One major way to gain real work experience before actually graduating and hitting the job market is through an internship. Internships are typically split into two types; most are unpaid and for college credit, while some are paid with college credit available but not required. Not only are internships a great addition to a resume, but they also help create contacts and references within whatever industry you're interested in forming a career in after graduation. Internships can be extremely competitive, especially in the summer when many students are vying for similar positions. Read on for more about applying to internships, including how and when to apply, what materials are involved, internship searches, interview information and resources for budgeting and housing.
Basic Application Information
Depending on the industry, internship opportunities are posted all the time, from months in advance to an immediate start date. Some have specific deadlines for applying, while others are rolling, but it's typically a good idea to apply as soon as possible so you're on the radar early on. Go here to find out when to apply for summer internships. Internships typically last three to four months, or the length of a college semester and season. Many positions are posted at the end and/or beginning of a season or semester. Postings will usually describe an intern's responsibilities, required or preferred qualifications, what materials to include in an application and how to apply. Be sure to follow the exact instructions for applying –- if the listing says no phone calls, don't call to make sure they received your resume. It already shows your potential boss that you can't follow simple, direct instructions. Most companies ask for a resume and cover letter, and some also ask for work samples too. Just as with applying for college, it's a rule of thumb to keep plenty of options open and apply to any opportunity that seems interesting. Don't just apply to your dream position for a summer internship, because most likely a lot of people are applying to the same job and other positions may already be filled up by the time you hear back from this one. After applying, the next step for candidates is to wait to hear back about an interview.
There are countless ways to find the perfect position for you, whether it's from an industry-specific website or general search engine. Below is a list of popular search engines to help in your hunt.
Internships.com: This site claims to be the largest database of internships in the world
InternshipPrograms.com: Browse opportunities by employer, field, location or date posted
InternZoo: Shows summer, paid and college internships. Also offers advice and tips
InternJobs: Global database of internships and entry-level positions
InternWeb: Notifies you when internships are added
Rising Star Internships: Search for internships in almost every field and post a resume
InternshipFinder Search: Browse advice, FAQs and a free newsletter
Monster.com: Lists internships and entry-level positions
Idealist.org: Search for internships at nonprofits
UniversitySpot – College Profiles: Direct links to the Career Services websites of colleges and universities around the world, where you can search for internships.
See more internship search engines for government opportunities and internships abroad on UniversitySpot’s Internships Resource section.
Resume and Cover Letter Tips
While most gain experience in resume and cover letter writing the more positions they apply to, there are some simple rules of etiquette and basic tips everyone should know before clicking "send."
The key piece of advice for resume and cover letter building is to personalize them for each opportunity. No potential employer wants to see a vague cover letter listing experience that doesn’t apply to the specific position or a resume with an outdated objective.
Ask a mentor, academic advisor, parent or peer to edit and critique a draft of your resume. A second or third pair of eyes can help catch a glaring mistake you skipped over, or even just add a new perspective. Some academic advisors even provide resume and cover letter samples from past students that can help.
An easy-to-read yet interesting resume layout is critical, as well. Most keep their resumes to one page and include sections for past experience, your contact information, education background, interests / skills / awards, references (if there's room), and, in some cases, extracurricular activities.
Try to keep a cover letter to one page and consider it an expanded and enhanced version of your resume that demonstrates your related experience and passion for the industry. Make sure to read the intern's duties in the listing thoroughly and talk about your past related responsibilities. Essentially, think of the letter as a persuasive essay that explains why you would be the perfect fit for the position. End the letter with an optimistic statement about looking forward to hearing back soon.
Here are some sites with more tips and ideas for making your resume and cover letter stand out from the competition:
UniversitySpot’s Building a Resume feature: Find resume builders, templates, samples and tips
WetFeet: Tips on finding an internship and resume help
About.com: This comprehensive resource database includes resume and cover letter templates, as well as tips for letters of recommendation, thank you notes and how to post/email/scan applications
Resume-Help.org: Learn what to include in a cover letter and resume, common cover letter mistakes, examples, self-serve resume building tool, helpful verbs to include and FAQs
Resume-Resource.com: Read samples of resumes for specific industries, before-and-after examples, how to create PDF resumes and templates and formats for resumes, cover letters, thank you notes, follow-up letters and letters of recommendation
There's more to a giving a good interview than showing up early and wearing professional attire. For example, don't forget to bring an extra copy of your cover letter, resume and work samples. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, make sure to have come up with a couple beforehand so you're not left sitting with nothing to ask. And, most importantly, always send a thank-you note following the interview. Though email is arguably the most popular form of communication now, interviewers will appreciate a hand-written note sent within a day of the interview. It will not only remind them of you, but it's a final opportunity for you to plead your case as to why you deserve the internship. Leave the note thanking them again for their time, to let you know if there is anything else you can provide them with, and that you're looking forward to hearing back. Below are some websites that provide some more tips and information for preparing for and giving the perfect interview.
About.com: The internships section features a bunch of articles on how to ace an interview, including tips for successful phone interviews and preparing for an informational interview. There's even a whole page with common interview questions and the best possible answers
The Intern Queen: This blog that posts internship listings and advice features a list of 10 helpful ways to nail an internship interview
Buzzle.com: While this site is primarily for job seekers, its article on sample interview questions to ask during a job interview applies for intern seekers too. One of the infamous interview no-no's is to not ask a question to your interviewer. So read up on these ideas so you’re not left speechless.
Resources for Budgeting and Housing
Budgeting and housing are other important factors interns must face. Because most internships are unpaid, students are spending most of their time learning rather than getting paid. On the other hand, those with paid internships also need to consider budgeting their daily life. What's more, when a student is in a different city or state, they need to find housing for the duration of the internship. Some schools allow a certain number of visiting interns to stay in their dorms, which is generally cheaper than renting an apartment, can be safer and provides more social opportunities. Below are some useful resource sites for budgeting and housing.
Move.com: Learn how to finance and budget your intern lifestyle with articles on making a budget and sticking to it, a budget for first-time renters, decorating on a budget, living with roommates and moving tips
WonderHowTo.com: This brief video offers plenty of ideas to save money during an unpaid internship
CollegeSublease.com: Find listings for short-term housing opportunities and roommates
Move.com: Find an apartment rental near your essentials like groceries, ATM, parking or shopping
About.com: Offers lots of great resources for internship temporary housing
NYCintern.org: For those heading out to the Big Apple, this site is perfect for finding housing –- and, best of all, it's designed specifically for visiting interns
TripSpot: Guides to cities around the world