Wondering how to get an internship that allows you to do more than answer the phone and file paperwork? Here’s how to plan for internship — and career — success.
It’s the old conundrum: You can’t get experience without a job, and you can’t get a job without experience.
But that’s the beauty of internships. Typically, you gain a little experience and make some good connections. But more importantly, you get a toehold into the professional world. If you’re lucky, your internship will turn into a full-time job.
Students who get internships also have a better chance of building a more impressive resume. Simply by landing an internship, you’re telling companies that you are ambitious, resourceful and dedicated, and willing to go the extra mile.
While it helps to get an internship tied directly to your profession of choice, it’s not essential. Take for instance a journalist who interns for an accounting firm. Chances are she learned new information or skills that made her more well-rounded, or gave her a different perspective. Savvy employers recognize the value of professional cross-pollination.
Wondering how to get an internship you’ll love? Read on and start planning!
The internship numbers game
So, how do you go about getting an internship? The first thing you need to understand is that it’s a numbers game. You have to apply, apply, apply in order to improve your chances. (Click here to tweet this inspirational boost.) Also, it doesn’t matter if the internship is paid or unpaid. Paid is nice, obviously, but both types give you the same amount of credibility.
Begin by compiling an exhaustive list of existing internships through your school, and apply to those that appeal to you. If you strike out with these established internship programs, venture out — and start at the top. This doesn’t mean apply for the position of CEO. It means look for your dream company to see if it has an internship program. If it don’t, you can either keep looking, or propose that it starts one.
Search LinkedIn to find professionals in your field and alumni from your school. Contact them about internships at their company or elsewhere. Usually, alumni love hearing from students from their alma mater, and jump at the chance to mentor and “give back.”
Propose an internship program
For companies that don’t offer internships, volunteer to be the trial run. They have nothing to lose having an extra hand on deck for a few months. Also, they’re potentially creating a connection with your school that could open a pipeline of fresh talent.
The key here is to focus on how an internship program would benefit them, rather than what it would do for you. This is true for any job you go after. Make it about the employer, play the role of visionary, and demonstrate how there simply is no downside: You’re reliable, hard-working, bright, proactive and dependable.
That last point is big. Millennials have a bad rep, and some employers worry about interns taking a lackadaisical approach to the job, doing little more than getting in the way, and wasting their time. That’s not you! Consider going a step further and design the internship before you even present the idea, listing all of your responsibilities, timetables and goals.
Want the gig? Make an impression
What do companies look for in an intern? The same qualities they want in a full-time employee. The key is to sell yourself. Be aggressive without being pushy. Make sure you have a clear idea of your strengths and relevant experience that you can apply if a company takes you on. Share anecdotes that reveal your ability to solve problems and get the job done.
A great way to distinguish yourself from the competition is to go into the interview armed with details about the company or the CEO. You might have to dig deep into Google, but it’s worth finding gems of information that you can dazzle them with.
Finally, make sure to convey that you will do more than occupy a chair. As a forward-thinking person, your role isn’t simply about resume-building. It’s more about learning the job, company structure, team dynamics and the industry as a whole. Remember to project enthusiasm and a positive attitude — and knock ‘em dead.
Tony Beshara is the co-author of 100,000 Successful Hires: The Art, Science and Luck of Effective Hiring, and owner and president of Babich & Associates, a Dallas-based placement and recruitment firm. He has been a professional recruiter since 1973 and has personally found jobs for more than 10,000 individuals.