by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17
You hear it all the time: internships, internships, internships. Yeah, it’s awesome that most programs at Champlain require students to have an internship prior to graduation, but how does one go about getting one?
Here are some steps you can take, but keep in mind that your path could look different.
Step 1: Ask Yourself Questions
To know what kind of internship you want to search for, you first need to ask yourself some questions.
- What do you hope to gain from an internship? What skills do you want to learn?
- What kind of organization do you want to work for? Nonprofits are very different than corporations.
- Where do you want your internship to be located, and do you want it to be virtual or in person?
- Will you consider paid and non-paid, for credit and not for college credit internships?
- What is your dream company or organization to intern for? Why that one in particular?
- How much time are you willing to dedicate to your internship each week?
Step 2: Prepare Your Materials
If you haven’t already, you’ll need to create a base resume and cover letter. These act as templates that you can tweak for every individual job you apply for. For example, on my base resume I include every job I’ve ever worked, every award I’ve received, and all the skills I have. But for a specific job, I will only include the most relevant information to that specific position. The same goes for a cover letter. When I start an internship search, I consider what kind of internship I want and write a base cover letter that describes my skills and experience that I’ll tweak for each specific internship I apply for. In your cover letter and resume, it’s important to include key words from the position’s description or online classified (but you don’t need to worry about this in your base resume and cover letter).
As always, if you need help with your resume or cover letter, you can stop in to see a Peer Advisor or make an appointment with your Career Advisor. Visit our “Make an Appointment” page for more information.
Step 3: Start Searching
There are many places you can look for leads about internships you might want to apply for.
- Career Shift is a service that Champlain subscribes to, meaning you have access with your mymail email address. For help setting up your account, drop in to Career Collaborative and see a Peer Advisor or Angela. Career Shift allows you to search for internships in a specific location and in industries you want using keywords.
- Job board sites like internships.com, monster.com, LinkedIn.com, internshipmatch.com, youtern.com, idealist.com, and more are places to find opportunities. You can also use Google to search for internships in your area and industry.
- Talk with your professors and see what opportunities they know about. Your career coach also has connections with people in your industry and may know of something you’d be a good fit for. Ask family members that may have connections to the industry you want to intern in. I found my last internship – which was never advertised – by asking a family member for help.
- Attend a Career Fair in your area, especially Champlain sponsored ones. The employers who attend these have relationships with the college, meaning they like to hire interns specifically from Champlain College. Career Fairs are a chance to meet with recruiters and learn about opportunities, pass out resumes, make good impressions, follow-up the next day with all your new contacts, and ideally, land an interview and internship.
- Cold calling is intimidating, but it might work for you. Find local businesses that you could see yourself interning for and give them a call. They may already have interns lined up or not be interested in interns right then. If they’ve never had an intern before, offer to be their first. If they’ve had bad experiences with interns in the past, explain why you’ll be better. Show that you are passionate about finding an internship and you might just convince the right person to hire you or create a position for you.
Step 4: Ace the Application and Interview
Once you know where you want to apply, look at the application requirements. Tweak your resume and cover letter for each position, including keywords from the position’s description or online classified. Let your passion and voice shine through; uniqueness stands out. I once began a cover letter with a poem. If that’s not something you’re comfortable with, find what’s unique about you and emphasize it. Always show the company what you can offer them in every resume and cover letter you write.
Before you submit your application, proofread all your materials. Once you submit, give the hiring manager two weeks to respond before following up. Either call or send an email briefly asking if your materials were received and when you can expect to hear back. If in another week you haven’t heard back, give them a call. There will be times when you try to follow-up and never hear a word back. Move on to other opportunities.
The best way to practice for an interview is to schedule a mock interview with your Career Advisor. Make sure to research the company or organization you’re interviewing with and practice answers to questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Know why you want the internship and know what you have to offer. Arrive ten minutes early, dress professionally (or as people already working at the company dress), and be confident. Always send a thank you note after an interview and follow-up in a week or two if you don’t hear back.
Step 5: Keep Trying
If the first opportunity doesn’t come through, keep trying. Landing an internship isn’t so different from landing a job, and sometimes, a search can last months. Stamina is important. Keeping a positive attitude is everything. We’re always here to help at Career Collaborative.