5 Tips For Landing Your Dream Summer Internship

By Jennifer Lotito, Contributor

A successful internship can catapult careers and put aspiring professionals on a path to securing full-time jobs. But with summer internship season soon upon us, many prospective interns are feeling uneasy.

Internships have become an unofficial prerequisite for obtaining entry-level employment. But competition is fierce–and increasing. According to a 2023 Ripplematch survey, 60% of early career candidates are concerned about making their applications stand out.

Here are five tips to help you break through and land your dream summer internship.

Apply Early

You’ve probably heard the saying “summer bodies are made in winter.” The same is true with internships. While you might be busy planning that epic spring break trip or ski weekend with your roommates, now is the time to begin researching and applying for summer opportunities.

There’s rarely any downside to applying early. In fact, many employers, including (RED), the organization that I lead, screen candidates on a “rolling” basis, meaning that once someone meets the criteria, they’re hired. Applying early can give you a valuable leg up on the competition and help your summer planning.

Do Your Research

Securing an internship is a bit of a numbers game: the more places you apply, the better your chances. However, that shouldn’t keep you from doing your research on prospective employers. Your time is finite and you can only do so many internships–so make them count.

Where you apply should depend on your career ambitions. Make a list of your favorite organizations or companies that reflect your interests and values. Explore websites like Glassdoor and Canary that have reviews from interns and fellows. Talk to your college career office and classmates to discover which employers have the best internship offerings.

You can learn a lot about a company’s internship program by scoping their website. How much information do they share about the program? How detailed is the job description? Are the responsibilities generic or substantive?

You should also weigh other key factors like the location and compensation. While online internships offer great convenience, they also limit your ability to engage in the office culture and develop deeper relationships with potential mentors and future references. Moreover, whether an internship is paid or unpaid can significantly impact your experience. Studies have shown that paid internships have a greater chance of leading to full-time employment. There’s also a correlation between paid internships and higher entry-level salaries. Yet only six in ten internships are paid.

The bottom line is: You and your time are valuable. Do your homework and ensure you’re targeting employers that are worth your investment and talent.

Polish Your Resume And Cover Letter

After you’ve determined your dream list of employers, it’s time to get your application materials in top shape, starting with your resume.

Your resume should succinctly summarize your experience, including prior internships, jobs, academic credentials, and relevant extracurricular activities. It should not exceed one page. If your resume is longer, keep revising. The average recruiter spends less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume. You may have a million accolades, but the only ones that matter are the items that pertain to the application before you. As you read your resume, ask yourself: Does this bullet make it significantly more likely someone will hire me?

You should update your resume with every application to reflect the keywords in the job description. Tools like Skillsyncer and Jobscan can help identify missing keywords so your resume doesn’t get buried in the applicant tracking system.

Understand the differences between a resume and a cover letter. A resume tells an employer where you’ve worked and what you’ve done. A cover letter explains why it matters and why you want the job. Cover letters seldom make your candidacy, but they can break it. Don’t rely on artificial intelligence platforms to write your cover letter. A great letter conveys emotion and tells a story–your story. No other person or thing can tell your story better than you.

Before finalizing your application materials, ask a trusted friend to review them. Treat any edits like an objective umpire, taking good suggestions and politely ignoring others without ego. Tools like Grammarly and Hemingway can improve the quality of your writing and limit grammatical errors.

Finally, as you begin creating multiple resumes and cover letters, always double-check that you’re attaching the correct materials to each application. You don’t want to learn this lesson the hard way!

Network, Network, Network

One of the best ways to secure a coveted internship is to put yourself out there.

After you’ve identified your dream employer, see if you can determine the hiring manager. If you can, ask if they’d be willing to do an informational interview or grab coffee sometime. If you’re unable to find the hiring manager, try building relationships with other employees who can help advance your application.

It’s never been easier to ask someone for a Zoom meeting. However, virtual meetings with strangers are rarely as productive as sitting down in person. So do the outreach and try meeting face to face. At worst, your email or LinkedIn message will go unanswered. At best, you may meet someone who can teach you something, help with your application, or serve as a future resource.

Now’s the best time in your career to grow your network. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and go for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Prepare For Interviews

Once you’ve submitted your application materials and have been contacted for an interview, it’s time to seal the deal. As the old phrase goes: proper preparation prevents poor performance. When preparing for interviews, begin by refreshing your knowledge of the employer. Annual reports, press releases, and even social media are great places to look for information. Pay attention to how the prospective employer communicates their mission and work.

Spend ample time familiarizing yourself with the job description. Develop a list of potential job-specific questions that you could be asked. For more generic questions, Indeed has created a list of 100 common interview questions. Every night, you should spend 15 minutes rehearsing a few of these questions out loud in front of the mirror. Artificial intelligence-backed communications tools like Yoodli can give you practice interview questions, assess your delivery, and provide real-time feedback.

When practicing for interviews, you should limit your answers to two minutes in length. If a question requires you to talk about your experience, always follow the S.T.A.R. method by describing the situation, the task, the action taken, and the result.

Most interviews end with the applicant asking the employer questions. Prepare at least a half dozen questions in advance. Some of your questions may be answered during the interview. So, it’s better to have too many questions than not enough.

When interviewing, you always want to present your best self. Ask smart questions and show why you’re the answer to your dream internship.

Read the full article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferlotito/2024/03/13/5-tips-for-landing-your-dream-summer-internship/?sh=7a60acfc3171

By Career & Professional Development
Career & Professional Development