As crazy as it might seem, it’s pretty much impossible to land a job after graduating without completing at least one internship, if not 10.
Nowadays, it seems like you need at least five years of experience to be considered for an entry level job. Luckily, internships allow you to work and gain experience while still in uni.
However, not all internships are created equal.
Some are paid, some are unpaid, some just require you to grab coffee for the office and some help advance your career.
Needless to say, paid internships that actually train you in your field are the most competitive ones to get.
Thankfully, I’m here to teach you five insider tips and tricks to landing your dream internship.
Let’s get started!
1. Update Your Resume
Before you do anything else, you need to make sure your resume is up to date, easy to read and formatted correctly.
First, check the email address on your resume. Does it still say email@example.com?
If so, change it to a more professional address ASAP.
A good rule of thumb is simply to use your first and last name.
Next, make sure all of your relevant work experience and the correct dates are listed. Additionally, you want to ensure that the descriptions for each job are selling your potential.
Instead of saying “stacked books at the local book store”, talk about your achievements: “Organised all 55 shelves and uploaded the inventory onto a new, more efficient operating system that saved the owners $500 in lost inventory costs.”
See the difference?
Finally, make sure your resume is on one page and is formatted in a way that makes it easy to read. Most recruiters only look at your resume for about 10 seconds so the more confusing it looks, the less likely they are to hire you.
P.S. Mould your resume to each internship you apply to.
While this may be hard if you have limited experience, look over the internship description and tailor the skills section of your resume to include phrases that appear in the description.
That being said, don’t lie and say you speak Spanish fluently if you’ve only taken one semester of Spanish!
2. Build Industry Connections
Just like it’s almost impossible to land a job without prior internships, it’s almost impossible to land an internship without a connection.
Unfortunately, scouring the internet looking for internships often results in hours of generic, online applications that no one will ever see.
So, the best way to land an interview and ultimately an internship is by reaching out to your connections and seeing if they know of any opportunities.
Talk to your professors, teacher’s assistants, family, friends, neighbors, alumni... you’d be surprised who could end up helping you!
Also, don’t be afraid to use LinkedIn.
Connect with people that work in your field or even at the company you want to intern for and ask for an informational interview simply to pick their brain.
Even if your dream company doesn’t technically have an internship program, forming relationships with people there may lead to a unique opportunity.
You never know where a few conversations could lead you!
Take my dream internship for example.
There was a company I really wanted to work for but unfortunately they didn’t have an internship program. Luckily, the head of the office doubled as an ice cream shop owner and I went to his ice cream shop at least once a week. Every once in a while I would ask him whether or not the company was thinking about starting an internship program, but he would always say no.
One day, a few months later, I walked in, got some ice cream and he turned to me and said, “Guess what, we are starting an internship program and you’re going to be our first intern!”
Sometimes all it takes is persistence and the guts to stick your neck out to get something you really want.
Remember, most people remember what it’s like to be a struggling college student looking for their first big break and usually, successful people are more than happy to pay it forward.
3. Improve Your Skills
It’s extremely important to have most, if not all, of the hard skills your dream internship requires.
For example, if you want to intern at Facebook in the engineering department (and let’s be honest, with this kind of pay and exposure, who doesn’t?), you’d better know how to code – and code well.
If you’re more interested in a marketing internship at NBC Universal, take some marketing courses during the year and join a few marketing or advertising clubs to keep your skills sharp.
At the end of the day, no matter how great your resume is or who recommended you, if you can’t do the work you won’t land the internship.
4. Ace the Interview
Okay so you’ve updated your resume, networked your ass off and now you’ve landed the coveted interview, the first real step to getting your dream internship.
Your interview can make or break you so let’s go over some interview etiquette to make sure you get your internship.
It’s really important to dig deep into the company (and even the person if possible) that you’re interviewing for/with before your interview.
Researching will help you understand the company's mission, who their clients are, what the top products/services are, what your potential department does and what makes the company unique.
Conducting thorough research also informs you about the company’s strengths and weaknesses and how you could impact the company.
Jot down a few notes and bring them to your interview for reference.
P.S. Make sure you Google the company as well and stay up-to-date on any current events (or controversies) that might come up!
2. Dress Appropriately
Leave the short shorts, funky pants and crazy tops at home, unless you’re applying for a fashion internship, in which case feel free to show off your style... appropriately.
Dress as if you already have the job. Think business casual and don’t be afraid to wear a tie or heels.
Girls, make sure your nails aren’t chipped and boys don’t forget to shave!
3. Arrive on Time With Your Resume in Hand
Hell, arrive 5-10 minutes early!
There’s nothing more stressful than showing up late, having a hard time finding the room you're supposed to be in and greeting your interviewer drenched in sweat.
Do yourself a favour and show up on time (or early) with a notebook, pen and resume in hand (or purse) (or briefcase).
4. Ask Questions
While the interviewer is technically interviewing you, you’re actually interviewing them as well!
Asking informed questions shows that you’re interested in learning about the company and your interviewer.
In fact, the more you can get your interviewer to talk about themselves, the more likely they are to positively remember your interaction.
Some sample questions include:
- What’s your favourite part of your job?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What’s something you wish you knew before starting at the company?
- Where do you see the company is 5 years? 10?
Pro tip: Ask about next steps at the end of your interview!
5. Be Confident
It might sound cliche but no one is going to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself!
Walk into the interview confident, with your head held high and give your interviewer a firm handshake.
Take time to think about your answers before you speak and respond honestly but in a way that showcases your strengths.
After all, you need to sell yourself. No one wants to hire someone that doesn’t believe they can do the job.
6. Follow Up
Always send a thank you email or even better, an actual letter thanking your interviewer for taking the time to meet with you.
Keep the note brief but mention something you learned or had in common with either the company or the interviewer.
For example, if you spent 10 minutes gushing over your shared love of ice cream, mention it in your note.
It’s the small things that give you an edge in the long run.
5. Get Creative
Don’t be afraid to get creative! With so many applicants it’s important to stand out.
Tweet the CEO, create a website showing how you can help the company, send donuts.
Anything you can think of! Just make sure that you can actually deliver on any promise you make.
In the end, the best thing you can do to land your dream internship is to not be afraid of taking chances.
Remember, you are competing against many different students. Some may be smarter than you, some may be more experienced but no one brings your unique perspective (and talent) to the field; however, it’s up to you to portray that.
Whether it’s through networking, building up your skills, getting creative or nailing your interview, the ball is in your court.
Take it and run with it!