How To Find The Perfect Internship

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 13, 2020

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An internship is a short-term, part-time, or full-time work experience. During an internship, you are supervised by a professional in order to learn about the industry in which you are interning. Internships exist in just about every field, at businesses, non-profits, and government agencies, both big and small.

Internships provide valuable opportunities to those with little or no work experience in the field. You can learn, build real work skills, and develop professional contacts. If you nail your internship (and the circumstances align), it’s not uncommon for that same company to offer you a future position.

Students who engage in internships during college are more likely to be hired because of demonstrated professional experience and the networking opportunities internships provide. Having both a college education and relevant professional experience gives you the extra edge to be hired as a recent graduate.

However, landing a college internship can be challenging since so many students – both undergraduate and postgraduate – are eager to participate and reap the benefits. The internship market can be a bit saturated. And if this is your first experience with the elusive hunt for jobs and internships, it can be a bit intimidating.

Below are some of our top tips for finding the perfect college internships.

8 Ways to Find the Perfect College Internship

  1. Start your search early. When searching for the right college internship, starting your search as early as possible will always give you a leg up. This applies whether you are a freshman or a senior. If you are thinking about getting an internship and haven’t started the preliminary process yet, the best time to start is no

    You don’t have to stress yourself out by rushing through the process as quickly as possible, but give yourself time to play around with different options and ideas, do research, talk to people, prepare, and apply.

    Keep in mind that every company and industry isn’t searching and offering internships year-round. You’re going to want to keep a nicely organized planner for your internship prospects and keep track of important deadlines for applications and other time-sensitive matters.

    Internships for students tend to occur in the summer or on other long-term breaks like winter break. The couple months or so before break starts, there’s always a surge of applicants looking for opportunities at the last minute. Set yourself apart by applying in advance.

    Bottom line, try not to start your search too late, or you could miss out on important opportunities.

  2. Decide which fields and industries interest you. As a college student, nobody expects you to know everything about the trajectory of your career. You may feel the pressure to just decide and stick with one sure thing, but remember that your job right now is to learn, try new things, and dip your toes in the water of the professional world.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary

    Try making a list of all the subjects, fields, industries, careers, and professional responsibilities that interest you. Consider if there’s anything you have prior experience in or specialized skills.

    Ask yourself if you’d like to work with a well-known company or a small startup. Consider whether you’re more interested in a for-profit company or non-profit organization.

    Your next step is to do as much research as possible on the potential job paths you’ve written down. Search online to find out more about the responsibilities of specific job titles that interest you or the expectations and requirements of a particular industry.

    As part of your research, talk to someone who works in a field that interests you. Tell them what positions interest you and ask them questions about their experience. Also, talk to someone who has previously been an intern in a field that interests you. You’ll not only gain insider knowledge, but you’ll grow your network as well.

  3. Use your college’s resources, services, and networking events. Most colleges have a multitude of resources you can utilize for professional development. These resources are (almost always) free to use for college students and are an excellent way to find, land, and prepare for internships.

    Check to see if your college has a career advancement center or career counselors, and schedule an appointment. Even if you feel lost, these faculty members are happy to help and can provide access to exclusive opportunities.

    Go to career fairs, networking events, and all other college events that offer opportunities to get job and internship ready. These events – especially career fairs – are full of recruiters looking for motivated students like yourself. If you aren’t sure where to find these events, check your school website or career advancement center.

    College advisors, professors, and other faculty can also be a big help, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them as well. Many schools even offer opportunities to connect and network with alumni.

  4. Search online. When it comes to professional searching, nothing quite has the reach and breadth of the internet. As a student and a digital native, you are probably well aware of the power of the internet in connecting us with things we would never have been exposed to otherwise.

    There is a wealth of information and opportunities you can find online; you just have to put in the work of searching and parsing it all out.

    Your best bet for finding internship postings online is using a job board or job search engine. Job boards, such as Zippia, are frequently updated with new positions and opportunities. Or, for a comprehensive search, you can even try using general search engines such as Google.

    You can also have a lot of luck using college-specific or internship-specific boards and forums, such as collegerecruiter.com. You can even try checking social media, such as Linkedin or Facebook.

    Regardless of the route you take, be sure to use your internet savvy to your advantage. If you’re reading this article, you already know that there is a wealth of information and advice to be found online. Online, you can find in-depth advice on how to get an internship. So search to your heart’s content.

  5. Perfect your resume and portfolio. Before you start the process of applying (and during this process), polish up your resume, portfolio, cover letter, and whatever other application documents you’ll be needing.

    This starts by setting yourself up for success. Do well in school, be active in clubs and on-campus communities, do volunteer work, and take on leadership roles. All of these things can show your work ethic and skills and highlight your resume’s best qualities.

    Use your resume to highlight your accomplishments, demonstrate your professionalism, and provide quality references that can vouch for you.

    If you have a career advancement center or career counselors, it’s always a good idea to take your resume — in any stage of completion — to be looked over by some specially-trained eyes. They can advise on how to format it, what to include, and how to personalize it for each application. This advice also applies to cover letters and portfolios.

    Make sure to personalize, proofread, and have all your necessary documents squared away before you apply.

  6. Apply liberally, decide strategically. Now that you’re ready to apply, remember that a surefire way to maximize your success is to maximize your chances. This means applying to as many internships as you can or want to in as many places as you are interested in.

    A good candidate who applies to 20 internships has more of a chance of landing one than a great candidate who applies to only three or four due to sheer probability and maximization of opportunities.

    Applying liberally will lead to a lot of rejection, sure. But, as the old saying goes, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

    However, once you’ve received offers, it’s time to be picky and selective. Ask yourself what this internship will do for you, what the pros and cons are. Examine what kind of jobs and responsibilities you’ll have and decide if they align with the skills you are trying to build.

    When making the decision, ask yourself how you will explain this internship to a future employer.

  7. Build your interview skills. Landing an internship will usually involve some kind of interview process. These could take place in person, over the phone, or through video conference.

    As with all the other steps here, your college’s career center is a great place to ask for interview advice. You can also try asking the ol’ reliable internet search engine.

    You’ll want to learn or brush up on typical interview skills and rules of thumb, etiquette, and dress codes. Research commonly asked interview questions and prepare some answers. You can even try staging a mock interview to help get yourself comfortable with the process.

    Before your interview, do as much research as you can on the company you’re interviewing for. This includes reading about what they do and their mission statement or the story of their organization.

    While putting your best foot forward during the interview, be sure to ask your interviewer questions about this position and what it’s like to see if it’s the right fit for you. After the interview, send a follow-up, such as a thank-you email.

  8. Consider all your options. When you really, really want a college internship, ask yourself what core need or desire is motivating you to want this. By answering this question, you can open yourself up to even more opportunities, helping you achieve the things you really want to achieve.

    Consider jobs and other experiences that can offer you the same benefits you’re looking for out of an internship. If making money is essential for you, think about applying for a part-time job, a summer job, or an on-campus job or TA position alongside your search for a paid internship.

    If making money is less crucial for you, but you still want to learn and gain professional skills, there are lots of options for you as well. You can consider unpaid internships and participating in research opportunities through your school.

    Some colleges even offer co-op opportunities to alternate between academic study and full-time work during the school year.

    There are so many options available to you as a college student. Just remember to tread wisely and pick yourself back up after any setbacks.

Take the hassle out of your job search & get an offer faster
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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