According to the New York Times, your chances of getting a job after college (roughly six applicants for every one position) are worse than getting accepted into the University of Pennsylvania (1 in 5). That means the odds aren’t exactly ever in your favor. Luckily, Honors students know what it takes to set them apart from other graduates, and we have the resources to help you make the most of your undergraduate experience.
Everyone preaches about the importance of career experience in your college years—namely, in the form of internships. This word strikes fear into the hearts of many, but it doesn’t have to. If you’re an avid follower of our blog, you already know about CISTERNonline, the College of Charleston’s awesome resource for full- and part-time jobs as well as prestigious internships. We gathered our best ideas to continue your search and help you land the internship of your dreams that will catapult you into post-graduate career success.
- Perfect your resume by infusing your passion. If you do anything in your spare time that aligns with your career goals, accentuate that on your resume. Include a link to your blog or an app you helped create. This will show your employer that you truly do have a passion for your field.
- Don’t ignore college extracurriculars. Jobs and internships aren’t the only thing you should highlight; any academic clubs, special classes or seminars you attended should also be featured front and center.
- Proofread! This might seem obvious, but it’s a common mistake–and spelling and grammatical errors are the fastest way to yank you and your resume out of the running. Use spellcheck and have another person read over your resume and cover letter. Beyond mechanical errors, be completely accurate and truthful. Any places where you exaggerate or stretch the truth could, if found, lead to you being denied the position—or even fired after you’ve already gotten it.
Networking on the Net
- Make your social networks work for you. If you’re dying to intern somewhere, take advantage of platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Ellen Gordon Reeves, author of Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? Finding, Landing and Keeping Your First Real Job, recommends a status update like this: “I’d love to intern at (name of company). Does anyone know someone who has worked or interned there?” Any pro will tell you the importance of networking, but you don’t necessarily need high-profile contacts to get your foot in the door. LinkedIn is also a great resource. CBS reports that 40% of Fortune 100 companies used LinkedIn to find potential employees. Those who do say they’re impressed by candidates with a smaller number of close connections (like coworkers or former managers) than a ton of connections with people you don’t really know.
- Keep your social networks clean. This should be another no-brainer. You don’t want to jeopardize your chances with an idiotic picture of you on a Friday night. This isn’t to say that your profiles must be devoid of all personality—on the contrary! Sharing and commenting on things that interest you will show your personal interests and give your future employer a better idea of who you are outside of work.
- Use databases to narrow your search. You already know about CISTERNonline. There are several other sites at your disposal when you’re starting your internship search. CBS recommends Internships.com, Indeed.com, or, for those who’d like to work at a nonprofit, Jobs.Change.org. These engines will help you focus your search to relevant jobs and locations.
- Get cozy with the company’s website. Once you’ve got your eye on a great opportunity, study up. Head to the company’s website and check out their mission statement to see if it aligns with your personal goals. Then, delve a little deeper: Who are the company’s biggest and smallest clients? Have they been in the news recently? How are they performing in the stock market? Having this info will help you make your decision, and also make you a rock star at the interview, enabling you to ask informed questions and give valuable input. You might even find another job or internship opportunity listed right on their website, connecting you more directly than an external database could.
- Amp up your face time. No, we don’t mean video chatting on your iPhone. In-person meetings form relationships with lasting power and are much more meaningful than online connections. Email your former manager and ask him or her to catch up over coffee. Seeing your face and hearing what you’ve been up to will strengthen your relationship and make them a much more valuable connection and future reference.
- Blog about your industry. If you have a passion for foreign affairs, blog about recent happenings and what you think about them. This will show that you have an analytical mind and like to engage with real things outside of work. You can even connect your blog to your LinkedIn so future employers will see it.
- Respond promptly to any leads. When you see an opening, don’t drag your feet! Submit your materials as soon as you perfect them. Your promptness will set you apart and get things in motion quickly, so you can hit the ground running.
- Name names. Here’s where your research pays off. In the interview, asking intelligent, informed questions about the company’s CEO or marketing director will show you’ve done your homework on the business and its key players.
- Emphasize flexibility. We know you’re not seeking this internship because of your love of grunt work (coffee-fetching, copy-making, etc.), but you should make it clear that you’re willing and able to do those things if and when they are needed. Ultimately, you are there to learn and gain experience, and you should do what you can to make yourself an asset to the company. Your tasks will likely be all over the board, and it will go a long way if you show you’re ready to take on whatever is assigned to you.
- Follow up. Most experts recommend following up in about two weeks if you haven’t heard back. Ask if they’ve received your materials and if you can provide any additional information. If you sent it via email and haven’t gotten a response, try calling the company’s internship coordinator directly.
There’s a gold mine of advice out there on how to get the right internship to push your career in the right direction. This list has just a few of our favorite tips to help get you started. Read here for a refresher on using CISTERNonline, the College’s career resource, and happy hunting!