How to Land a Summer Internship
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- Learn how to conduct a summer internship search and find the best opportunities.
- Find out what type of planning and preparation will have the greatest impact.
- Explore interviewing tips to make the best impression.
Summer internships can provide enormous benefits as you work toward graduation and carve out your career path. These positions can give you a chance to apply your training, experience a specific industry or profession, build a professional network, and possibly earn some money along the way.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that more than half of surveyed employers preferred job applicants with internship experience. To find the ideal summer internship, however, you need to follow the proper steps. On this page, we outline our best advice for identifying internship opportunities, making a good impression, and landing an internship.
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Ready to Start Your Journey?
In an internship search, proper organization can help you steer clear of mistakes and miscommunications, which can be the difference between securing a summer internship or missing the opportunity altogether. Organization can also help you stay on top of deadlines and avoid rushing applications.
Create an Internship List
Start with a list of companies that accept interns that you want to work with. Record all the important information, such as contact details, application deadlines, and required materials. It can help to jot down a few distinguishing features about the company as well, just in case they call and you need to recall some information quickly.
Research and Leverage Opportunities
Identifying which organizations offer summer internships can be half the battle. Fortunately, students have an array of resources available to them to locate potential landing spots and find out more about the organizations. Leverage the following resources to find the best opportunities available to you.
Visit Your Career Center
Organizations often inform colleges and universities about their internship opportunities. Your career counselor may even be able to put you in touch with a specific contact within an organization, which might improve your chances of getting a position.
Leverage Your Network
Reach out to your network to see if they can help you obtain an internship or point you in the right direction. Teachers, peers, coaches, relatives, and family friends may know of an opportunity or have a connection that can lead to a summer internship.
Look at Company Websites
Many organizations list their summer internship opportunities on their websites. Check out the career pages for the places that interest you the most. This approach can work well for finding opportunities that are not well advertised or promoted.
Prioritize and Plan
Applying to internships takes time and effort, so you should ensure that you spend your energy in the best way possible. With some careful planning and strategizing, you can complete all the most important applications and avoid losing out on an opportunity because of an oversight or a rushed submission.
Revise Your Summer Internship List
After conducting research on the organizations offering summer internships, prioritize your list based on your findings. Highlight the opportunities that look most promising and useful, and then organize them by deadline. This will help you stay on top of everything and avoid wasting time in the wrong places.
Give Yourself Deadlines
While you might want to apply to every internship available, that may not be possible. With your first couple applications, figure out how long it takes you to apply to an internship. Then figure out how much time you can spend each day or each week on applications and set realistic goals based on your schedule, the number of internships you want to apply to, and the internship deadlines.
Revise and Refine Your Materials
Before submitting your internship application, you should always ensure your materials highlight your skills and experiences in the most relevant way for that specific organization. This usually requires editing and refining your resume, cover letter, and portfolio. While this process can be time-consuming, this step should not be overlooked.
A college student resume typically includes both educational and work experience, and should be customized for each position you apply to. When showcasing your skills and training, for example, use language that appears in the summer internship job description. Look at the internship duties and responsibilities and ensure your resume shows you have relevant experience in those areas.
Your Cover Letter
Writing a cover letter for an internship can be difficult, but this document helps contextualize and personalize your application. You should tailor every cover letter to the organization offering the summer internship. You need to explain why you make a strong candidate and how your experience meets the specific demands of the position.
A portfolio can provide employers with an in-depth look at your experience, skills, and qualifications. Traditionally, students in creative disciplines, such as artists, writers, and architects, use portfolios; however, more and more disciplines now incorporate them. Post some writing samples, additional reference letters, awards, and relevant credentials in your online portfolio and pull it up when needed.
Reference letters allow professors, coworkers, and supervisors to address your qualifications and capabilities. Typically, summer internship applicants need three references at most, but you should collect more than you need if you can. This may allow you to choose the most relevant letters for a specific opportunity.
Apply and Follow Up
The actual application process for summer internships can take time and patience. Organizations may take a long time to get back to you, or may never get back to you at all. Being proactive and persistent can pay off.
Apply Early and Widely
If you can, apply early to a variety of summer internships to increase your odds of finding a suitable opportunity. This strategy can help you stand out from the bulk of applicants who apply closer to deadline day. It also keeps you from relying too heavily on a limited number of positions.
Follow Up on Applications
Summer internship etiquette suggests that you wait approximately one week after submitting your application to follow up. When that time comes, you should email the appropriate contact and ensure they received your application. A second and more elaborate follow-up email may be warranted if another week goes by, but be careful to appear persistent instead of pushy.
Apply for More
If you do not hear back from any of your ideal summer internship employers, move on to the next group of opportunities. Continue applying until you get a response. This may require you to expand your search parameters and standards or take a closer look at your application materials and identify areas for improvement.
Prepare for the Interview
You sent out all your applications and got a call back. The time has come to prepare for the summer internship interview process. Interviews can be daunting for even the most seasoned professionals, but proper preparation can go a long way to ensuring you make the most of the opportunity.
Do Your Research: Before the interview, research the organization, the internship, and the interviewers (if you know their names). Know exactly what the organization does and what they need an intern for. The more you understand about the company, the better you can answer their questions and formulate your responses to fit their unique needs.
Practice Questions and Responses: Practice answering some common interview questions beforehand. Think about your strengths, weaknesses, past challenges, and future goals. Even if your summer internship interviewer asks atypical questions, this rehearsal can help get you in the right mindset.
Dress Appropriately: The clothes you wear to an interview will contribute to the impression you make. Dress as professionally as possible for the interview, in business attire or business casual clothing, depending on the position. When in doubt, contact the organization's HR department and ask what they suggest.
Be On Time: Show up for your summer internship interview early or on time. Promptness works wonders for first impressions, so leave yourself enough time to account for travel delays. If you show up too early, practice a few interview question responses.
Create a List of Questions: While employers use the interview period to evaluate candidates, you should also use this time wisely. Jot down some of the things you want to know about the summer internship and ask about them if the interviewer does not address them in the interview. Consider, for example, the details of the role, possible learning opportunities, and the chances for postgraduate employment.
Follow Up Post-Interview: Following up after an interview can take different shapes. You may want to send a small thank-you note in the immediate days following the meeting. About one week after the interview, try a more formal follow-up to show your continued interest, see whether the organization has made a decision, or find out when they plan on doing so.
Feature Image: Igor Emmerich / Getty Images