With spring in full swing, college and university students are eagerly counting down the days until summer. If you’re cramming for final exams and submitting last-minute assignments, rest assured the end is near. But what happens when there are no more teachers and no more books? If you’re serious about preparing for your future career and want a leg up on the competition, consider a summer internship.
Right now, an internship may be the last thing on your mind: your schedule is crammed, and you just want to relax. But if you want to land an internship this summer, you must act quickly. Competition can be stiff, and many employers start their hiring processes in early spring.
If you’d rather spend your summer relaxing on a beach, keep in mind the long-term benefits of getting a head start on your career. Not only will you gain valuable experience and learn new skills – both of which are great for your resume – but you’ll also get a feel for the workplace environment.
Internships allow you to try working with employers in different industries to gauge where you’d like to work after graduation – and where you don’t. You’ll also gain useful contacts who could be valuable assets upon graduation. But before we think too far ahead, let’s focus on internships.
Sell Your Skills
If you don’t have any work experience, you may be wondering how to populate your resume. Everybody starts their career somewhere, and your internship may be your first job. When it comes to building your resume, think about the soft skills and technical skills you’ve acquired in college or university.
Remember that group project where another student wasn’t pulling her weight? How did you handle that conflict? Or how about that week where you had two exams to cram for, plus a 10-page essay to write? How did you balance your priorities and work under pressure? These are all skills that you can apply in the workplace.
Instead of building a traditional resume that focuses on employment history, highlight your abilities. Use a skills-based resume template to focus on specific talents you have that are directly transferable to the workplace. Some examples include leadership, project management, and interpersonal communication, to name a few. The goal is to highlight experiences from all areas of your life, including school, volunteer work, and any part-time jobs you’ve had to showcase a fulsome view of your abilities.
So instead of worrying about a blank or sparse resume, consider how you can apply the experience you do have towards landing an internship. Remember: all your post-secondary experience is fair game, so don’t hesitate to talk about your involvement in extra-curricular activities, sports, and campus life, as long as it’s professional; pub-night pool champions need not apply.
Build Your Resume
Now that you have an idea of what to include on your resume, it’s time to get started. As a rule, keep your resume to a maximum length of two pages. As for design, a professional resume should be eye-catching without being overdone. Follow a simple and clean template that still shows your unique personality. Set yourself apart from the hundreds of others that employers receive daily.
Once your print resume is ready, have a friend or professor look it over. You’ve likely been so wrapped up with exams and assignments that you may have missed some key skills or a typo. Once you’re comfortable with the final version, you can begin submitting it to any internship opportunities that interest you.
As a budding young professional, there’s no time like the present to start building your LinkedIn profile. Upload a short bio for yourself, including your education, any work experience you have, and your resume as an attachment. Employers use LinkedIn to look for young talent just like you. LinkedIn is also a great place to join industry groups and expand your network, both of which could land you that internship or even a permanent position after graduation.
Do Your Research
In addition to applying to any internship postings that interest you, consider who you really want to work for. Contact those companies directly to demonstrate your interest and see if they have any internship opportunities available.
But before you get in touch, do as much research on the company as you can. What impresses you about their work? What makes you a good fit for their industry? What skills and abilities can you contribute? What projects do they have on the horizon that you’re interested in being a part of?
By asking yourself these questions ahead of time, your research will help you shine when you reach out to the company. When speaking with someone there, ask questions about any internships and demonstrate your interest based on your research and the notes you’ve prepared. Tell employers what you hope to gain by working for them, and how you can contribute to their team.
Narrow Your Search
If the weeks are dragging on and you haven’t heard back from any of the places you’ve applied to, examine where you’ve been applying. Perhaps you’ve only been looking at large organizations where competition can be fierce. You may benefit from looking into opportunities with smaller companies. They can offer a quaint workplace, likely with more hands-on experience and the opportunity to work directly with professionals in your field. And remember, not all companies advertise their internship opportunities, especially smaller employers that can only accept one or two interns. This is where reaching out to companies directly – and doing your research – is bound to pay off.
When it comes to summer internships, the most important tip is to get moving. Consider how many students like you are out there trying to advance their careers too. Budget time in your busy schedule to prepare your resume and submit applications. Explore industries and employers that excite you. By getting a head start, you’re improving your chances at landing an internship that will leave you feeling fulfilled by summer’s end, along with valuable insight into finding a long-term career that you love.
Michelle Novielli | Contributing Writer