For college students or recent grads who want to advance their professional skills and gain real-world experience in the workplace, internship opportunities can be the perfect fit. Yes, there might be long hours or tedious work, but the experience gained is invaluable.
Sometimes the hardest part about an internship is finding one. Do you know how to find an internship in a competitive job market? With this guide, you’ll discover top tips and resources that will help you successfully find a program that works for you.
What Are Your Career Goals?
The first step in knowing how to find an internship is identifying your areas of interest and possible career paths. Because internship programs are designed to help you gain experience in the workplace, you’ll want to start in a field that’s potentially part of your future career.
If you aren’t sure what you want to do, begin by making a list of your interests. This might include hobbies, classes you enjoy, or general subject areas that you like. Try to find patterns in this list. Do you like working with young people? Are you interested in social justice? Are science and technology prominent? Once you find some general areas of interest, you’ll have a better idea of which career fields would be a good match.
If you’re still feeling uncertain, it might be a good idea to visit your college career counselor. These trained professionals usually have “interest inventories” that you can fill out. These quiz-style forms can provide a lot of insight into possible career fields that might be a good match for you.
4 Resources for How to Find an Internship
Once you have a few potential career paths to explore, you’re ready to move on to the next step in how to find an internship. Here are four ways to get you started.
1. Network Connections
A great way to begin your search for the right internship is by talking to the people you already know. Brainstorm to create a list of professionals who have connections to your family members or social network. You’ll also want to include local businesses that already know you. Make a list of the people or companies with professions that overlap with your areas of interest. Do you know anyone with your dream job? This is the perfect place to start.
If you can identify a few people who know you personally and who work in fields related to your interests, reach out to them about possible internship opportunities. This is best done in a semi-formal way. Connecting too casually can seem haphazard or unplanned, but sending along a formal resume and cover letter right off the bat may seem presumptuous.
Your best bet is to send a well-written email. Start by expressing interest in their career field and listing some specific connections you have to the industry — maybe you’ve taken a class in the subject or volunteered in a related position. You might even mention that you’ve talked to others who work in the field, and share what you learned from those conversations. Then, express interest in any internship opportunities at his or her company, and offer to send along a resume and cover letter if needed.
There’s no pressure to move the process forward if no opportunities exist. But you’ve also laid a foundation for further mentoring in your new career path. If someone in your network can connect you with a hiring manager or internship opportunity, that’s great. If not, don’t worry; there are many other possibilities to explore.
2. Social Media
One fairly hands-off way to stay on top of potential internship opportunities is to use social media. This means following the companies, fields, and professionals that you admire on social media networks. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, this is the time to create one to connect with your professional contacts and support your job search.
Keep in mind, though, that before you connect with any company or person through social media, you’ll want to clean up your own accounts to ensure they’re as squeaky clean and professional as they should be. The last thing you want is for a potential employer to open your Instagram and find all those embarrassing pictures you posted from your high school trip to New York City.
Then, carefully watch your feed for internship listings, entry-level jobs, and career fairs. If an employer you’re interested in posts about attending a career fair near you, comment on the post that you’re looking forward to meeting them.
Consistently interact with the companies and professionals you admire. Share their content, follow their job boards, and follow up on any potential opportunities that interest you. You never know who is running these accounts or who will notice your efforts, but staying consistent and professional can never hurt your chances of finding an internship of your dreams.
3. Job Fairs
Job fairs are another great place to continue your internship search. Career services typically host these events at colleges or other job search organizations. Here, you will usually find recruiters offering a variety of opportunities that range from part-time unpaid internships and summer internships to full-time entry-level jobs and everything in between. Companies may range from small non-profit organizations to large, hugely successful corporations.
Before you attend a job fair, be prepared. Visit your college career center to discuss the fair in advance, get a list of companies that will be represented there, and a list of things you should bring. The trained career counselors might even be able to provide you with a sample list of interview questions or tips for cleaning up your resume.
In general, these are the tasks you’ll want to complete for any job fair you attend:
- Research the opportunities. Most job fairs will provide a list of companies that will be there. Go through this list carefully and highlight the potential employers that you don’t want to miss. Then, visit their company websites, read their posted job listings, and become familiar with their company culture. Write down any specific, educated questions you’d like to ask the recruiter.
- Polish up your resume. Make sure your resume is typo-free and reflects your latest and greatest accomplishments, skills, and experience. Make lots of copies and be ready to hand them out.
- Write an impressive cover letter. It can be tricky to write a cover letter that isn’t addressed to one specific company or opportunity. Still, before you go to the job fair, narrow your choices down to a few job listings or internship experiences that seem like an excellent fit for you. These will surely have certain things in common, which is why you’re drawn to all of them. Focus on these commonalities in the cover letter so that it doesn’t sound overly vague. Include your cover letter with your resume whenever you distribute them to potential employers.
- Follow up with recruiters. When you talk to a potential employer who really interests you, grab their business card before you leave. Then, take the time to follow up with a quick email, thanking the recruiter for answering your questions and letting him or her know that you’re very interested in the internship experiences you discussed. These types of personal interactions can set you apart in a competitive field of candidates.
4. Top Internship Websites
The world of internship websites is vast, and many sites that claim to highlight only top internship programs contain hundreds upon hundreds of unfiltered internship listings. Even popular sites that contain filtered search options usually don’t screen each internship listing before including it.
The best website for college students and recent graduates looking for internship opportunities is Scholars. Here, top students create profiles that highlight their fields of interest and their accomplishments. Then, potential employers can browse profiles and invite job seekers to apply.
What to Do After You Find an Internship You Want
Finding an internship is only the first step towards landing your dream job, but it could also be among the most important ones. By making a great first impression through personal connections, social media, job fairs, and even internship websites, you can stand out from the crowd and get your foot in the door.
All the research, prep work, and follow-through might seem like a lot of work to land a temporary or part-time internship, but the foundation you lay during your internship experience can lead you on the path to long-term career success.