If you’re a student looking for valuable work experience this fall, you’re not alone. As the summer starts to wind down, it’s definitely time to start lining up possible work opportunities. Internships are a great way to kick off your career, helping to build a network of professional contacts, references and mentors. Designed with students in mind, lack of professional experience is expected in internships and the focus is more on finding a candidate who is enthusiastic, ready to learn and trustworthy. That internship experience is often your golden ticket to the first official job in your career.
1. Know what you want
One of the biggest mistakes students make is applying for anything and everything they see. Being flexible doesn’t mean job searching without a focus. What industry are you interested in? What do you want to learn in your internship or job? What are your top skills? What excites you about the possible internship? These are all questions you should be able to answer before you hit send on that application. This doesn’t mean you can never change your mind in the future, but you should be seeking out opportunities that align with your experience, skills and interests.
2. Have a personalized and professional resume
Internships can be incredibly competitive, so your resume needs to standout and effectively highlight why you’re a great candidate for the position. A resume that stands out doesn’t mean you need to add elements that distract from the content. A hiring manager looking at your resume should be able to clearly identify your core skills and any relevant experience you have, volunteer positions and academic achievements. You must communicate what makes you unique from the other applicants and showcase your personality. Remember, everything you have on your resume should also be reflected on your LinkedIn profile. Keeping your online pages up to date with your internship, volunteer and work experience is imperative because potential employers can, and will, search for this information online.
3. Refresh your social media profiles
In addition to making sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, take a look at what comes up when you search your name online. An inappropriate comment or questionable image could be the deciding factor between an employer choosing you versus another candidate for a competitive position. Look at your search results and the content publicly posted online, and ask yourself if that is how you want to be seen as a professional. Your digital footprint is a great way for employers to get a sense of your personality and interests, and can also exemplify that you’re an active participant in your industry’s online community. Don’t underestimate the power of a strong online presence to edge you into the next round in an application process.
For students, the term “networking” can be intimidating. But networking doesn’t have to mean getting a ticket to an industry event and making small talk with a group of professionals you’ve never met, hoping it will lead to a job offer. Talk to your professors, your school’s alumni, family contacts, schoolmates, previous employers or internship managers about where you are in your career and the opportunities you’re looking for. These individuals may have personal connections at a company that could use a fall intern, and at the very least you can get one-on-one advice on finding and succeeding in an internship. The Internet is also a valuable resource for joining discussion groups and interacting with industry professionals. From LinkedIn to Twitter and other online forums, the more effort put into making contacts and letting people know you’re looking for an internship, the better your chances of actually landing a position.
There is no doubt that internships can be difficult to find, but it’s important to not give up the search. Continue to research companies you’re interested in, talk to people about what you’re looking for and seek out any openings. Be prepared with a clear and concise resume to help push you forward in the process. Although you may not have the most extensive work experience, highlight the skills you’ve learned in school, work or volunteer activities, and make sure your enthusiasm always comes through. If you’re dedicated and professional in your search, you’re bound to find a fantastic internship.