Paid or unpaid, an internship is a foot in the door towards a real job after you graduate. Apart from looking great on your resume, an internship gives you the chance to gain new skills, network and make connections, establish relationships with mentors, give you a good introduction to the industry's etiquette and culture, and an opportunity to “test drive” your career. But the current shifting economy and evolving work environment mean internships aren’t easy to land. Ellen Gordon Reeves, author of Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? Finding, Landing and Keeping Your First Real Job, believes that the pressure “is on and competition is fierce.” This makes it extremely important to network strategically. Reeves’ has a bit of advice: “Stop sending your resumes into cyberspace. It's a black hole.”Apart from this, we suggest you try this seven-step action plan for landing a great summer internship.1. Look in all the right places If you’re looking only at job search sites, you aren’t doing enough. Many companies and industries often have their own job boards and postings, so check those for positions that don’t appear on job sites. University and college professors could also be in the know of industry-specific internship hotspots. Your web of relationships is an extremely powerful tool and can help you land your dream internship. So wield it. Tip: Tap your parents’ network - friends, colleagues and others. They could help you find just the right internship. 2. Join a career-specific social networking siteSocial networking sites aren’t all play, no work. Even if you don’t have any experience to brag about! After all, the people you need to impress are there, aren’t they? Create a profile and showcase the varied things you have done – that volunteering stint with street children, the thesis topic you worked on, the extra work you took on at college. It may not seem like much, but employers are sure to appreciate the effort to network. Tip: A little bit of embellishment is fine, but don’t bluff. Helping out at a blood bank is different from saving lives.
3. Never copy-paste a template cover letterIt may be the first time that you’re sending out an internship request, but desist from using a template cover letter. Any potential employer who’s seen a few resumes can tell it’s a template. Draw inspiration from a well-written cover letter, but use it only as a guide to pen a letter that shows your style and is tailored to the company. Tip: Your cover letter should sell your skills, experience and abilities instead of emphasising things that are lacking.
4. Let your resume set you apartEvery potential employer or recruiter has seen thousands of resumes, so make sure that yours stands out. Creative resumes – be it an amazing infographic or a standout piece of art – have much more potential of attracting an employer’s eye and getting you an internship offer. Tip: Creativity is fine, but don’t forget to list down your achievements and skills on the resume.
5. Clean up your online personaYou can get away with showing off your entire life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but that’s fine only when you’re a student. If you’re looking for a step up into the professional world, it’s time to clean up your online image. Remove all photos, tweets or posts that are remotely controversial. Instead, show off what a potential employer would like to read – blog posts, interesting articles and innovative ideas. Tip: Impress a potential employer by showing, not telling. Your own blog could be the perfect way to do this.
6. Work on acing the interviewEvery employer knows that good resume or not, an undergraduate is lacking in accomplishments and work history. That’s why the interview is extremely important. Carol Christen, co-author of What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens, a career guide for young people, believes young people are going to be hired “more often on personality traits than on knowledge or skills”. She says it take as many as nine interviews for students to get comfortable so practise.Tip: If college career counsellors aren’t open to mock interviews, consider asking relatives or friends.
7. It’s not about the money, honey Ryan Kahn, career coach and author of Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad, believes that finding an internship can be worth every undergraduate’s while. “I am huge advocate for unpaid internships. They’re a great way to test out an industry. Just for a couple of days a week, you can gain the experience to decide whether you want to spend the rest of your career in that field,” he said in an interview. Tip: Think of your internship as a stepping stone to success. At this point in life, the money doesn’t matter as much as connections and experience. Keep in mind that companies devoting time and resources to finding, selecting and training interns look for a return on their investment. It may be in the present or it might accrue in the future, but there’s no denying the benefits that a great internship can bring you.
Searching for your first job can be an intimidating experience. To give you a boost, we’ve put together a Graduate Handbook that covers all the essential job search tips you’ll need.