Trying to get an internship can be stressful. I started applying for internships when I was a sophomore in college. I made a list of all of the professionals I knew in career fields that interested me. I was nervous because I did not have anyone review my application, and didn’t end up speaking to anyone in the industries I was interested in.
Six months after I started applying for opportunities, I was selected for an unpaid internship. As I got older, I leaned further into the networks of those close to me. Using my network benefited me when I was looking for a full-time job. Asking for advice from successful family members, friends, and people on LinkedIn opened my eyes to the importance of networking.
Khadyajah Jenkins, a former talent scout at Adobe, says that developing professional relationships is one of many things that helps students get internships. She spoke with Forbes about tips that will help you acquire your dream internship.
Build Your Brand
LinkedIn is an easy way to connect with working professionals. It’s a space to display your talents and what you can bring to a company. What unique qualities do you bring to the table? Are you a team player? Have you received accolades outside of work? Before you get an initial interview, you should be able to answer all of these questions. Don’t forget to list your skills on your LinkedIn profile.
You should upload your resume in case a recruiter looks at your profile. “Make sure that your resume speaks directly to your experience,” Jenkins says. As someone who has been a talent scout, Jenkins knows the importance of using LinkedIn. “Build your personal brand on LinkedIn,” she says.
Create a niche for yourself and highlight that niche on LinkedIn. Doing this can be beneficial to your career. When people see that you have something to offer that no one else does, it will be hard to turn you down for an internship.
Learn more about companies where you’d like to work online or through word of mouth. You should make a list of companies you are applying to. If you know any employees, reach out to them and ask questions about working there.
“Always start with research to know exactly what you want your internship experience to be. Have a clear understanding of what you want out of your internship,” says Jenkins.
Go on LinkedIn and put the name of a company and the word intern. The profiles of current and former interns will come up. Take an extra step and message someone who has interned at the company. Set up a phone call to get a better understanding of the work culture.
If you get an interview for an internship, make sure to do some research on the person who will be interviewing you. Understand the company’s history and how it has grown since its inception. And make sure you understand the company’s culture and how you can contribute to an even more productive environment.
The internship application window often occurs months before an internship begins. Take the initiative to apply months before the application closes. Have someone review your cover letter, resume, and applications. You’ll find that applying early will take some pressure off you but also ensure your application is solid.
If you decide to apply for an internship last minute, you may not notice small mistakes like typos. You also may not have time to have someone review your application. It’s important to give yourself as much time as possible to submit internship applications.
“If you’re looking for summer internships, start looking in September. The internship window closes around November, December. Notifications go out from January to March,” says Jenkins.
For David Valencia, a former Ernst & Young consulting intern, taking initiative is a significant part of applying for internships. The Southern California native grew up seeing the ins and outs of finance due to his father’s extensive network and career as a financier. Despite his father’s success, the 21-year-old strives to build his own legacy.
Valencia started purchasing and selling sneakers when he was only 14 years old. As a rising senior at the University of California Los Angeles, he has already done three internships. He had some wise words about what it takes to get an internship.
“Be proactive. Start early because nowadays, internships are recruiting six to eight months ahead of time,” he says.
Develop and maintain relationships with people who have done internships. When you go to social gatherings, consider whether anyone in your industry will be there. Make an effort to connect with professionals through career fairs, parties, and mutual friends. Stay in touch with people you speak to about careers.
“Follow up and maintain those relationships. Face-to-face interaction goes a long way,” says Jenkins. Although the pandemic has changed the way people interact, it’s important to network in-person. Reconnect with people from schools you have attended and places you’ve worked. Get as much guidance about what it takes to get an internship.
Also, never ask for a job— always ask for advice. After you ask for advice a person may recommend someone else for you to speak with who has even more connections. And Valencia believes it’s important for college students to form relationships with mentors.
“Find a mentor in college. A lot of people talk about networking and meeting people to get something. You don’t always have to get something out of connecting with them. You never know how they could help you down the line.”
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