With today’s competitive job market, it’s becoming increasingly important for college graduates to have prior internship or work experience before they apply for full-time employment. This means that many employers expect undergraduate students to complete internships in their fields while they are still in college. This might sound scary to some, but it’s really not! Getting an internship in undergrad is simpler than you’d think.
Whether you are studying business, communications, engineering, or science, you are sure to benefit from getting some internship experience while you are still in college. I am starting my fourth internship soon, so I have some experience with taking the steps necessary to get internships. Below, I have broken the process down into simple steps so you can follow along and hopefully acquire your own internship!
See if your college or university has an experiential learning office or other career resources.
Many colleges and universities have resources to help students find internships or jobs in the fields they are studying. These resources might include experiential learning services, job fairs, internship fairs, information sessions, and more. Do a little research on the school you attend to see if they have anything that could help you.
Create a résumé.
If you don’t have one already, it’s important for you to create a résumé to give to potential future employers so they can decide whether they want to interview you or not. A résumé is a professional document that typically lists your prior work experience, education information, skills, achievements, and certifications. Yours doesn’t have to be anything fancy; the important part is that it is readable, clean, and free of errors. Have a trusted mentor look over your résumé before you send it out to anyone.
Check online job listings.
Many intern-seeking employers post their job listings online in hopes that prospective interns will contact them. Check online to see if there are any positions you are interested in applying for. If you find some that interest you, go ahead and apply to them. You will have a better chance of landing an interview if you apply for internships that were posted online recently!
Create a 20-second elevator speech.
The 20-second elevator speech is very important. It’s your chance to make a great first impression on an employer. Usually, the first thing an employer will say in an interview is, “Tell me a little about yourself.” That’s your cue to start your 20-second elevator speech that you prepared in advance to highlight your most valuable experience.
Your elevator speech should mention relevant prior experience, your strongest qualities, details about your education, etc. Your goal is to impress the interviewer and make a great first impression on him or her. So, come up with your elevator speech in advance and practice it a few times for memorization. You will feel much more prepared if you practice your speech in advance.
Acquire appropriate interview attire.
“Appropriate” attire varies depending on which position you are interviewing for. For more casual interview settings, a nice, modest dress with flats will do. However, for a formal interview, you might wear a blazer, dress pants, and heels. When deciding what to wear, just keep in mind that it’s much better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Research and attend internship or career fairs in your area.
If there are any internship fairs in your area, attend them! Remember your 20-second elevator speech, dress in interview attire, and bring résumés to hand out. Internship fairs might seem overwhelming because there are so many employers there, but you will feel much more at ease if you take steps to prepare. Remember that employers go to internship fairs because they are seeking interns. You are already in a great position because you walk into the room knowing the employers there are looking for people like you to work for them.
After the internship fair, follow up with employers you are interested in. Let them know that you want to work for them and subtly remind them of your qualifications. Some employers prefer follow up phone calls, and some prefer emails. It can be hard to tell which would be more appropriate for a particular employer, but I personally prefer to follow up by email because emails don’t take up any of the employer’s time.
Follow up with the employers you contacted again if you don’t hear back within a week.
If you don’t hear back after your initial follow ups, contact the employers again in a week to remind them that you’re interested. It’s appropriate to continue to follow up every week until you hear back.
Once you get an interview, prepare for it by reviewing common interview questions and deciding how you will answer them.
If you reach this step in the process, it means you got an interview. Yay! Interviews are both exciting and nerve-wracking. However, if you take steps to prepare for the interview, you will feel much more confident going into it. Research common interview questions and formulate answers to them. Every answer you provide should frame you and your experience in a positive light. You should always tell the truth, but don’t mention anything that will negatively impact your job prospects if you can help it.
Arrive at the interview on time, and be confident.
BE ON TIME. Punctuality is very important. When you show up to an interview on time, you show the employer that you are reliable and responsible.
It’s important to smile during the interview, especially at the beginning, so you appear enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity.
Thank the interviewers for their time at the end of the interview.
A simple “thank you” goes a long way!
Send thank you emails to the interviewers within 24 hours after the interview.
Once again, following up with the interviewers by email shortly after the interview shows that you are enthusiastic about the position.
Follow up with employers after a week if you don’t hear back.
Like I said before, it’s fine to follow up with people you don’t hear back from each week until you get a response. However, DON’T flood their inboxes with too many emails. Once per week is totally appropriate.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Even if you don’t get an internship the first time you try, it’s OK! Learn from your mistakes and try again in the future. Revise your résumé, perfect your elevator speech, and continuously seek new opportunities. You never know when something great might pop up!
I hope y’all found these tips helpful! Happy internship hunting.
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