How To Get An Internship

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The job market is competitive, and internships are a great way to make you a more competitive applicant in the future. Some can even end in a full-time offer from the employer. We know how hard it can be to find an internship while in high school or college and are here to make things easier. This guide will help you find, apply, and land a great internship.

Getting Started

Before you start looking for an internship, take some time to think about what you want. Going into your search without any direction can be overwhelming. Here are a few things to think about before you throw yourself into the deep end.

  • Culture: What workplace cultures are you drawn to? You can learn about a company’s culture by doing a quick google search of [company’s name] and [corporate culture]. You can also visit the company’s website and social media. Look for their “About” section and for pictures or videos of the company. Keep an eye out for things like diversity, workplace setup, learning opportunities, and after-hour events. You can also reach out to current and former employees and ask them about the culture.

  • Kind of internship: What are you looking for? The first thing to figure out is when you want to intern. Summer internships are the most popular option for high school and college-level students since they have less course work during that time. However, there are fall, winter, and spring internships as well. Next, what industry do you want to work in? There is nothing wrong with applying to internships in different sectors. Finally, do you care if the internship is paid or unpaid, in person or virtual, or whether or not you can get academic credit for it?

  • Location: Where do you want to intern? If you are in high school or college, living at home can be a great way to save money since many internships do not pay. If this is not an option for you, think about what state or country you want to be in. Consider the cost of living in that area, and if you would be willing to relocate there after graduation if the employer were to offer you a full-time job. Some employers will provide interns with a salary or pay for their interns’ housing. Another great option is to intern for your college or university. These internships usually pay or are subsidized by the school.

  • Personal Interests: What do you like to do? If you are unsure about what you want to do professionally, think about your other interests. If you love animal, you may want to spend your summer volunteering for a shelter or interning at a veterinarian’s office. If you like the environment, you can look for internships in the renewable energy sector.

  • Professional Interests: What are your career aspirations? If you are unsure, Zippia allows you to explore career paths based on your college major. You can look at these career maps and see if anything interests you and then look for an internship in that field. For high school students, think about where you want to work in the future and look for an internship at a similar company or in a related industry.

Finding An Internship

Now that you have an idea of what kind of internship you want, the next step is finding the right ones to apply to. Here are several avenues that you can take to find the perfect internship for you.

  • Career Centers: Colleges, universities, and high schools often have career centers or guidance counselors that help with internship placements and often have connections with alumni and employers. Career center staff and guidance counselors help students figure out what industry or kind of internship that would be best for them. They also help students go over their resume and cover letter and conduct mock interviews to help individuals practice before the real thing.

  • Cold call or email: While cold calling or emailing a company can be intimidating, it can be very effective. To learn more, you can read through how to make a successful cold call in a job search and tips for landing your dream job with a cold email. A good person to reach out to is a hiring manager. You can usually find who a company’s hiring manager is on their “About” or “Meet The Team” page.

  • Find Internships With Zippia: Zippia has a great job search tool where you have the option to limit your search to internships. You can also choose where you want to intern, your highest level of education, your college major, and what size company you want.

  • Internship fairs: High schools, colleges, and universities, often hold career or internship fairs. These are great opportunities to meet employers from different industries and learn more about their companies. If your school does not have these, there are several independent fairs that you can attend. Find out what employers are going to be there ahead of time and do some research so that you can prepare questions to ask them and customize your resume and cover letter. For more information, read through this career and internship fair prep guide.

  • Networking: Personal recommendations can go a long way. You can tap into your existing network of friends, family, professors, and colleagues. Tell them what industry or field you are interested in and ask if they know anyone looking to hire an intern. If they do, ask them to make a connection. You can also reach out to employees working at the company and ask them to make an introduction for you. If you do not have a professional network, there are several networking events that you can attend. An easy google search is [networking events for young professionals] or [networking events near me]. You can personalize your search to find events in your field, i.e. [networking events for women in tech].

Internship Resume

Writing the perfect resume is challenging enough and trying to write one when you have limited experience can be even harder. Recruiters spend an average of 6.25 seconds looking at an applicant’s resume, so you need to find a way to stand out among the competition. Here are eight things to help you write an amazing, eye-catching resume.

  1. Do not panic: Hiring managers are not going to expect you to have a resume with a ton of work experience for their internship positions. Your resume will grow as you go through school. Your resume in high school or at the beginning of your undergraduate degree will most likely look different than your resume after you graduate.

  2. Front-loaded statements: Starting a sentence with the results of your action makes it stand out. Writing, I increased membership by 30% by developing a new social outreach strategy to target students at my University is much stronger than writing, I reached out to students at my University and increased membership by 30%.

  3. Have different resumes: Do not send the same resume to every job that you are applying to. Go through internship descriptions and tailor your resume to each specific position.

  4. Keywords: 99% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS), according to Jobscan. If you are applying to a mid to large-sized company, your resume is probably going to go through an ATS, which is software that companies use to eliminate candidates. If your resume does not include one of the search terms that the company is looking for, or is formatted incorrectly, the employer will throw out your resume no matter how qualified you are. Read through the following tips to ensure that your resume gets through ATS.

  5. Know Your Resume: Before you walk into the interview, you need to know your resume. The interviewer has reviewed your resume ahead of time and will ask you several questions about its content. Be prepared to discuss anything on your resume and practice until you are confident. Do not lie on your resume. Interviewers will be able to determine your credibility.

  6. Metrics Sell: Use numbers that quantify what you did. Numbers and stats often pop out to those reading your resume. If you are a resident advisor at college, writing, “I managed a building with over 300 students,” is much stronger than writing, “I managed a building.”

  7. More Information: Read this great article that outlines how to create a resume that stands out among the competition.

  8. Organization: Organize and format your resume well so that it is easy to read. Have important information and skills that they are looking for at the top of your resume so that they stand out when a hiring manager is skimming it. Provide concrete examples of how you used those skills as well.

What To Include In your Resume

A resume can include more than work experience. Here are a few sections that you can add to your resume.

  • Awards/Honors/Recognitions: If you have received multiple awards or recognitions, this can be a great section to add to your resume. Some things you can include in this section are high honor roll status, scholarships, volunteer or work awards, and awards for specific activities. Do not just list these awards as the person reading your application may not know what they are. Include the date, purpose, and significance of the award.

  • Education: At the top of your resume, you should have a section for education. This section should include the name, location, and the dates you attended your school. If you are still in school, write your expected graduation date. You should also include your major, if in college, and your GPA. If you studied abroad, you should also include it in this section.

  • Extracurricular activities: Include a section on what you do outside of the classroom. This section can include sports, clubs, and school organizations.

  • Hobbies/Interests: If your resume is looking a bit sparse, consider adding a section at the end of your resume for hobbies and interests. Try and find hobbies that relate to the internship. If the internship requires you to have problem-solving skills and pattern recognition, you can put that you play chess. Do not lie about your hobbies.

  • Relevant Course Work: Include classes, projects, publications, and research that aligns with the internship you are applying to.

  • Resume Objective Section: If your resume is looking empty, a resume objective section can be a good thing to add. You can use this section to write about yourself and your professional goals. Make sure that what you write aligns with the company or organization that you are applying to. Zetty has a great example of a resume objective section: “Detail-oriented English Major seeking to leverage excellent written and verbal communication skills to succeed as an Intern at XYZ company. Excel at working on teams with +3 years of experience as Captain of the Lacrosse team at Xavier University.”

  • Skills Section: Consider adding a skills section to your resume where you highlight your strongest and most relevant skills. Make your skills pop out throughout your resume so that a hiring manager does not have to search hard for your relevant skills.

  • Work Experience: Since individuals in high school and college often have limited experience, you can add jobs that are not necessarily related to the field or industry that you are applying to. For example, babysitting may not relate to the internship at hand, but can show that you are responsible. You can also include volunteer experience in this section. If you only have one or two things in this section, consider organizing the descriptions into two sections: responsibilities and accomplishments. Doing so will help you fill up a little more space.

76% of resumes are discarded for an unprofessional email address.

Cover Letter For Internship

Many employers will require you to submit a cover letter when applying to an internship. Even if the internship posting says that it is optional, it is in your best interest to still submit one. Read through these actionable cover letter tips that will help you land and internship and mistakes that you should avoid. Here are six additional steps that you can take to write a killer cover letter for an internship.

  1. Describe yourself: Begin your cover letter by introducing yourself and telling the employer who you are. Express your interest in the position and tell them how you heard about the job. Try and keep this section around four to five sentences.

  2. Outline your skills: Go over the internship posting and see what skills the employer is looking for. Use this section to briefly explain the skills and attributes you have that make you the perfect candidate. Explain how you acquired these and provide examples of how you have demonstrated them. This section is a great place to bring in relevant coursework.

  3. Why should they choose you: In this section, flesh out examples from your past that shows you are right for the position. This is your chance to go into a little more detail than you did in the previous section and highlight your attributes that would make you a perfect fit for the position. Make sure that this section is not a summary of your resume.

  4. End with confidence: Explain in a sentence why you would be a fantastic fit for the position. Next, thank the hiring manager for taking the time to read through your application. Finally, write that you are looking forward to being in touch and would welcome the chance for an interview. Here are a few examples of how to close your cover letter.

  5. Keep it short: Your cover letter does not have to be an entire page. Remember, quality over quantity. You should only include information that is important and will enhance your application. Again, make sure that your cover letter is not just a summary of your resume.

  6. Know who you are talking to: Addressing a cover letter correctly can be challenging, especially when you do not know who the hiring manager is. If the company you are applying to is small enough, and they only have one recruiter or hiring manager, address them personally. Doing so will set you apart from other candidates and show that you took the time to do the research and find out who will be reading your cover letter and resume.

Social Media

Your resume and cover letter are not the only things that matter when applying to internships. 70 % of employers use social networking sites to screen candidates, according to Career Builder. Don’t worry. You do not have to go and delete all of your social media accounts. In fact, 47% of employers said that they would not interview a person if they could not find them online, according to Business News Daily. Here are a few things that you can do to get your social media profiles ready for your internship search.

  • General Things to Avoid: Here are a few things to keep off of your social media.

    1. Badmouthing previous employers
    2. Discriminatory comments. Look through different types of discrimination.
    3. Talking about drugs or alcohol
    4. Unprofessional or inappropriate pictures and videos
    5. o Unprofessional usernames

  • Facebook Profiles: Consider keeping your Facebook account private. You can change your privacy settings so that only you and your friends can see your profile and the things you are tagged in by going to “settings” and then to “privacy.” You can also turn privacy settings on for old posts so that only you and your friends can see them. You cannot set your profile or cover picture to private, so make sure that both are appropriate.

  • Google Yourself: Conducting a google search of your name is an easy way to see what will come up in the search results when an employer googles you. Make sure to use an incognito window when doing this so that you get unbiased results.

  • Instagram: If your Instagram leans more towards the personal side than the professional one, it may be smart to set it to private. You can go to settings privacy, and then account privacy. You can then switch on privacy next to “Private Account” to make your page private. If you do want to create a public Instagram, there are actually ways to use Instagram to help you land an internship. The Balance Careers has a great article that explains how to use Instagram in your job search.

  • LinkedIn: Your LinkedIn should be up to date with your relevant information. You can use it to show employers your engagement with specific industries and other professionals. Make sure that you have a professional headshot since it is the first thing an employer will see when they go to your profile. Also, make sure that you have a captivating headline, a good summary, and that you are creating professional connections.

  • Online Portfolio: If you are applying to an internship in the creative field, consider creating an online portfolio to create a professional brand and to display your work and past projects. Having one also helps you stand out from the competition.

  • Twitter: You have the option to make your tweets private. You can go to your “Privacy and Safety” setting, and in the tweet privacy section, you can check the box next to “Protect my Tweets.” For extra security, you can also turn off your location, disable discoverability so that people cannot find you from your email address or phone number, and disable other users from tagging you in photos. If your Twitter account is professional and you want to keep it open to the public, make sure that everything on it is appropriate. An employer will look to see if you are following anyone in their industry and at your tweets do see what information you like to share.

  • Venmo: Set your Venmo transactions to private. An employer can search for your name on Venmo and see all of your public transactions. A prospective employer has no way of knowing whether or not the transaction message you sent someone was a joke or real.

Over 9 in 10 recruiters say they are likely to look at a candidate’s social media behavior.

Interviewing

There are several steps that you should take to prepare for an interview. Zippia has an excellent comprehensive guide about how to prepare for an interview. It goes over everything from how to research the company, possible interview questions, to what to wear. If you don’t have time to read through it, here are eight things to help you prepare for an interview.

  1. Behavioral Interview Questions Employers will often use this interview technique to find out more about you by looking at your past and how you react to certain real-world situations. To prepare for these questions, look at the qualifications and responsibilities outlined in the job description. For each, think of an example of when you embodied that skill or characteristic. When answering, think before you speak, be honest, and keep your response to around two minutes. Consider using the STAR method to answer these questions: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. You can read this guide created by The Interview Guys to learn how to use this method.

  2. Know Your Interviewer: Find out who is interviewing you ahead of time and look for them online. Know their role in the company and as much background on them as you can find. See if you can find any interests that you share. Maybe you like the same sports team or have a similar hobby.

  3. Know Your Resume: Review your resume before you walk into the interview and be prepared to discuss anything on it. Go over the experiences on it and practice explaining what skills you gained and how you will use them to succeed at the internship. Remember, do not lie on your resume because the interviewer will ask you about anything they view as questionable.

  4. Internship Interview Questions: Create a list of possible interview questions and practice saying your answers out loud. The more you practice, the more confident you will be. While you cannot know every question an interviewer will ask, here are 25 common ones.

  5. Practice: Have friends, family, professors, or your career center, help you prepare for your interview. Find people who are not afraid to give you honest feedback and constructive criticism. Once you find the right person ask them if they are willing to prepare questions to ask you and try to mimic the interview setting to the best of your ability.

  6. Research the Company: Know the company’s aims and values and be prepared to talk about how your interests and passions align with their mission. In addition, make sure that you are up to date with what the company is doing in case the interviewer brings up new products, services, mergers, etc. Also be aware of the company’s competitors in case you are asked about them. Lastly, you should have questions ready to ask your interviewer about the company at the end of the interview. This can be anything from why they chose to go in a particular direction to what their company culture is like.

  7. Review the Internship Posting: Make a list of the qualifications, responsibilities, and personal traits that the internship position requires an applicant to have. Try and incorporate these things into your interview. You can also use the internship posting to help you prepare for behavioral interview questions. For each qualification, responsibility, and personal attribute, come up with specific examples from previous jobs and experiences that show you have the qualities that the company is looking for.

  8. What to Bring/Wear: If you are going to an in-person interview make sure to bring everything you need. Consider bringing a notepad and writing utensil to take notes, a hard copy of your resume and references, and a portfolio if you are interviewing for an internship in a design-focused field. Make sure to plan out your interview outfit ahead of time so that you are not scrambling at the last minute to find something.

According to Twin.

Interview Follow Up

Writing a thank-you note after your interview is important. Not only is it considerate, but it gives you another chance to remind the interviewer of how great you are and how you would be a perfect fit for the position. Read over these tips to learn more about writing a great thank you note.

  • Avoid Common Mistakes: Make sure that your note is free of grammatical errors and that you address it to the right person. Learn more about common thank you letter mistakes to ensure that you send the perfect note.

  • Get Contact Information: Get your interviewer’s email address before the interview ends. You will often have their email before you interview from correspondence. If you forget to do this, you can often find their email online or write a hand-written note addressed to your interviewer and send it to their office.

  • Go Over Examples: can be beneficial to read over sample thank-you emails to model yours off of. Here are some great examples and tips on how to write a great thank you letter.

  • Structure: Start your note by showing your appreciation for the interviewer taking the time to meet you. Next, write a sentence about how you are passionate about the role and are eager for the chance to work with them. Finally, brag about the company. You can write, I was impressed by [__], the people I spoke with were [__], or the company’s culture was [__].

  • Take notes: Jot down notes during the interview and use them while writing a thank you note. Using these details will show the interviewer that you were paying attention and remember specifics.

  • Timing: Send your note within 24 hours.

Devon Feuer
Devon Feuer
Author