Now that you’ve been accepted to a college, what’s next? As a college freshman, you may get overwhelmed with the new environment, freedom, hot parties, and loads of work. With all of that going on don’t forget that freshmen year is the perfect year to begin your internship search and make sure that you are on the right path to success. You may not qualify for your dream internship just yet, but if you follow the tips below you will surely be able to land an internship your first year!
1. Utilize the career center. It is there for a reason so definitely take advantage of it. It provides services such as resume critique, interview prep, and helps you choose a major. The career center will give you the essential tools you need for a successful internship process.
2. Join organizations. Join organizations that you have passion for and wouldn’t mind putting in extra time when needed. Join 2-3 organizations your first semester and try to run for a leadership role the following semester. Not only will this help build up your resume but it will give you the skills that internship recruiters require.
3. Go to professional events. Every college has professional events where they may have a panel of speakers and networking event afterward. This is a great way to meet people that are already where you want to be and with that, it also allows for an opportunity for mentorship and building your network.
4. Know your professors. If you are going to a big university then there is a possibility of having over 300 students in your class. Professors don’t know you unless you put forth the effort to get to know them. Go to the office hours and simply introduce yourself. Not only will that keep you on track academically but it will also help expand your network which may lead to internship opportunities.
5. Seek advice from upperclassmen. Ask successful juniors and seniors what they did to land their dream internships. You will be surprised by how much you can learn from your peers.
6. Network! Network! Network! I cannot emphasize this enough. Even as a qualifying candidate it helps if you already have a connection with the employer. When you are at a career fair, don’t be so impatient that you rush into asking “what opportunities do you have for me?” Instead, introduce yourself, discuss your career goals, and develop a connection. More than likely the opportunities will come up on their own.
7. Stay in touch. When you meet professionals at various events don’t just keep their business card! Contact them and thank them for their time. Contact them again 5-6 months later to update them and see how things are going on their end. Trust me it goes a long way!
8. Prioritize. When you are looking to join organizations, stay focused academically, and work it is important that you prioritize. It is easy to get caught up in trying to do everything all at once so make sure that you are aware of what must be done and what can wait.
9. Go above and beyond. Whether you have a job on campus or you are simply a member in an organization go above and beyond in everything that you commit your time to. You never know who knows who.
10. Be persistent. Now that you are ready to begin your internship search, keep in mind that you will face rejections. Chances are you are not going to land the first internship you apply for so make sure that you do not give up. Let employers know that although you are a freshman with little experience you are willing to learn and work hard.
Getting an internship, especially as a college freshman, is a great way to not only jump start your career in your field, but also to find out if it’s the right career for you. Realizing after a few months of an internship that you’re not in love with the field, gives you time to look for a different area in your field of study during your degree program . You will also gain valuable work experience, that you might not get if you choose a typical, hourly-wage summer job.
Identify what your goals are. What are your reasons for getting an internship? Will it help with your career path?
Do you want to spend your summer doing something meaningful? Perhaps you want to try out a new area within your field. Whatever the case is, be clear with yourself about your goals for the internship, and try to apply for internships that align with your goals.
Use your past work or study experiences and knowledge about the field. By now, even if you don’t have formal work experience, you may have some idea of the environment you would like to work in.
Use knowledge about yourself and your preferred working style to help guide you through the internship search process.
Does the internship offer college credit? If you need credits, make sure you try to find an internship that offers them. If you’re not sure, ask the company and check with your university.
Is it a paid internship? Getting paid for your time is always a big bonus that can help with your living costs and college fees when you return to university come fall
Find out if they offer trainings or mentorship as part of the internship. You will make the most out of your internship if you are guided by someone experienced, patient and knowledgeable in the field.
Choose whether summer or yearly internship is right for you. Most companies offer full-time summer internships, a great way to get an intensive and realistic work experience.
Some companies also offer part-time, longer internships that you can complete during your studies. Choose your best working style, think about if you can handle a summer away, working full time, and if you can work during school.
Does the internship offer hiring opportunities after you finish your studies come graduation time? Ask the company directly and find out the number of people who get hired to help you work out your chances.
3 Simple Steps to Land your Dream Internship
1. Do Your Research
Talk with professors at your school about potential internships in your field, and seek out peers (specifically students in the years above you!) who have had internships, or who know others with internships. Use your university! Most universities have career services, career counselors and alumni networks who can advise you on available opportunities and what to put on your application. Make sure to also check out networking events in your area for professional contacts who may be able to provide you with internships in your field.
2. Know and use the product
When applying for internships, always research the product or company. Know it inside and out, including what they offer and their mission statements. Use this deep knowledge to customize your resume and tailor your cover letter to show why you are the best fit for this company, specifically. In your cover letter, make sure to highlight how you fit with this company, and how the company fits in with your career goals. See yourself as part of the company’s “big picture.”
Bonus Tip: When crafting your application and writing a cover letter, try to think of out-of-the box ways to make your application stand out. For example, deliver your application in person to the office. Here is a great video on more ways to stand out during the application process:
3. Exude passion for the industry (even without much experience!)
Start side projects that show your passion for the field. For example, if you’re a marketing student, provide examples of marketing plans that you’ve created for small local businesses (whether or not they will ever be used).
For a computer science major, show off your programming skills by submitting any programs you’ve created for fun. And throughout the process, always try to turn a negative into a positive; don’t highlight the fact that you may not have experience. Instead use phrases like, “willing to learn,” or “eagerness to enter the field.” Your passion for the field and excitement about the product or company should outweigh your lack of paid job experience!
While it may seem challenging to land your dream internship as a college freshman, it is certainly possible with a bit of research, networking, and passion. Work out what you want, map out a plan to get there, then go out and achieve your dreams!