10 Steps to Landing a Summer Internship

By, Heather Huhman

College students are abuzz about landing the “Holy Grail” – the summer internship. With our country experiencing tough economic times, what is the best way to ensure not going without this coveted résumé-builder?

1. Keep up your grades. First things first, many internships have GPA cut-offs. Most are 3.0, but some are even higher, so don’t neglect your studies!

2. Get your cover letter, résumé, e-mail pitch and “elevator speech” in shape. These forms of communication will be on the frontlines of your internship search. It’s best to perfect them before you begin. If you don’t even know where to start, I recommend staying away from online templates and instead seeking the help of a career expert or the staff of your campus career center. (I’ve written about each several times in my Examiner.com column.)

3. Start a professional blog. If you haven’t already done so, start a blog relevant to your career. You’d be surprised how many interns are found and then hired because of their blogs. Click here for a step-by-step guide.

4. Clean up your online image. First impressions count, and yes, employers are watching. While those photos of you and your friends might be funny to you, I guarantee employers will not find them amusing.

5. Begin networking. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 70 percent of jobs are found through networking, and some believe the number is even higher. Always network and get to know your contacts before you ask something of them-in this case, an internship lead. Twitter is my personal favorite place to start, but LinkedIn and Facebook are good, too.

6. Arrange informational interviews and job shadow opportunities. Spring Break is a great time for this, but for many students, that time has come and gone. However, both informational interviews and job shadowing are excellent opportunities to get to know an organization and to introduce them to you and what you can offer.

7. Quality over quantity. While you’ll definitely want to comb online job boards (see the right side of my column’s homepage for some great ones), be sure to focus your search. If you do comb online job boards, try the most relevant ones first like YouTern. My recommendation is to identify two cities in which you could potentially live for the summer-although be careful not to pigeonhole yourself into your “local” and “permanent” addresses if they are both small towns. Then, make a list of 10 organizations at which you would like to intern in each of the two cities (20 total).

Visit the cities’ chambers of commerce, local chapters of your professional organization, local Business Journal Web sites, etc. to conduct your research. If you’re looking for a career in public relations, for example, don’t limit yourself to only public relations firms. Many different types of organizations hire public relations professionals, and the same is true for other fields.

8. Follow the application instructions. You’d be surprised how many candidates-in their hurry to get out job applications-don’t follow all the instructions and are eliminated from consideration. Read the job ad very carefully. (Or, if you’re applying through a networking contact, be sure to inquire about all the requirements.)

9. Follow-up. Do not neglect this step. Following up can make a world of difference in this economy. Click here for detailed information about when and how to appropriately follow-up.

10. Be willing to accept an unpaid position. Let’s face it-not all internships are paid. “But I can’t afford to not be paid,” you argue. I completely understand, and allow me to make a suggestion. Arrange to work at the internship up to 15 hours each week, and get a second paying job that will not end up on your résumé because it’s likely not directly related to your career path. Don’t forgo an internship entirely this summer just because you can’t find one that pays.

Heather R. Huhman is the entry-level careers columnist for Examiner.com.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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