Tips for Scoring a College Internship

College internships are a competitive element of the college experience. Employers look for the best and brightest to intern with them, and with today’s diverse, capable pool of applicants, there is no shortage of options.

So, how do you find a college internship? Here are six tips on how to best go about scoring an internship near you:

1. Determine your interests.

Get a general idea of what career you plan on working toward, or how or where you think your time would be most well spent. Consider your goals, hobbies, and passions when seeking internships. Get an idea of what you want to be doing and how you can achieve it.

Some college students already know what they’d like to study, while others remain undecided for a time. If you have a career path chosen, an internship that will help you on that road would be the best fit. If you don’t know where you might end up, no worries! Find a subject that interests you and go from there. 

Recognize that some types of internships are more relevant to your goals than others. A music-focused job might be fun and cater to your love of the piano, but if you’re studying psychology, it isn’t likely to help you.

2. How to find an internship.

Think about your major’s requirements. Take into account the credits you may need, the experience you should gain, and the knowledge you’ll need to attain. Keep these in mind during your search.

Do your research. There are plenty of internships that aren’t widely advertised and some that are even based online. Researching open internships related to your area of interest can yield all sorts of results. Check out internships.com for an expansive list of internships in different industries. You can even seek out company-specific internships like Tesla & NBC, or explore industries like mechanical engineering or network engineering internships.

Make a list of potential employers and internships you find. You can also do simple Google searches that include your area of interest + internships + preferred location (ie: Tesla engineering internships in the Baby area, eBay internships in New York City, etc.). How about a Google internship? Prominent companies like Google provide dedicated pages to help guide your internship and career exploration. See Google’s internship page HERE. 

Joining a club or society dedicated to the area you’re interested in can open a world of possibilities, as they tend to post new opportunities and acquaint you with new people. Career fairs and info nights can provide information about different internships and employers. These are all good ways to sort through options and make connections.

3. Ace your internship applications.

Make yourself stand out. Clean up your resume, have references prepared, and find someone to write a letter of recommendation.

Have your application critiqued. You want your application to be as good as possible, so having it reviewed and critiqued by a professional can only improve it. A different perspective can help you find missing pieces and points to revise, which could be the key to your success.

Early application will likely produce better chances of getting an interview, given that most internships take applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. Applying early will also make you stand out as someone who takes their work seriously and is a go-getter when it comes to their future.

Submit applications to several potential employers. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket by applying for just one internship. You’ll find yourself disappointed and jobless if it doesn’t work out, and you’ll have a harder time finding new opportunities too late in the game. It’s also a good idea to be open to internships in different locations. Have you always dreamed of living in Chicago but reside in Houston? Search “Chicago Internships” and see what comes up! 

4. Prepare for interviews.

While every interview is different, the questions they ask are similar. Preparing answers to interview questions and mock interviews can give you an idea of what questions you’ll be asked and give you a better feel of an interview to ease your anxieties.

TIP: Wondering what kind of questions you’ll encounter in your interviews? Check out @thebalance’s careers blog post “Sample Internship Interview Questions.”

Research potential employers. The more you know about the company you’re interviewing for, the easier the interview becomes. Most company websites have an About Us page. Know it. Reference it. And be ready to talk about how you can support it. Research can reveal what interviewers are looking for in their candidates based on the company’s beliefs and practices.

Take your research a step further by connecting with employers on LinkedIn. A great networking tip is to seek out your internship hiring manager and introduce yourself through the professional social networking platform. Don’t have a profile? Create one today!

5. Follow up after the interview.

Send a thank-you note to your interviewer(s). You’ll want to do this within 24-hours of your interview. The letter should be short and straightforward, re-establishing your position and showing your gratitude for the opportunity. Invite requests for additional information and further communication in regards to the interview.

Send notes to those who aided you along the way (i.e., upperclassmen, recruiters, etc.). Thank them for their help and update them on how your interview went.

Emails are sufficient, but handwritten notes also work well. If you plan to write a handwritten note, be sure that it will arrive within two days of the interview.

TIP: Want to write a thank-you note but don’t know where to start? For examples and how-to’s on writing follow-up notes, check out:

6. Make a choice.

If you get accepted for an internship or multiple internships, really think about what this new job will entail. Decide which option best suits you, and whether or not you genuinely plan to pursue it.

It’s okay if you don’t get picked for your first choice. Any internship in the area of your choice is sure to give you experience. Remember that internships are about the skills you develop and the perspective you gain. Take the best chance given to you and do your best!

Internships are a significant part of the college experience. Landing an internship can put you ahead in your studies and provide real-world experience that you can’t get from a lecture. Follow these steps to improve your chances of getting that internship you wanted and move a step closer to reaching your goals.

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