7 Secrets to Landing Your First College Internship

It only seems fair that if you’re a hard worker, jobs should fall into your lap. When it comes time for college internships, this couldn’t be farther from accurate.

Getting an internship can be a challenge but there’s no need to stress out about finding the perfect part-time gig. Check out these 7 secrets to landing your first college internship and get hired today!

1. Don’t Concern Yourself with the Money

Some internships pay well, some pay very little, and some pay nothing at all.

The point of an internship is not to make the big bucks. The point is to gain valuable experience that will help you land a paying job later. Everybody has to start somewhere, so let the experience be payment enough.

Don’t turn down an internship opportunity simply because of the pay (or lack thereof). Sure, it can be hard to juggle school, a part-time job, and an internship, but getting your foot in the door has value.

If you plan on giving it your all, the internship experience can lead to lifetime connections. After graduation, those connections may help you land an actual job.

If you can’t afford to work unpaid, ask if it’s possible to negotiate a small stipend. Even if the stipend merely covers your travel to and from the internship, it can be a big help. But always wait for an offer to come in before you try to negotiate a payment or stipend. Otherwise, you might not even make the final candidate cut.

2. Know Where to Search for Opportunities

Skip the traditional job sites and make use of your own connections. When you go on your first real job search, you’ll likely need to reach out to people you know. So practice that skill by using your personal connections to help land an internship.

Check with college advisers and professors to see if your school has specific internship resources. Some colleges host internship fairs. Some schools have specific websites where companies post open positions.

Ask your professors if they know of any companies looking for qualified interns. If you’re doing well in class, you may be able to leverage the student/professor connection.

Remember one thing: never discount anyone when you’re looking for an internship or job. You never know who might be able to open a door for you.

3. Update Your Resume

This may seem obvious, but you need to make sure your resume is in tip-top shape. One little grammatical error can make you look like you don’t know how to pay attention to detail. Before you begin the internship application process, perfect your resume.

Double check it and triple check it yourself. Have a friend with good proofreading skills check it for any errors. Ask a professor or a mentor in your field to read it and provide some feedback. The more input you can gain from others in your niche, the better your resume will be.

Having a resume free and clear of typos and errors simply isn’t enough. Make sure both your resume and cover letter are customized for the position you want.

If you’re applying for different positions, create different versions of your resume. It can be tedious, but it can also help to separate yourself from other qualified applicants.

4. Practice Your Interview Skills

Haven’t had an interview in a while? Nervous about what they’re going to ask you or how you’re going to answer?

Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it seems. A little practice will build up your confidence, and interviewing will become a piece of cake.

Check out some commonly asked interview questions. Have a friend interview you as practice or film yourself answering those FAQs. It’s always a good idea to have a general idea in mind of what your answers will be.

Sure, some companies will toss you a curveball now and then, so you’ll need to be able to think on your feet. But you can practice answers to the basic questions that are almost always asked.

5. Lack of Experience? Don’t Let That Stop You from Applying

Employers hiring interns aren’t expecting experts with years of experience to apply. In fact, many companies prefer candidates that they can mold and teach to do things their way.

Don’t assume that you won’t get hired because you have no experience. In some cases, having little or no experience can be a benefit for you.

While you may not have experience to offer, there is one thing that you can offer: your willingness to learn.

In your application, emphasize that you’re eager to learn. In your interview, stress how willing you are to go the extra mile. Being eager, attentive, and open to the experience can only pay off.

6. Schedule a Few Informational Interviews

Not every interview has to be one that may result in a job. Informational interviews can be a great way to get your foot in the door, even if the company isn’t hiring.

An informational or exploratory interview can be a source of great value. It’s an easy way to meet current employees. It allows you to get some insight into the company and get a feel for the culture. It helps you practice those interview skills and it’s the best way to learn what an intern is expected to do.

Informational interviews can help you steer your internship research in the right direction. Networking in this way will help to put yourself at the forefront of an employer’s mind. When the time comes for them to hire, you may find yourself already on their list.

7. Build Your Online Brand

At this stage in your career, it’s important to know how to showcase your talents and skills.

Building an online portfolio or website can help you stand out from the competition. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, as long as it focuses on and highlights your strengths. Like your resume, take the time to ensure that it’s grammatically correct!

Do yourself a favor and take the time to clean up your social media pages. Employers aren’t going to be impressed by your ability to dance on bars or funnel beer.

Make sure all your social media pages accurately and appropriately depict who you are. You always want your online brand to stand out for the right reasons – not the wrong ones.

Finding an internship, especially your first one, can be a challenge. But don’t let it overwhelm you. Take the time to build a resume, practice interviewing, and build your online brand. Do what you can to show that you’ll be a valuable intern and you’re likely to land that great opportunity in no time!

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