While we all dream of the day that we score the perfect internship, it’s safe to say that the path to getting there can be pretty tough. From applications, to networking, to writing a resume and cover letter, it’s easy to understand why the internship search process is a little daunting for collegiettes. And if you plan to apply to an internship for this upcoming fall semester... on top of balancing school? Even tougher—but not impossible! Even if many companies haven’t posted positions yet, there are tons of things you can do during your downtime this summer to get prepped for internship application season so that you won’t have to sweat it this fall!
1. Perfect your resume and cover letter skills
One of the first steps to getting prepped for the semester internship process is also the easiest—revamp your resume! Dr. Katherine Cohen, founder and CEO of the admissions counseling website Ivywise, suggests polishing your resume in advance, so that when it’s time to hand it to employers, it’s ready to go!
“When applying for internships, it’s important to have a complete, up-to-date record of your professional experience, interests and goals,” Dr. Cohen says. “While it isn’t anyone’s favorite thing to complete their resume, it is the most important first step you can take so it is easy to apply to any internships that may be of interest to you as soon as they pop up. Don’t miss out on opportunities.”
Get out that untouched resume file on your computer and check it over to make sure it’s totally updated with your most recent experience and information—you wouldn’t want potential employers to miss out on knowing about that killer internship you had last summer or your work experience last semester! And even if your resume is up to date, it can never hurt to proofread it for typos or ask a friend to read over it.
In addition to working on your resume, it's important to brush up on your cover letter skills too! It’s a great idea to start thinking about what you’d put in a cover letter to specific internships you might apply to, and if you’re unsure of where you’ll apply this fall, just going over guidelines for writing a cover letter with your school’s career center can be just as helpful!
2. Focus on the bigger picture
Having a little bit of downtime to focus on you makes summer the perfect time to do a little soul-searching and think about what it is you really want. What are your ultimate career goals and what types of internships should you be looking into in order to reach them? Dr. Cohen says that it’s important to take a step back and think about the type of career that would interest you in the long run and how future internships can help you get there.
“Pinpoint your end goals and pursue what interests you,” Dr. Cohen says. “The point of an internship is to explore a particular field to see if you would like to pursue it as an academic major or career, so you should do something that really interests you and builds upon your current skills.”
Use this summer to reflect upon your skills and the experiences you’ve had that you’ve both enjoyed and disliked. Did you really love a certain major-specific class you took last semester? Did you really hate an internship you had a few summers ago? Take all of these experiences into account when you’re thinking about the types of internships that will suit you best next semester!
3. Do your homework
In order to feel confident heading into interviews this fall, it’s going to be important for you to research, research, research. Spending time looking into the companies and industry you plan to enter far before you actually sit down to apply is an important step if you want to nail a job. Mish Southgate, a career coach and founder of career counseling service Visibility Careers, says that the best way to get ahead before application season hits this fall is to learn all you can about the companies you might be interested in being a part of.
“The key to getting a head start with internships is research,” Southgate says. “Before the hiring season begins, use the summer to research industries you are interested in, the companies that are considered leaders in those industries, and the career paths they offer. In addition, gather as much information as you can about the corporate culture and what skills and qualities are required to be successful.”
While many companies may not have posted about specific opportunities yet, start thinking about companies that you’re hoping to intern with. Learning all you can about what skills you’ll need for the job and what it’s like to work there will give you a leg up in the fall, so that all you’ll need to do is apply!
4. Start reaching out
Know exactly where you want to be next semester? It never hurts to reach out! When you know which companies you’ll be applying to next semester, Dr. Cohen says that it’s a good idea to start making connections with people who already work there.
“Do research on local companies or organizations at which you would like to intern, see if you have any connections who work there, then reach out to learn more about opportunities they may have, or if you have questions about a certain position they have posted,” Dr. Cohen says. “Use parents, friends, your college alumni website and other job search sites to connect with individuals who could sit down and provide more information about their field of work.”
Of course, you don’t want to start getting in touch with possible employers by asking for an internship—instead, reach out and ask questions about their position, their company, or their industry. Now is a great time for informational interviews! Because many internships open applications as early as August and have deadlines as early as October, it’s a great idea to start making connections ahead of time. Does an alum from your school work for a company you may intern for? Ask him or her to get coffee! Additionally, see if you can get in touch with any current interns at the company in order to ask them about their experience interning there. Not only will they be able to provide advice on the position's application process, but they'll also be able to provide insight into whether or not you'd actually enjoy the job! All in all, it can never hurt to start making connections now so that companies will have a face to place with the name on your application.
5. Use social media to your advantage
As with any job search, social media is a major player here—use it to your advantage! Anna Crowe Bates, the SEO Marketing Manager of Noodle, a website that connects students with colleges and educational opportunities, suggests connecting with companies on social media as a way to stay in-the-know.
“Brands post behind-the-scenes sneak peeks into daily office life and they also share internship postings,” Crowe says. “If you don't see anything, don't be afraid to put yourself out there by sending a friendly email inquiring about future openings.”
In addition to following companies, make sure to connect with internship posting sites like Ed2010, which often tweet internship listings and opportunities. Of course, when you’re connecting with potential employers, it also means that they could potentially connect with you—make sure you clean up any social media presence that they may find now so that there's nothing to worry about once you’ve applied!
Ultimately, starting to think about everything you need to do in order to successfully fill out applications this fall will help relieve the stress once application season begins. When you get ahead on the process of searching out the companies you might want to intern for and prepping yourself to apply for them, you’ll be ready to fill out applications the minute they hit the internet this fall. Happy internship hunting, collegiettes!