How to Find a Great-Fit Internship

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By Dr. Kat Cohen
February 18, 2014

When applying to college, we’ve all heard about the myth of the “well-rounded” student. In reality, colleges and universities, and even employers, in the US are not looking for the traditional well-rounded applicant; they’re looking to build well-rounded classes or organizations made up of specialists. One way for applicants to stand out, whether it’s on a college or job application, and develop their interests and skills in a particular field is through internships.

Internships are especially important for college students because they provide hands-on experience that will be valuable when it comes time to find a job after graduation. For high school students, it’s an opportunity to explore a field they may want to pursue in college and learn more about what they may want to do in the future.

At IvyWise, we advise students to begin looking for internships or volunteer opportunities that relate to their interests as early as sophomore year. These opportunities don’t have to take up a significant amount of time day-to-day, but students should sustain their involvement over a period of at least 6-8 weeks in order to maximize their time and make an impact.

If you’re thinking about getting an internship later this spring or summer, now is the time to start looking. Many companies begin the selection processes for summer internship opportunities for high school or college students in January or February. If you wait too long, your options can be limited.

Here’s how to find an internship that’s a great fit for your interests and goals.

Pursue what interests you.

The point of an internship is to explore a particular field to see if you would like to pursue it as an academic major or career, so you should do something that really interests you and builds upon your current skills. If you’re interested in graphic design, see if local firms are looking for design or administrative interns. If you like biology and medicine, find a local lab that has an opportunity for a research internship. Even if the position isn’t exactly what you imagined, you can still learn about the industry, how the profession works, gain insight into the skills and tools necessary to succeed and begin building your network with professionals in this field. Start your exploration on LinkedIn’s Student Jobs Hub.

Build out your LinkedIn Profile and resume.

When applying for internships, it’s important to have a complete, up-to-date record of your professional experience, interests and goals. Start by filling out your LinkedIn Profile with your professional interests, goals, past jobs or internships, relevant classes or projects, volunteer experience, and upload presentations, videos or photos that best illustrate your accomplishments. By keeping an up-to-date LinkedIn Profile, it will be easier to apply to internships online, either on LinkedIn or directly through the company or organization’s website.

Reach out to people in the field.

Do research on local companies or organizations at which you would like to intern, check out LinkedIn to see if you have any connections who work there, then reach out to learn more about opportunities they may have, or if you have questions about a certain position they have posted. Through LinkedIn’s University Pages, students looking for opportunities in specific fields can connect with alumni and professors who may be able to offer help and guidance in the internship search process. Just like in the college search process, it’s helpful to do your research and talk to as many people as possible in order to learn more about a specific field, company, or internship opportunity.

Be sure to link to your relevant online profiles.

When it comes time to applying for an internship, be sure to provide links to other resources like your personal website, blog, online portfolio, and your updated LinkedIn Profile. You can include these in your resume or in the signature of an email. This way, employers can learn more about you, see some of your work, and gain insight into other accomplishments and interests that you may not have been able to include in your standard resume.

Bring your A-Game to the interview.

So you found a great-fit internship and now they want to interview you. Remember to bring all materials they requested, whether it’s extra copies of your resume (you should have those on-hand anyway), writing or project samples, or a list of references. Dress appropriately and bring a list of your own questions to ask during the interview. This is an opportunity for you to get to know the interviewers and their organization as much as it is a chance for them to get to know you. After the interview, be sure to get business cards in order to send thank you notes and ask additional questions should you have any.

Don’t take rejection personally.

Waiting to hear a company’s decision after an interview can be daunting, but no matter the outcome, you are still one step closer to finding a great-fit internship. Rejection can sting, but if you don’t get the position, don’t take it personally. Inquire about why they decided to go in a different direction and use that feedback to assist you in your next search.

Standing out from the pool of applicants is key to gaining acceptance to your top-choice university or an offer from your top company. Applicant pools are highly competitive, so it’s important to take advantage of opportunities like internships that can develop your skills and interests. By taking these simple steps to research, network, and build your online presence, you’ll be on your way to finding a great-fit internship.