To jump-start your career and get a job after graduation, you need experience. But how do you get experience without having a job in the first place? There’s only one answer: an internship. Finding one that aligns with your career goals is only the beginning; getting chosen is the stumbling block.
There are already a ton of websites with common sense advice on how to land an internship. Edit your resume, customize your cover letter, be 10 minutes early to the interview… Chances are, you’ve heard it all. While there’s no foolproof way of getting selected among dozens or hundreds of applicants, these less obvious tips can help you improve your chances of landing the internship you want:
Don’t Underestimate Volunteering
A lot of people never think of volunteering because they’re not passionate about any cause. If you feel the same way, there’s one thing I’m sure you’re passionate about: your career. You don’t need to have an affinity toward saving the endangered Baiji dolphin or the Amazonian rainforest. Volunteering can help you apply current skills in new ways, as well as let you develop new job skills that you might need at the internship you’re considering.
It also allows you to try on different roles within the organization, but without job-hopping! Being exposed to an organization in a deeper way is more rewarding than just following them on Instagram or conducting an informational interview with an employee. Besides, it’s always great to give back to the community in any way you can.
Keep A Copy Of The Internship Description
A lot of employers take down the job description after they fill their quota of applicants, and if you don’t save it at the time you applied for the position, chances are it’s forever lost. From the language used, to the order of qualifications listed, job descriptions can tell you a lot about the company’s culture and a deeper understanding of what’s expected from you in the position you’re applying for. It’s the closest thing to having a “secret password” to getting hired.
If you didn’t save it and it gets taken down from the website, don’t panic. You can always look for job descriptions at similar companies, or even use it to your advantage and contact the HR person, asking them to provide the job description, department budget, or anything else that can help you understand the position and the needs of the company.
Get In Touch With Previous Interns
If you know someone who has interned at a company you’d like to work for, they can probably offer valuable insight. Ask them about the interviewing process and if they can share any other helpful tips only an insider would know. Maybe you could even get an introduction to the person that’s in charge of hiring. Going that extra mile can be the tipping point that gets your foot in the door. You can also find out if that internship is right for you, which specific skill sets you’ll obtain and if someone is going to mentor you.
In fact, don’t limit yourself just to interns from your dream company. Any advice from successful peers can help you land an internship. They’re just a click away on LinkedIn. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn from them.
Keep It Casual And Make It A Conversation
This one mostly depends on the type company you’re applying to. Your cover letter and follow-up email won’t be the same for a small agency with a casual work atmosphere and a financial institution with traditional values. Email is already impersonal enough as it is, and in most cases, “Hey [insert name]” works much better than “Dear Sir or Madam.” Being professional is always a good thing, but too much of it can sand the edges off your personality.
It’s also equally important to keep in mind that cover letters aren’t college papers. Write the way you talk and be concise. Get comfortable with the white space. With that being said, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is talking too much about yourself. It’s important to find the balance between talking about yourself and talking about the company you’re applying to. Talk to them, not at them.
Consider The Unpaid Internships
The vast majority of people limit their search to only paid internships, and it’s easy to see why. While paid internships are great opportunities that are always worth applying for, consider casting a wider net. You may not get a chance to earn extra cash, but there are plenty of other advantages, especially if the internship is at a company you’d love to work for one day.
It’s similar to getting good grades in college. Whether it be in a classroom or interning for an employer, doing a good job results in better opportunities for the future. Paid or not, interns get an invaluable glimpse of what is entailed in working for an employer in the real world. Don’t overlook the benefit of having an internship on your resume, as well as gaining confidence by knowing you can transfer the skills you learned in college to being successful in the professional world.