Here are the things an internship can do for you – open doors, offer experience, networking opportunities, teach professional behavior and prepare you for a full time job. While all this is fine, how on earth does one get one’s hands on an internship opportunity in the first place?
1. Do A Self-Evaluation
Use sites such as Internships.com to do an unbiased assessment of your nature, temperament, values, interests and personality. Use a marketing campaign approach towards your internship, to understand who you are, your desired career path, and the company environments and cultures that will work best for you.
2. Dig Down To Your USP
What do you have that companies would love to hire? What’s your single-most admirable quality? Write down what you can do for the company that hires you and why you’re the best choice. When asked, “why should we hire you?”, you need to be able to answer with great confidence and passion.
3. Look For Opportunities In Various Places
Check with your School Career Counselor, professors, fellow students, your parents, your school’s Alumni Network, personal resources, internship directories and so on. Gather their collective knowledge of internship opportunities along with tips and advice from their own experience.
4. Make A Shortlist Of Companies
Narrow down your focus if you want an internship that you can use for your career. Look up companies in your chosen industry and make a shortlist of 10 to which to apply. This will help you customize and personalize your focus. Include both major and minor league companies in your list.
5. Do Your Research
Research each company on your list – their thought leaders, management, products, company policies, their stock market performance, latest news and so on. When you’re called for an interview at one of your shortlisted companies, you should be able to speak confidently about what you know of them.
6. Contact Employees And Interns Via Social Media
Use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to contact employees, ex-employees and interns working at your shortlisted companies. If those contacts are second-degree, ask a first-degree contact to make an introduction. Find out as much information as you can about the company culture and the person’s experience.
7. Prepare Your Resume And Covering Letter
Create custom covering letters addressing company job description and needs. Use professional resume writing services if you can afford it. Highlight your past leadership roles, your passion for the industry, your side projects, work experience if any and so on. Study professional samples and also get your work reviewed by others.
8. Develop A Passion For Your Chosen Industry
What do you feel for your chosen industry? At the interview, you cannot come off as apathetic or uninterested. Keep studying your industry till you develop a true passion for it. If you don’t have passion for it, find out where your passion lies.
9. Prepare For Interviews
Buy some formal clothes for your interview and dress neatly, even if the company dress code says casual. Find out what kind of questions you’re bound to be asked and practice your answers in advance. Do ‘mock interviews’ with your professors or parents.
10. At The Interview
Once they’re done asking you questions, respectfully ask if they’d answer some of your questions. Pose forward looking, intelligent questions and avoid asking about the stipend. Find out about the internship position. Sit straight, maintain eye contact, smile and respect their personal space.
11. Learn How To Do Post-Interview Followup
The next day, send your interviewer an email or hand-written thank you note to set you apart. Don’t bug them – follow up after a few days. If they still don’t call you, let go and move on.
Shawn works for TicTwo, a well-known organization that facilitates business internship programs in Shanghai. She conducts cultural orientation programs for young interns.