Eight Steps to a Summer Internship

summer internshipThe bell's sounded on summer internship season and students all over the world are applying for the opportunities of their dreams, paid or not. But how on earth to land an internship? It's a long process, but it's absolutely possible with the right amount of preparation and focus.

Here are eight essential steps in searching for a summer internship:
  1. Plant the seed. Consider the summer internship and understand its value before you rush to apply for a ton of positions. This is all a process. Make sure you understand that the internship entails a 10-plus-week learning experience in which you gain hands-on experience in an industry you are interested in. The internship helps you decide if a career is right for you to pursue after graduation.

  2. Go directly to the career center, do not collect $100. I always push students into the career center. Its job is to make great relationships to leverage for their students and help them succeed during and after college. Have the career center put you on a plan to get your materials together, research companies, and send application materials out. Speak to its staff about your field of interest and whom they might already know in that area.

  3. Pinpoint your Top 10. Who are the employers that you've always wanted to work for? Or do you see yourself working anywhere? Pick a nice mix of out-of-state and local opportunities to apply for, based on where you want to live during your summer internship. If you've had little previous experience, focus on local opportunities. If you feel more advanced, go after the bigger, brand-name ones.

  4. Review your files. It's time to locate any old resumes or cover letters that you've written in class or in the past. Pull these out and start looking them over to determine what state they're in. How much work do you have ahead of you? If you've never written a resume or cover letter, start taking note of your previous experience and brainstorming about what you might include on them.

  5. Start researching the employers. The best way to start your research is by going to each employer's website. Find out the internship information, which can usually be found under Careers or About Us. Make note of any application requirements and the internship deadline.

  6. Block out time to revamp materials. Now that you know what the employer is looking for, you can start to customize your materials (resume and cover letter) for each position. Never send hundreds of generic letters out. After reviewing your resume and cover letter, the company should know that you did your homework and researched it properly.

  7. Back to the career center. Once you have your application materials ready, go back to your career center. Get in the habit of visiting it frequently -- add it to your speed dial! Let its staff review your materials and give you pointers. They can be a great resource and they might spot mistakes that you didn't.

  8. Send them all out. I'm a huge fan of block scheduling. Sending all of your materials out on the same day makes it easier to keep track of application status and follow-up dates. Set aside a few hours, take your time, and make sure to send each potential employer the correct materials. One of the biggest mistakes I've seen lately are materials addressed to the wrong company -- super embarrassing! Don't rush this process.
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