1. Plan Ahead!
Get a head start on your internship search. There are millions of college students out there fighting for the same good internships. Start looking in February for a summer internship, August for a fall internship and October for a winter semester internship. There is a lot to do to prepare for your internship search - so the earlier the better.
2. Write a Resume and Cover Letter That Showcase Your Skills.
Internship coordinators and employers don't expect you to have a lot of work experience. Hey, that is what an internship is for anyway. But, you should use your resume to highlight your talents, skills and extracurricular activities and sports. Show employers what you have accomplished, whether it was in another job or through sports or school activities. Be ready to tailor your resume for each internship to which you are applying. If you are want to work as a programmer highlight your computer skills. If you want work with people emphasize volunteer work, your gig as a school DJ, or student government experience. Emphasize skills you have that will help the bottom line of the company and articulate how you will be a producer. Show that you are a self-starter who is willing to work hard and learn on the job.
3. Know Your Audience.
When applying for an internship you should be familiar with the company you are applying to and the industry in which the company participates. If you express an understanding of a company's products, services, key personnel and recent news in your cover letter or interview you will impress the employer. Research the company through their Web site, a search of news stories on news sites (http://news.cnet.com, www.businesswire.com) or through career sites like the Vault (www.vault.com).
4. Use Correct Spelling and Grammar.
Sounds obvious, but incorrect spelling or grammar will instantly put your cover letter and resume at the bottom of the pile, if not directly in the trash. You should use your computer's spelling and grammar tools. And you should have at least two other qualified people review your work. Don't risk rejection because of something as simple and obvious as spelling and grammar.
5. Have Reference Letters Prepared.
A good reference letter from a professor, advisor or employer can help you get an advantage over other candidates with similar qualifications. Most professors and school counselors or advisors are used to writing references and will be willing to help. You should obtain references as soon as possible and prepare them for distribution to potential employers. Employers will be impressed that you have references at all, and even more impressed that you have them ready for them to read upon request.
6. Be Clear About Your Availability.
Your location is one of the very first things an employer will look at when considering you for an internship. If it isn’t obvious that your location matches the location of the internship the employer may not consider you for the position. If you are applying for an internship outside of the area in which you are attending school and/or reside, you must let the employer know that you will be relocating to their area for the internship period. Your cover letter should be very clear in expressing this. Also, unless you are a stellar candidate with special skills you should not expect a company to pay to relocate you for an internship.
7. Don't Wait for the Internship to Come to You.
There are several on-line internship Web sites and internship books available. These are great resources, but bear in mind that there are hundreds of thousands of students using the same set of resources. Don't wait for an internship to be announced. Be proactive and search out companies that interest you and then approach them directly. Make contact with their human resources department or hiring manager to find out what internships might be available. Get the inside scoop before information about internship openings are made available to everyone else and, while you are gathering information you can also start the job of selling yourself as the right person for the internship.
While you can certainly find great internships on-line and through your school career center and print resources, nothing beats good old-fashioned networking. Use your network of family, friends, friends' family, school and work contacts to find out about possible internships. If your friends and acquaintances know you are looking for an internship they will be likely to let you know when they hear about one. Also, attend industry events in your area. In most major cities there are interest groups, clubs, professional associations and large conferences related to specific industries. Identify these groups and events and try to participate. You can attend huge conferences like Internet World, complete with its .com career fair and access to hundreds of presenting companies, for free.
9. Get the Right Contact Information.
Know who is responsible for hiring and initiating intern candidates at the companies you are interested in. You will be able to find some of this information on-line and through books, but you should also make inquisitive phone calls to companies of interest to make sure your resume ends up on the desk of exactly the right person. If you don't direct your effort to the right person then you will be wasting your time.
10. Pave the Way for Your Career.
If you are lucky enough to find your dream internship you should use the experience to build the foundation for another future internship or post-graduate job offer. Offer constructive feedback throughout your stay, take advantage of every opportunity to learn, and be willing to assist the company with future internship recruiting. Most importantly, lay the foundation for a future internship for yourself or full time employment by showing your employer that you are a talented person who is willing to work hard. Employers invest a lot of time and money in individuals they hire, so interns with a proven track record and history with the company have a distinct advantage over everyone else. Even if you don't end up with a post-graduate job offer from your internship you can earn a good professional reference and you can build future business and personal contacts.