Nowadays, internships are practically a requirement for landing your dream job. They provide a level of experience that a classroom simply can’t.
“Employers want people to come to the workplace with already a set of both technical and foundational skills,” said Matt Sigelman, the CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, a job-matching technology firm, to U.S. News. “The more summers you can spend accruing those skills, the more of a track record you can demonstrate to employers.”
However, how to find and apply for the perfect internship isn’t always clear. As someone who has completed an editorial internship at a luxury lifestyle and fashion magazine in West Palm Beach, FL and will start another one in New York City this summer, I’m still not an expert. But, I’ve learned a couple tricks of the trade that’ll hopefully give you some insight.
1. Know What You Want
When you start the internship hunt, it’s assumed you know what area of work you want to be in. But, you should also keep in mind where you want to be located (Is moving okay?), how many hours you want (or maybe need) to work, if you want a paid or unpaid gig, what time of year you want to work and so on. Answering these basic questions can help narrow your search.
2. Do Your Research
When you figure out the basics of what you want to get out of an internship, you need to research some contenders. Create a list of companies that you are most interested and look into their history and most recent projects.
This’ll help you get a better feel for if you want to work for that company. And, having some previous knowledge of the company may help you out during your interview!
Check out Intern Queen, an online database for cool internships founded by career and internship expert Lauren Berger – and similar sites – for postings that fit your criteria.
3. Plan It Out
Once you figure out where you want to apply, you need to stay organized. Write down everything. Keep track of who wants what by when and how. Pay close attention to details like due dates, the paperwork required and how they want it submitted. Yes, even the format of the email subject line matters.
4. Gather The Paperwork
Now is the time to clean up your resume and cover letter. Check out our do’s and don’ts of resume writing to get an idea of how things should go. For your cover letter, make sure it’s relevant to the position you’re applying for and sound excited and eager, but not overzealous. Keep the exclamations points out.
Also, digitally gather any clips you may need. PDFs are the cleanest and easiest way to share any work you’ve done; however, any links to online work you’ve had published works too. If you want to go all out or have a large portfolio, consider making your own website via WordPress or similar programs.
Now you’re ready to send out your information!
5. Follow Up
Say you send out all of your paperwork, but it’s taking a while (a few weeks) to get any response. Simply send a follow up email asking if they’ve received your application and when you might be hearing back from them. This little nudge may tell the employer to double check what is probably a mass of messages in his or her inbox.
6. The Interview
The interview can be the most intimidating part of the application process, but don’t let it get to you! Make sure you have a professional ensemble that makes you feel like a million bucks, keep your makeup simple and be sure to have clean nails and moisturized hands. (You’ll be shaking hands with at least one person, if your interview is in person.) Also, be prepared with extra copies of all of your paperwork. Employers are busy. Make their lives easier by providing them with whatever they need to get to know you!
If your interview is over the phone, be sure to find a quiet area with a strong signal so you don’t have to deal with disruptive background noise and dropped calls. Also, be sure to not chew gum or be munching on snacks – that’ll just sound gross.
And lastly, be yourself! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and show your interest. If you act like one person the first time you meet and change over the course of them working with you, your employer and coworkers won’t get the right impression.
7. The Thank You
Do not forget to send a thank you note or email! This shows that you are eager, kind and thoughtful. It’s a small detail like this that may be the deciding factor between you and someone else. Just keep your message short, bring up something that was said in the interview and thank them for taking the time to speak with you.
8. The Waiting Game
Now that you’ve completed the application and interview process, you get to wait to hear. During this time, try not to dwell on what’s transpired. Did you stutter or take a while to answer a question? Who cares? What’s done is done. Knowing that you put in your best effort should be enough. However, if an employer fails to get back to you by the date they said they would, send them a follow up email.
Just don’t jump the gun and tell everyone all the details until you know the final decision. And know, that no matter what the outcome is, you’re gonna be great and it is a learning experience.