Recently someone from my university reached out to me for advice on how to get an internship. Luckily my university, Fitchburg State University, had a full time internship program set up for us so we had a little advantage. There are still some basic steps anyone can take to get an internship. I’ve come up with 9 steps for you to follow on your own.
Step #1: Start Early
If you’re looking for interning tips, most likely you’re still in college. That’s perfect. The more experience you can get before officially entering the work field the better.
If I could go back and do college over I would change two things; interning more and going abroad. Going abroad is a completely different story of itself but I do encourage you two explore that option as well.
Interning while you’re in college gives you the opportunity to not only build and define skills that you will need to get a job, but it is also the first time you will be able to see the work force first hand. This first hand experience will allow you to decide if you enjoy in this field before it’s too late. You can also narrow down what specific areas and positions you like.
Lastly, starting early gets you ahead of the game… And the competition.
Step #2 See What Your School Can Offer You
Start by seeing what your school has to offer. Is there an internship program offered through your school? Can you get school credit for your internship? Even if the school doesn’t have anything official set up, professors may have good suggestions on where to look. They also can give you great recommendations!
Step #3 Always Be Collecting and Updating
During your college career it is important to keep track of your accomplishments. Later, when applying for an internship – or a job – you will need a list of your experience, awards and projects to create your resume, cover letter and portfolio.
I highly suggest you create a document where you can keep track of what you have done, if you haven’t already. In this document you should also include the date and a brief description of each item you add. While you are collecting pieces of your professional portfolio make sure to update it at least yearly. The more frequent you update, the easier it will be to recall each experience.
Step #4 Learn About the Company and Find A Contact
By now you should have selected a few internships to apply to. Before you send in you application make sure to do your research. Start with the company’s website. Learn about the company’s mission and vision statements, what projects they’re currently working on and find a contact.
Learning about the company will help you decide if this is the right choice for you and will help you during the interview. I might be bold enough to say that the contact will be the most important part. The contact may or may not be the internship coordinator. Maybe this contact is someone you know personally or through a friend. Either way it will behoove you to also talk to this contact before you submit your application.
Use this contact to learn more about the company and ask any questions you may have about the industry. This contact they may be able to refer you to the internship coordinator. This should help you make an impression. If it doesn’t work out with this company, you always have this contact to go back to for advice or to refer you to a different company or contact.
Step #5 Apply, Then Make The Call
Now you are ready to apply. A lot of applications are strictly online now, but if there is a number where you can reach the internship coordinator personally, CALL! I cannot express how important personal human contact is.
Of course you will go through the normal routine of applying online just like the other applicants but you will call to ask for an interview. If you do not know what to say here’s a script to follow;
“Hello, Mr./Ms./Mrs. _____________, My name is _______________. I’m calling about your internship program in the _______(say what semester here)______. I have submitted my résumé, cover letter (and possibly portfolio) online. I was wondering if I could come in for an interview.”
They may ask you to call back in a few weeks or a couple of months even. This is because sometimes companies are so busy or they get such a big applicant pool they do not do interviews until closer to the internship starting date. Do not be discouraged, just make sure you call back when they ask you to.
Step #6 Confirm
Normally you’re interview is scheduled at least a week later or more. It is good practice to confirm your date and time before the interview. If the internship coordinator was okay with you calling him/her you can call them, but some prefer email so just make note of how he/she likes to be contacted. You can call or email saying;
“Hello, Mr./Ms./Mrs. _____________, this is ____________. I’m calling/emailing to confirm our interview on __________________ at ____________.”
Then they will reply and you can say something like, “Thank you for your time, I look forward to meeting you in person on ____________.”
Step #7 Have The Interview
It’s the big day! Now you are finally having the interview. Make sure you are wearing something appropriate. There is a debate on how dressed up you should be for an interview. At the very least you should be as dressed up or a little more dressed up than the best dressed person in the office. How do you get this information? Ask your contact! Or go with one of these safeties…
For Women: A dress, but not a sundress. A skirt with a blouse. Or slacks and a blouse.
For Men: A pair of khakis or dress pants with a button up shirt.
Now that you look the part, go over your research and practice responses to interview questions. You can go here to use my mock interview to practice your responses.
When the interview is over make sure to think the interviewer and shake his/her hand.
Step #8 Follow Up
After the interview you will want to follow up with the internship coordinator. You will be thanking them again for the interview and ask when the decision will be made. Jut keep it sweet and short. This will be the last time you talk until you hear the decision.
Step #9 Wait Patiently And Pray!
Now there’s nothing left to do but wait. It will be tempting to call or email to see if the decision has been made. It will also be torture waiting. Just keep yourself busy, enjoy whatever is going on in your life and wait for the call.
** These steps are similar to the steps taken when applying for a job. On Tuesday I will have steps for applying for a job. On Thursday I will have 6 steps to take after graduating. **