To-Dos for Landing an Internship
Peter Vogt MC Career Coach
December 02, 2009
Sad, perhaps, but true: If you want any internships, you need to start planning at the previous year’s end. In some cases, application deadlines are only weeks away. You need to remember that fellow students nationwide are competing for the same internships, and before you know it, you’ll be swamped with your spring-semester/fall-semester courses and activities. You need to act now.
Step One: Evaluate and Plan
- On your own or with your school career counselor’s help, identify the key skills and essential experiences an internship could provide.
- Determine what geographic range you’ll consider.
- Pinpoint when you’ll be able to start an internship, given your classes and other commitments.
- Choose a few broad areas of interest to help you begin researching internship possibilities.
Step Two: Explore and Examine
- Explore your internship options by talking to a career counselor; chatting with your instructors, fellow students and alumni; paging through internship directories at your campus library or bookstore and checking out internship Web sites.
- Develop three internship possibility lists: your top-priority dream internships, second-best and third place, but still acceptable, position.
- Read and talk to people to help research your top-priority and second-best internships in depth.
- Ask your career counselor, instructors and fellow students if there are any internship opportunities or organizations you’ve overlooked.
Step Three: Apply and Follow Up
- With the help of your career counselor, academic advisor or an instructor, develop a strong basic resume and cover letter. Each internship you pursue will require a customized resume and letter.
- Get at least three letters of recommendation from people who can speak highly of you professionally or academically, such as instructors, employers and advisors.
- Apply for the internships that interest you most. Remember, if in doubt, apply. It’s better to be rejected than to have no chance because you didn’t even try. Keep track of your applications.
- Follow up with each organization shortly after its internship application deadline passes. Follow up sooner if you feel competition will be stiff or to make sure the company received your materials.
Step Four: Research and Interview
- Study each organization that invites you to interview for an internship carefully. Out-research your competition by reading about the organization in the media and trade publications. Your campus reference librarian can help you find the articles few others will track down.
- Work with a career counselor to make an educated guess as to the questions an interviewer will likely throw at you. Do a practice interview with your counselor to work on your responses and demeanor.
- Come up with specific examples to prove you have the skills, traits and experiences you say you do. Consider developing and using a career portfolio to back up your claims.
- Invest in professional interview clothing.
- Send thank-you notes after each interview. You’ll stand out, because most internship seekers forget this classy move.
Step Five: Accept and Prepare
- Accept a desirable internship offer both verbally and in writing.
- Continue studying the organization you will be working for. Ask your future supervisor if there’s anything you can do now to prepare for the position.
- Invest a little more money in appropriate internship clothes. Your future supervisor can tell you what’s expected of you for dress.
- Explore and then finalize any necessary living and transportation arrangements. Practice getting to your internship site a day or two before you actually start to avoid being late your first day.
- Show up well-dressed, well-groomed, well-rested and a few minutes early on your first day.