By Tracey Rector, Alumna of IUPUI
With internship applications due in the next few months, now is the time to plan and strategize. Employers love someone with a high GPA, but what can separate you from other applicants is experience — making internships are a must. For starters, it helps you get an inside look of the career field you’re getting into and also gives valuable on-the-job training that will make you more hirable than someone else.
In order to land an internship, first impressions are everything. In most cases, your application is a company’s first impression of you, so make it count!
How Many Internships You Need
In a recent UChic Twitter chat about internships, the consensus was to have one per year in college. For some, one every semester could even be a possibility, especially if you get a late start and don’t have your first internship until your third or fourth year. It all depends on how it fits in with your class schedule and what you’re comfortable with. But you at least need one or two.
Show Them You’re The Best Candidate
The internship application process is a competition. Be prepared and show the company why you’re the best candidate. One of the ways to be ahead of the game is to research the company prior to submitting an application. Don’t just scratch the surface; learn about who they are and what’s important to them. Also, browse the Internet and see if there is any recent good or interesting news highlighting their business. Upon submitting your application, make a mental note of something you learned from your research and be sure to bring it up in your follow up email, phone call or interview.
Preparing for Applications
Each application is different and not all requirements will be the same. Some may require a resume while others require a portfolio. Either way, the sooner you start gathering the following materials, the easier it will be when your job search begins — and even extra material to submit for an internship.
Here is a list of items to start gathering (or at least know where to find):
- Cover letter
- Portfolio of work
- School contact information (i.e. adviser address/phone number)
Some applications will ask for a written document answering questions that range from “What qualifies you for this internship?” to “What drew you into this career field?” Even if you aren’t a writer, just answer their questions and you’ll be fine.
A couple tips for writing:
- Write tightly. This isn’t a high school term paper where you have to write at least eight pages or Mrs. Jones will mark off points. Just make your point and be clear. Leave out filler words. For example, 75 percent of the time, the use of the word “that” isn’t necessary. Think quality over quantity when it comes to words.
- Proof, proof and proof again. And when you’re finished proofing, have someone else proof it, too. After staring at something for so long, your eyes are less likely to catch mistakes; so after you write and proof it once, step away from it for a few hours. Then, before you submit it, have someone take a quick look, too. Sometimes you, or spellchecker, might not catch you misspelled “experience” as “expereince.” It’s much better if a friend finds a mistake rather than a prospective employer.
- Don’t go off topic. It’s easy to start writing about one thing and then end your paragraph with something completely unrelated. You’ve got a small amount of space to catch their attention and to show them why you are the best applicant for the internship. Don’t waste space!
Lastly, Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
It’s not that your chance of landing the internship of your dreams is slim to none, but it is a competition and you might not always win. As you search for an internship, find a few you’re interested in; not just one. This way, you’re likely to get on with a company. Also, if there is a company you would like to intern with but don’t see internship information — take initiative. Do your homework and then pick up the phone or send an email. They may not have interns, but after talking to you, they may just change their mind or make an exception.