It's time to start looking for an internship if you want to be gainfully employed this summer, but how can you make sure you stand out from the crowd of other qualified applicants? The key? Know what you offer and be able to market your skills in a way that appeals to your target audience. Before you can start to choose the best places to look and actually apply, you should do some research so you are well prepared to know what you offer as it relates to what employers likely need.
Identify your special attributes
Before you apply for an internship – or any job – you should first take a long, hard look at what you have to offer. What skills do you have? How can you help employers solve their problems? What can you do better than most other people? Focus on these skills and identify the commonalities between what you offer and what your target employers need.
Once you hone in on your skills and what employers need from you, carefully select keywords companies will use when they search for someone like you. Use job descriptions as well as information you can find on company profiles and via their social media sites to choose the words that will appeal to them.
Create a discoverable resume
Find job descriptions for internships that appeal to you (look at AOL Jobs, idealist.com, indeed.com, simplyhired.com, internships.com and http://internqueen.com to start your research). Study them: what skills and accomplishments do they want successful applicants to have? Include the key words on your resume that prove you are the one for the job. Do not expect the person (or the applicant tracking system) that reviews your resume to assume anything you do not specifically include in your resume.
For example, if you want someone to know you are good at solving problems, specify problems you have solved, label them as problems and describe your role in overcoming challenges and accomplishing goals.
Create magnetic social media profiles
In your online profiles, use those keywords to write headlines, taglines and bios that make it clear how you can contribute. For example, in your LinkedIn headline, include some keywords as well as a pitch – a brief description of what you can do that makes you worth hiring.
If you're looking for a sales and marketing internship, for example, your LinkedIn headline may read:
Sales & Marketing/Customer Service Representative: multitask, prioritize, provide amazing service with a smile.
In those 110 characters, there are several keywords as well as a pitch ("provide amazing service with a smile.")
Use social media to expand your network
Tap into LinkedIn's "Education" section (find it under Interests). You can see where people who graduated from your school work today and where they live. Take advantage of opportunities to connect via groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, communities on Google+ and Twitter chats on Twitter. You may be surprised by how helpful people you've never met may be if they are impressed with you and your online profile.
Get started on these steps and stay tuned for more tips about how to apply for internships and avoid job search mistakes.