An internship is a short-term work experience in a professional environment where the emphasis is on learning versus earning. You will learn new skills, gain insider contacts and references as well as clarify your career goals. More and more students are realizing how these benefits enhance their college education. Even more employers are expecting it. Once you realize that you need to build your resume with more than McJobs and campus activities, follow these ten steps to finding the perfect internship:
1. Define Your Goals – What exactly do you want? You want an internship, but an internship doing what? Where do you want to be doing it? How many hours a week can you devote to your internship?
2. Meet With Your Career Counselor – Perhaps you are feeling confused and really need a coach. They will be excited to help you find the right internship, and they can even give you ideas you might have missed. They are professionals and have helped many in the past.
3. Start Early & Explore Your Options – Develop a time frame that works for you. You will need to send your resume and cover letter out several weeks before you actually need to start the internship. Commit your options to writing and come up with your top 3 to 5 internship choices.
4. Develop Your Resume & Cover Letter – You’ll have a hard time acquiring an internship without these important documents. Be sure you are sending your tailored letter to a specific person and not to “Dear Sir or Madam:”
5. Research Your Internship Prospects – More and more firms list their internships directly on the company web site. You might also use a clearinghouse site such as Vault.com, Monster.com and InternshipPrograms.com.
6. Implement Your Internship Campaign – Employ a number of strategies for a successful internship search. The number one tactic is networking, talking to friends, family, faculty, alumni and your “connections.” Other techniques you will need to consider include your career center’s recruiting program and internship listings, classified ads, headhunters, career fairs, direct mailings, and the Internet. You will need to send out several resumes and cover letters over a period of time to produce the right number of interviews and offers.
7. Follow-Up, Follow-Up, Follow-Up! – After having sent your resume and cover letter, follow up with a phone call if they have not contacted you within a reasonable amount of time. When you get the person on the phone, politely tell them that you are checking on the status of your resume and cover letter and you are still very interested in an internship. Your goal in this phone conversation is to convince them to schedule you for an interview.
8. Develop Your Power Interview Abilities – This is often the most neglected aspect of an internship search. Prepare with a listing of sample interview questions from the Internet. Even though you may be thinking, “this is just an internship,” the employer may take the interview very seriously since any intern is viewed as a representative of the company. Be sure to express your enthusiasm and dress professionally.
9. Send Thank You Notes, Be Patient, Follow Up & Obtain Offers – Immediately after the interview, send a sincere and tailored thank you note. Only about 10% of candidates ever do this, but it can give you that all important edge. Depending on the company it can be typed, e-mailed or handwritten. If the employer has not called you when they said they would, then again it is acceptable for you to contact them and reiterate your interest and see how the process is coming along.
10. Evaluate Internship Offers – Oh no! Now you have several offers and don’t know which option is the best! Talk to a professional career counselor. He or she can help you weigh factors such as job content, training, supervision, prestige of the employer, location, credit versus non-credit, salary and benefits if any, contacts and which internship will best position you for the future.
© 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC – Albany.com – Friday, February 11, 2011