As a junior Journalism major, selecting which of my clips I want to send to hiring teams is like selecting which child I want to send into the hunger games. If your work samples make it out alive, congratulations, you can now proceed to stress over your phone interview or face-to-face interview, both of which make the hunger games seem like a walk in the park.
So, whether you’re looking to land an internship now or in a few years, here are five tips to keep in mind.
1. Link up on LinkedIn
Before you start stressing over the fact that you don’t have any dress shirts left that were spared by your pit stains, you need to browse for internships in your field. There are lots of ways to do this, but one super top-secret, insider way of looking for opportunities is through LinkedIn. If you aren’t checking LinkedIn like you check Facebook, start.
By now, you might’ve connected with former co-workers from your summer job, bosses you’ve had for on-campus positions and even classmates. Look at the list of industries and companies your classmates are following because chances are, these are the companies you might be interested in.
Look to see who your co-workers are connected with, and try to connect with those people as well. This is where your social-media stalking skills will come in handy, and if you say you don’t have any, you’re probably lying.
If you’re stuck and don’t know where to send an application, especially if this is your first internship, connect with some of the top people in your industry. Your LinkedIn profile functions like a resume, in the sense that you can list your experience and make it viewable to anyone. See where professionals got their start and any past companies they worked for before reaching their current stature.
2. Don’t Let Deadlines Fool You
When you do a Google search for an internship in your desired field, chances are you’re going to find at least one position listing with a deadline from the past, such as “Apply to be a social media intern at BuzzFeed. Deadline: April 3, 2016.” This is the part where you get sad because it isn’t an updated listing.
The mistake many students make is assuming that they can’t apply this year because the listing still has last year’s deadline on it. Solution: Email the hiring team, and ask if they’re looking for interns this year. Sending an email won’t kill you. The worst thing that could happen is you may not receive a response.
3. Need Internship, Will Travel
After an academic year of late nights, dessert for dinner and lots of tears, spending the summer thousands of miles away from campus sounds like paradise. Many students are torn between gaining experience and traveling over the summer.
Sometimes, your travel plans can get in the way of internship plans. Some internships have a definite start and end date, and the duration is not flexible. If your trip may shave three weeks off your internship and your potential boss is not okay with this, you may have to keep looking or choose between the two.
If you can afford it, consider interning abroad. There are numerous programs that help match you to foreign host companies willing to employ you as an intern. Interning abroad is pretty killer for your resume, because it shows that you’re able to learn about the industry through the lens of another country and adapt to it well.
Being in a foreign country can be hard, especially if you’re there for more than a month. This would definitely be something you talk about ad nauseam during an interview.
Plus, you’ll be traveling like you wanted to, so it’s a win-win. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for applications. A lot of them tend to open and close early, sometimes as early as during the fall semester for a summer position.
4. Career Move
One major resource that sometimes gets overlooked is your college career center, which can help you figure out what career is right for you, prep you for an interview or read your cover letter. Career-center staff are also knowledgeable about local internships, so it’s a great place to start if you’re a commuter student and live relatively close to campus.
Ask if anyone is aware of local places looking for summer interns. They’re bound to give you at least three stories about past students who came in asking the same thing and found positions in great local companies and organizations in various fields.
Speaking to the internship coordinator in your degree program is probably the perfect way to scope out the field for a position you’ll excel at. This person knows the industry like the back of their coffee mug, and can give you pointers on how to stand out and carry yourself as professionally as possible. Who knows, they may even know someone who knows someone who can put in a good word for you or get you in front of a hiring manager.
5. Go Big
Lastly, don’t think you aren’t ready yet or skilled enough to tackle the big fish. In the past, I have skipped over the chance to apply for some big opportunities because I didn’t think I was ready. I knew I had gained skills over the last two semesters, but I was afraid of disappointing my superiors if I couldn’t live up to their expectations.
Get over it. You’re disappointing yourself if you don’t try. Besides, it’s better to make those “silly intern mistakes” when you’re an intern and not when you’re a grown-ass college graduate at your first full-time entry-level job. Thanks to the power of email, it doesn’t cost you anything to simply send your materials and give it your best shot, so go for it!