Internship Insider: Six timeless tips for landing an internship

6 insider tips to get an internship
6 insider tips to get an internship

Everyone knows how important college internships are. If they weren't, the market wouldn't support a cottage industry of companies that charge parents thousands of dollars, as the Chicago Tribune recently reported, to find their son or daughter an unpaid summer job.

Since internships are so critical and competitive, students surely take them seriously, right? They probably take special care when applying and interviewing for these coveted positions ... don't they?

That's what employers might assume. It's probably what students' parents assume. It's certainly what I assumed when I started my job three years ago at Columbia College Chicago helping students find internships and employers find interns. But it wasn't long before I was reminded of the adage that one should never assume anything.

I've learned it's always appropriate to start from scratch when it comes to advice on how to get an internship.

Rule #1: Dress appropriately

Sounds like common sense, but it bears repeating -- especially to a generation that grew up with routine "pajama days" at school. Jessica Wylie, who helps hire marketing and communication interns for the YMCA of the USA, says applicants' mistakes include "not being dressed appropriately in business attire, such as wearing jeans, t-shirts and gym shoes.'' From others, I've learned of intern applicants dressing skimpily or, even more far-fetched-sounding, wearing ... well ... sleepwear. A magazine editor told me of a student who showed up wearing flannel soft pants and moccasin-looking footwear. When he asked the student what the shoes were called, he answered, "They're more like slippers.''