By Aviva LeShaw
When we begin our college careers, many of us are unsure what we will eventually want to do with our actual careers, come graduation day. Sure, you may major in Psychology, but do you want to go into that field? It takes real-world experience to combine the knowledge you learn in school with the skills you may develop in the workplace. Throughout my college career, I’ve held positions at a half a dozen internship locations. My major is Creative Writing, so I’ve interned at publishing housing, bookstores, libraries, and even fine arts galleries. Every one of these positions has helped me to gain experience and create a clearer picture of what I may want to do someday in the writing field…or in something else altogether!
Where do I look for an internship?
I’ve had luck using multiple job-searching sites. I use my college’s job portal to search for some internships. These positions are usually appropriate for college students, nearby, and related to my major…which means they may be exactly my cup of tea. I also often go to the “careers” section for any company, brand, or store that I like and see what they are offering. You’d be surprised how few people go directly to the source, because they are genuinely interested in the brand, product, or service of the company. It’s much easier to ace an interview if you really do love what the company does. Tip: if you are contacting a small company, and you find an email for a specific person (rather than an anonymous HR email) chances are usually much higher of hearing back. Address that person by name in the email, and 80% of the time, you’ll hear back. Any sort of connection is crucial!
I found a great internship. What next?
Read details about the company online. Reading their origin story too, often helps. Are they a huge corporation? A startup? An intimate staff of 8? All of these details will help you to craft your cover letter and resume to best reflect the company’s values. Send over your resume and cover letter. Sometimes this is via an online form — sometimes it’s simply writing an email and attaching a resume and cover letter. Read the company’s online instructions carefully. Correctly following directions for applying to the job is your first chance to flaunt the impeccable attention to detail you may mention in your cover letter
I got a response! What do I do before the interview?
You already know everything about the company because you’ve combed through their entire site when searching for a job. You already know how to relate your past experience because you’ve triple-checked your resume. The last, and quite important step to securing the internship is the interviewer.
One thing I have found hugely helpful is to research your interviewer online (hey, if it’s up there, you’re free to read it!). If and when you receive a reply to a cover letter, do a quick Google or LinkedIn search of their name. If you’re like most college students nowadays, it shouldn’t be too tough to amateur sleuth a little bit of background info. Take a look at their credits — their education, their major, hobbies, and even the arc of their career. This can take just ten minutes, but knowing a little about your interviewer’s background and experience might help you to better pitch your skills to them during the interview.
I have an interview tomorrow. What do I do?
I always go with the moto: dress well, test well. Or: if you feel presentable and neat about yourself, it will roll over into your communication and thought-process. I hate to say it, but the way you appear makes a big difference. Watch out for faux pas — like too-high heels or wrinkled or stained clothing. You don’t have to look perfect, but you should look prepared to enter the office then and there. Don’t forget to bring extra copies of your resume!
Interview done! Am I done yet??
Not quite done yet! That night, send a follow-up thank you email. As always, use perfect grammar — no typos. There are example thank-you emails online, to help guide you. You may not get a response right away…don’t worry!
If you don’t get the job, reply right away with a “thank you anyway” email. Be gracious and courteous and thankful, no matter how upset you are. You never know when companies will come back to you the next season, or in the next few years. Leave with a good impression.
If you get it, the work has only just begun! Wow them from day 1!