Applying for Internships: 9 Tips for the Stressed-Out College Student

As October is coming to an end, most college students are consumed with midterms, game days, or planning the perfect group halloween costume. The last thing we want to think about is applying for summer internships. On top of that, we barely have time for it. Here are 10 tips to help you navigate the process.

1. Start early.

The sooner you start the better. Brainstorm, talk to an advisor, and start finding those job connections now to reduce stress in the future. 

2. Make some phone calls.

If you have no idea where to start, begin by calling a relative, family-friend, or other acquaintance whose career description makes your eyes light up. Ask how they got into their field, what their favorite and least favorite parts of their job are, and seek out any advice they have for you as someone who is interested in an internship.

This informational interview is a win-win; they get to talk about themselves and you get valuable insight and advice, as well as a potential connection that can give you a leg up in the application process. If for some reason the call isn’t helpful, they can always direct you towards a friend or colleague whose work aligns more with your interests. 

3. Use LinkedIn.

There are two interesting features of LinkedIn that are very helpful when trying to find a job. First, if you know of a young adult who works in a field that you are interested in, look them up on LinkedIn and scroll through their job history. Take note of what internships they had leading up to their current job to give you some inspiration.

Another strategy is to look up the LinkedIn pages of companies that you might want to work for. Then, look on the right hand side of the page and scroll down a bit to where it says: “People Also Viewed” with a list of similar companies to the one you searched. This is a great way to discover companies that wouldn’t have necessarily been on your radar.

4. Get your name in the door.

Many large companies offer an option to submit your resume or job application online. While this can work for some people, most applicant’s resume get lost in the pile. The best way to stand out is to reach out to a connection, and have them get your name in the door. In fact, 85% of jobs are filled via networking (Adler, 2016). It’s not about what you know, it’s really about who you know – even if it’s your friend’s third cousin.  

5. Simplify your resume.

Recruiters only spend an average of 6.25 seconds looking at your resume (Adams, 2012), which means they won’t have time to read which club you were president of in high school. Your resume doesn’t need to include everything you’ve done. Instead, include the three or four work experiences that built skills aligned with the job you are applying for.

Also, focus on using less description and more data. People remember numbers, so make sure to include the number of people you worked with, hours your put in, or any percentages that show improvement on a task. These statistics and numbers show your achievement in a clear and inspiring way.

6. Seek advice.

Pass your resume onto a parent or professor and ask for any edits they would recommend. Show your cover letter to a friend that has worked in the same field or recently worked in the position you are applying for. The more advice, the better.

7. Send you application in early.

Many internship applications are accepted on a rolling basis. This means that the earlier your application is submitted, the more likely you are to land the job, and the less stress you have at the end of the year.

8. Make a schedule.

Make yourself a schedule with weekly or monthly goals. For example, make a goal of conducting three informational interviews by the end of the week, or finalizing your resume by the end of the month. Keep those “due dates” in the same place place as your due dates for your school work as a constant reminder.

9. Stay positive.

There is no such thing as a “perfect” internship, and you shouldn’t strive for one. Instead, strive for an internship that will peak your interest, teach you a new skill, or build your network. Every internship brings opportunities to learn and grow. The worst case scenario is that you hate your summer internship, in which case you’ll have a better idea of what to look for next summer.

About Nicole Kaplan

Nicole Kaplan draws inspiration from her semester spent studying in Amsterdam. This senior from Chicago loves laying in Audubon Park, reading a good book, and cooking her famous chicken fajitas.

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