiters like to search for internship candidates through social media. While this mainly means looking into LinkedIn profiles, it won’t be a bad idea to iron out all of your public social media profiles, especially the ones that are meant for professional use.
Look into your Instagram feed and see how to make it more intentional and in tune, maybe archive some posts that are not that good. Go through the comments under your posts and maybe delete some that aren’t really relevant or are apparent spam.
Most importantly, make sure that you have a professional profile picture, as well as a straightforward bio that will say what you’re about without many words. And, of course, go through your tagged photos and tidy any mess that’s there up.
If you have separate private profiles that aren’t public, you don’t have to worry about that too much; just make sure that they are private if there’s some suggestive or unprofessional content there. Once you get the internship, you can easily unlock the profiles if it happens that the company is relaxed when it comes to that.
Getting The Interview – What To Say And What To Avoid
So, you went through all of the previous steps, and now you’re going to the interview. Should I say “Yay!“ or “Yikes!“?
Interviews can bring the worst anxiety out of us since a lot of things depend on how you do that part. Some companies use interviews as a be all end all deal breakers, while others will call you for an interview after they’ve more or less already decided that you’re the one they’re going to go for.
Since you don’t know what type of company your chosen one is, it’s best to get ready, so let’s get into that.
Common Interview Questions
While there are tens of most common interview questions, most of them boil down to these three:
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why should we choose you?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
There are specific do’s and don’ts on how you should answer these questions. Most of them can be described as “be specific“ and “be unique. “
Since these types of questions are common knowledge, you can think ahead of time about them. Now, I would never advise that you learn your answers by heart since that can cause more trouble than benefits, but having some keynotes ready at the back of your mind is crucial.
What To Avoid And To Say Instead
To be a bit more specific, being authentic in your performance and speech means that you should talk about your ideas. They don’t have to be final ideas that you’re sure you’ll hold for a long time, but they should be yours nevertheless.
When you say your answers to the previous questions aloud, do they sound like something just any other person on the street could say as well? If the answer is yes, then you should sit with your ideas for a while and see what original goals, authentic to you, you can come up with.
Secondly, when I say that you should be specific, this kinda ties in with being unique. When you answer these questions, give concrete examples that have a time and a place, a beginning, and an end.
If your answers are too vague and indefinite, you will seem like someone who doesn’t really know what they want and where they’re going, and that is a big minus.
Passing The Interview – What To Do After
The interview is the hardest part, and you should absolutely take a breather once that part is over. But, there are just a couple of simple things that you should consider doing if you want to pull out all the best tricks in order to get this internship.
You should look at a follow-up email, like a thank you note in the business world. Showing that you’re not only organized and punctual but also thoughtful will give you some big bonus points with most employers.
Here’s what you should be mindful of when sending a follow-up email:
- Make sure that you send it within 24 hours after the interview is over
- Start with thanking the person who interviewed you for their time
- Point out how the interview was a positive experience for you and what specific parts made it that way
- Finis the email with a note saying that they can contact you for anything they might need
Another thing to keep in mind is that if the interviewer said that they would contact you afterward, and they didn’t, you absolutely could send an email to ask what is going on.
Finalizing The Offer
When everything is said and done, the company will most likely send you an offer letter, and it’s on you to officially accept the internship terms.
If you don’t like some of the things on there, you can negotiate the terms, but you shouldn’t try to change up too many details, as this is an internship, not a job. This means that you will be there in that role only for a limited amount of time, so some of the things that people negotiate when starting a job might not be that important.
Finally, make sure that you ask whether there is something that you can do in order to get ready in the time between now and the start of the internship. I guarantee they will love seeing that.
That’s everything that you need to know about landing your dream internship. I wish you the best of luck since I’m sure that you’ve already handled everything else!
Click on the links below to view other related internships and the career opportunities they offer: