With snow just starting to fly in most parts of the country, summer may seem a long way off. But if you’re a college student on winter break, now is the ideal time to begin looking for an internship. There are at least two compelling reasons to pursue intern work, even if you don’t need one for a college requirement. First, an internship provides a unique work experience because it relates to your career interests. Second, an internship can evolve into a full-time position after you’ve graduated from college.
1. Make a list of summer internship positions. Your school’s career office should have a current directory of internships, or you can go online to research companies that you’re interested in. Always call or email the company to verify the address and name of the contact person.
2. Take stock of your qualifications. What skills can you contribute to the internship position? Consider your strengths and be able to give examples of something you’ve done that illustrates your know-how.
3. Select 20 places to apply. Review your list carefully, thinking about which skills a potential employer might look for in an applicant. Choose 20 companies that most closely match your career interests and skills you want to develop.
4. Create an internship. If no organization in your field of interest is listed, find one on your own. Sell yourself to a company that may not have established an internship program. For example, when job recruiters come to your campus, ask them if you can meet with them briefly in between their interviews and use the opportunity to find out what kinds of internships they offer or if they would be open to creating an internship position.
5. Approach smaller firms. You may have more success by applying at small companies, which might be happy to have a little extra help with their work. Also, they can provide opportunities to learn and do more than a larger business.
6. Consider geography. If you’re from a small town, apply for intern work in the closest big city. The more diversity you experience, the more versatile you’ll be. Geography may also play a part in which internship you choose. For instance, if you are interested in banking, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or San Francisco would be great cities to work in for a summer. If you’re majoring in marine biology, target cities along either coast of the United States, etc.
7. Prepare the paperwork. To apply for an internship, you will need a resume, cover letter, and letter of recommendation. Earlier this month I wrote two articles explaining how to craft a resume and cover letter. If you missed reading those articles in your local newspaper, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send it to you. Also, feel free to ask me a college or career-related question.
8. Secure a letter of recommendation. Ask a professor or employer (not one of your three references) to write a letter of recommendation for you. Let the person know what kind of internship you are applying for and suggest one or two specific qualifications that you’d like for the writer to highlight. The right recommendation can help you stand out from other applicants.
9. Contact the prospective employer. About two weeks after you’ve mailed your cover letter, resume, and letter of recommendation, call the person to whom you wrote. Confirm that he or she received your letter, and ask when a decision will be made. Reiterate your interest in the company.
10. Don’t give up. Continue networking with college professors, friends, and the career guidance office. Keep a file on any new leads. Eventually, your persistence will produce results.