Whether paid or unpaid, a summer internship offers a taste of what’s to come after graduation. It can also help beef up your resume—which will come in handy while you are job hunting along with thousands of other new college graduates. Some ambitious interns are even lucky enough to secure full-time jobs at the company where they interned.
Internships can also benefit high school students who want to get a head start on potential career fields that interest them. It’s better to realize you actually dislike something you thought you might enjoy now rather than after you declare your major in college!
That said, just how do you go about finding a summer internship? It’s only the beginning of the year, but positions will become harder and harder to land as the semester progresses. If you already know that you want to intern, it’s in your best interest to start the process now rather than two weeks before your summer vacation.
1. If you don’t already have one, make a resume that highlights your achievements and any relative work experience you have. Write a cover letter that you can easily alter for any internship that you apply for—a one-size-fits-all cover letter might seem generic and cause yours to get passed over quickly. (Yes, looking for an internship is like looking for a regular job.)
2. Start searching the Internet and classified ads posted on your local newspaper’s website. If you’ll be leaving campus for the summer, look for positions in your hometown or a city that you’d be willing to travel to if you could realistically afford to do so. Use relevant keywords to search, such as “summer internships in Atlanta” or “business student internships in Miami.”
3. Consult your school’s career services office. Many companies submit information about available internships to college campuses rather than job websites or newspaper ads. If you’re still in high school, meet with your guidance counselor or contact any colleges and universities in your area to see if they would be willing to help you out.
4. Make sure you apply for positions and communicate with people with a professional-sounding email address. Your official college email address ending in .edu or a free email account set up as YourFirstName.LastName looks a lot better than SexxyGrrrl1993.
4. Speak up! Let people know you’re looking for an internship. Talk to professors or teachers, department heads, your parents, your parents’ friends, and anyone else you can think of. If you meet someone on campus, at church, waiting in line at the grocery store, anywhere! who works in your potential field or at a company in the area, ask if there are internships available.
5. Try cold calling. Sending unsolicited emails might cause your messages to wind up in spam folders, but you might be able to reach someone by phone. If there is an internship director or someone who works with interns, you might be able to speak with someone. Worse case is you learn that there are not any openings.
6. Be flexible. In reality, nearly any summer internship or job will be a benefit. You might be majoring in graphic design, but even answering phones and taking messages means that you’ll gain skills like learning how to interact with others in a non-academic setting—and realistically, this often includes people who you don’t get along with or like very much.
7. Be prepared. If you are asked to interview, be on time and dressed nicely. You do not need to run out and purchase a new suit, but it’s not a good idea to arrive in jean cutoffs and a tank top. Be polite—whoever is meeting with you is taking time out of their day to do so! Research the company on their website before you show up. Know what goes on, and if possible, who does what.
8. Ask questions. Find out what the internship involves. There will most likely be some mundane tasks that won’t have you jumping up and down in excitement, but you’ll probably get at least some hands-on experience.
9. Act quickly. If you’re asked to submit documents by email or to fill out forms, be prompt. Dragging your feet could allow someone else to snag the internship rather than you.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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