Internships represent your first steps toward your dream job; they provide you with the chance to network in your chosen field, delve into the work you hope to someday call your own, and hone your professional skills.
Before I dive into my guide to finding your dream internship, I’d like to share my experiences so far.
When I applied to colleges, one of the reasons I chose the school that I ultimately decided to attend was their internship program. We all know that internships are an excellent way to gain experience, but they can be hard to nail down before your senior year of college. At my school, each student must complete at least 3 internships in order to graduate. That’s right: 3 required internships.
Because internships are integrated into the general curriculum, each student is assigned an internship coordinator and enrolled in a 1-credit course where we learn all the job search basics; the elevator pitch, the resume, the cover letter—everything we need to know to start reaching out to potential employers.
It seemed daunting at first, but because of my vocational school background, I knew the importance of getting out into your field and trying things. The only way to truly get a feel for your future career is to get out there and get to work. Many students realize quickly that they don’t enjoy the work as much as they thought they would, and promptly switch majors or even schools. The good thing about internships is that they essentially allow you to test-drive your career.
Of course, I realize that most schools don’t have the same internship opportunities that mine does. The following guide will offer a few tips and tricks that will have you joining a new company in no time.
Be sure to stay tuned for a free printable that will aid in your internship search!
Step 1: The Basics
Before you can apply for any positions, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the proper documents. You’ll need a resume, of course. I will get into the details of resume building in another post, but just know that it should provide a well-rounded view of your skills, experience, and goals.
The next thing you’ll need is a cover letter. I won’t go into too many details on this, either, but Resume Genius has a comprehensive guide that will walk you through the process step-by-step, including how to format your cover letter.
If you’re applying for a creative position, either in art or design, you will most likely need to submit a portfolio along with your applications. A good portfolio should show a breadth of work in multiple disciplines, showcasing the most interesting work first. You can purchase a portfolio binder or folder from any office supply store. Be sure to print on high quality paper to ensure the most professional results. When I applied for my internship, I included print ads, digital art, logo designs, and even website headers that I designed. I also added in some personal projects to showcase my passion for design. Make sure that your portfolio represents you as an artist by designing a cover page that will wow your potential employer, and regularly update its contents to reflect your growth over time. If you need a little more information about crafting a professional portfolio, check out this guide at Webpage FX.
Step 2: Where to Look
Now that you’ve got all your documents assembled, you need to get out there and start searching. If your school offers an internship board like mine, it would be wise to start there first. Many colleges and universities have partnerships with certain companies, making it a bit easier to find a position.
If your school doesn’t have an internship search available, there are plenty of options online. There are a few approaches you can take when you search on your own.
- Ask someone you know. If you know someone that works in your desired field, it would be smart to start your search by contacting them first. The reason networking is so important is that in business, it’s all about who you know. If someone you know can hook you up with the right company or employer for you, then you will be on the fast track to a great internship experience.
- Check job boards. Many job boards such as Indeed, Snagajob, and Fastweb Internships regularly post internship opportunities, and some even allow you to apply directly from their site. All you have to do is type in your zip code, and thousands of positions will appear at your fingertips.
- Use Google. If all else fails, Google is always a valid option. For instance, when I was searching for an internship, I searched “marketing agencies near me,” using the Google results to check out agency websites and see if they would be a good fit for me. This is actually how I found the agency that I now work for!
Be patient. It takes a lot of time and effort to find the right position, and there will likely be a lot of internship sites that you will have to cross off of your list. Just stick with it and you will find something that you love.
Step 3: Contacting Employers
So you’ve found your dream internship – now what?
It’s time to reach out to your potential employer and let them know that you’re interested in the job. If you have your sights set on a specific company and they don’t have any positions advertised, apply anyway. If you’re convincing enough, they may create a position for you!
The easiest method of contact in this situation is email. Many companies have a specific email address just for this purpose. For a guide on how to craft a professional email, check out my previous post.
Once you’ve got your text ready to go, you can attach the necessary documents – your resume, cover letter, and portfolio – and send it on its way. If you don’t hear back within a few days, send a follow-up email. Be sure to add a relevant subject line to your message so it doesn’t end up in the recipient’s junk folder.
Step 4: Keep Track of Your Applications
If you’re like me, you’ll likely apply to more internship sites than you can keep track of. Make sure to keep a log of the places that you’ve applied, the date you contacted the employer, and whether or not you followed up. You can also use this log to keep track of your interviews if you manage to land some!
Step 5: Ace Your Interviews
While I’ll dive into the details of job interviews in a later post, I want to touch upon some foolproof interview tips in this guide.
- Come prepared. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately and you have all the materials you need. Bring a copy of your resume and portfolio, even if you already submitted them. Recruiters see hundreds of resumes and they may have misplaced yours. Even if they still have it, brining an extra one shows that you are responsible and organized, and it could give you some brownie points right from the start.
- Be confident. Employers want you to prove that you are better than those competing for the same position. Highlight your skills, stay positive, and show them why you are the best candidate for the job.
- Ask questions. Of course, the point of the interview is for the employer to ask you questions so they can get to know you, but don’t forget to ask a few of your own. Inquiring about things that are unclear to you will show your potential employer that you are thorough and that you are truly interested in the position and all that it entails. Ask about the specifics of the position, the office atmosphere, or even the opportunities for advancement in the company. Show them that you care.
- Follow up. Send a thank you note or email thanking the employer for their time. Any extra communication lets them know that you are interested in the position and willing to go the extra mile to obtain it.
If you put in the extra effort to follow up on your progress, you will find an internship in no time. Take your time and find the position that works best for you. After all, this is your first step into your career, and it will likely be a stepping stone toward future positions. Just be persistent and keep your head up, and you’ll find a position that you love.
That wraps up my guide to finding an internship! Let me know if this was helpful, or if there are any subjects you’d like me to tackle next, by posting a comment below.
I am excited to post my first free printable! If you would like me to include more printables in the future, please feel free to let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.