Have no fear…InternMatch is here, with seven tips to help Seattle area interns find an internship that is just right for their areas of study, interests and goals.
Finding the right internship may well be one of the hardest tasks of your collegiate or post collegiate life. After all, breaking into the professional world may require you to embrace a variety of new skill sets that need careful thought and practice to master. But, here are seven tips to help you distinguish yourself from other applicants.
1. Think about your general motivation for finding an internship. Is it to explore a new field, gain contacts in a given industry, learn on the job skills, or to simply pad your resume? Understanding your motivations will help you focus on where to apply and will also open new doors in case your ideal position does not come through.
2. Search and Save. Certainly a good first step on any job or internship search is getting in touch with personal, academic, and professional contacts and networking with them about potential opportunities. However, searching online means navigating a far bigger pool of positions to find ones which are within your reach and fit your specific interests.
- Search for positions related to your desired internship field, not for a company that specializes in that field. For instance, searching all marketing positions in a given location may open new ideas about organizations that need marketing help and offer marketing experience but which are not a traditional marketing firm. These include non-profits or start-up companies which may be less competitive overall but still offer substantial benefits in terms of building your portfolio and gaining industry experience.
- Find roughly 10-20 positions that seem like a good fit. Online positions are open to the public and therefore can be competitive; however, once your basic application materials are created applying to additional positions online is relatively easy. To improve your odds find 10-20 positions which are all good options. Applying to this number helps you keep doors open, even if one or two employers do not respond to your application.
- Keeping track of your target positions is helpful. Also, it is beneficial to add notes on these positions that remind you of next steps to take or which keep track of interesting information which you have researched on the given company.
3. Get your resume and cover letter materials ready. When you apply online these documents are the only means an employer will have to evaluate you. It is important to see these documents as your personal brand, marketing your experience to the organization you are applying to and eliminating any error or typos that will appear novice. A lot of work goes into making these documents strong but if you put in the time you will stand out from the pack. There are resources with sample internship resumes and cover letters, along with advice on how to take these documents to the next level.
4. Apply and Follow-Up: With positions saved and materials ready it is time to start applying. Ideally you should customize your resume and cover letter for every organization you apply to. Also, applying well ahead of a deadline will help you to stand out. Remember, after you submit materials the process is still not over. While not always necessary you may want to follow-up a week after you submit your application with a phone call or email to the intern hiring director and make sure the materials arrived in their hands. This is an opportunity to show your ability to be confident and professional while speaking on the phone.
5. Get ready to interview: Just like improving your application flow and your resume documents, getting ready for an internship interview takes a lot of practice. We recommend getting in front of a mirror and rehearsing common answers and/or convincing a friend to be your practice interviewer. Rehearsing answers out loud and hearing how they sound makes a big difference.
6. Reflect, Improve and Repeat: If you landed a position after steps 1 through 5, congratulations. If not, do not get discouraged. As stated in the introduction, this is a challenging process, with the final reward of becoming much better at the entire search and application process. You should reflect upon what worked and what did not, ask the people you have interviewed with what you can do better next time, and incorporate feedback to improve your future prospects. Frequently check what is new and incorporate feedback as you apply to fresh positions.
7. There is no guarantee (especially in the current competitive job market) that there is an internship waiting for you – you need to go out there and get it. Following these steps will guarantee that you are approaching this process in a systematic way that gives you the best possible shot. There will always be new opportunities so don’t get discouraged, focus on improving this process, and learning as much as you can. Finally, remember to always be courteous to employers, and through this process you will become a stronger applicant and develop your professional network!