Beyond College: Internships (Part II)

Originally published September 2013, online student newsletter.

In last month’s article about internships, I talked about “those” people. The ones who seem to breeze through school, internships, and finding a job with little effort.  Yet even for those select few who seem to have it easy, I guarantee that somewhere along the way, a lot of hard work took place to get them to where they are.

So now it’s your turn!  By finding and completing an internship, you will be laying a foundation of hard work, important skills, and networking that will help you to end up doing something you love. Last time, we talked about the first steps to exploring an internship opportunity: set some goals, make a plan, and start networking!  Once you have taken the first few steps, it’s time to land that internship!

Research
Once you have asked around, talked to people, and identified some internship options, it’s time to research. While it may be tempting to jump at the first internship opportunity you are offered, you want to ensure the internship is a good fit for you. It’s great to gain experience, but if you spend the next six months making coffee and running errands, you might wish you had been a bit more discriminatory in making your choice.

So where to start?  Make sure you know all about the organizations you’re exploring. Know their website inside and out. Explore what other people are saying.  Find out what they do and think hard about whether it’s a good fit. Ask what your role would be; how would you help and how could you expect to grow?  Be sure to balance your needs with offers of how you can benefit the organization.  Remember, it needs to be a good fit for BOTH sides. Know your rights as an intern and read blog posts to prepare you for what to expect.

Prepare
While doing your homework and having connections can certainly help get an internship, don’t rely on the fact that your mother’s cousin’s brother-in-law’s friend said they could use the extra help.  If you want a business or organization to be serious about you, show them that you are serious as well.

How do you prepare? Develop a stellar resume. Create and optimize a LinkedIn profile. Consider sending a visual resume link along with your actual resume. Write an outstanding cover letter. In all these things, focus on how you can benefit the organization, not the other way around.  (And for the record, “I need money” is never an okay introduction).  Continue networking and ask people who know your work ethic for reference letters. Enhance your interviewing techniques and practice answering tough questions with a family member or your coach.

Bring the WOW Factor
Let’s say you follow all these steps and have an interview for a great internship.  Now is not the time to sit back and see what happens. Be just as intentional during and after the interview as you were leading up to it.  Focus on presenting your value to the company, not the other way around. Send a thank you note after the interview.  If you don’t hear back in the time you were told, follow-up to see where things stand.

Never assume that things will just ‘happen.’  Contrary to the common expression, good things seldom come to those who wait—at least, not if you’re sitting around while waiting.  Great things happen to those who are willing to work hard to make them happen.

Well, you are now equipped with a few basic steps to get you well on your way to finding an internship.  Do you have questions about this process?  Have you had an internship and have more tips to share?  Or you are using some of these tips right now? I would love to hear from you!  Send me an email and let me know your experience!

Image: “Suitcase” by Lasse Christensen, CC