How To: Land an Internship

I tend to have friends several years older than me and several years younger than me. Most likely because I always wanted to fit in with my older sister, but still wanted to be a kid and play with the younger kids. This has transformed as an adult into seeking the advice of those wiser than me, and wanting to help the next generation not make the same mistakes I did. So in my effort to reboot my blog (again), I’m going to do a little How To series where I share actual, IRL advice that can help you in different areas of your life.

A little backstory on this topic, internships – I had two internships in college. My first was the summer between sophomore and junior year, I was an Application Analyst writing software requirements at Management Science Associates in Pittsburgh, in their Media division. My second internship, which led to my full time job, was an IT Intern at FedEx Services in Pittsburgh where I supported FedEx Ground creating a dashboard to monitor system response times in the stations and hubs.

Currently, I’m a Business Application Analyst at FedEx Services in Memphis, TN supporting application development in eCommerce and Customer Facing Systems (none of this is private info, if you find me on LinkedIn it’s all there). Now, how did I land those internships and get the job?

  • Actually care. Yes, I’m starting with this one because I see it so much in friends and other people. You have to want to care about eventually getting a job in your field – that’s your end goal, after college right? So you need to start caring like yesterday. If you don’t care about what you’re studying, change it. Do something you care about so you can get that degree which basically only says ‘I can learn and I can do hard things’. Do the work of sprucing up your resume. Read industry blogs/publications. Explain what you’re studying to a stranger at a coffee shop (don’t just blindside someone with it, do it if it comes up in conversation..) – if you don’t have passion behind your field, it’s time to reevaluate.
  • Get involved. Whether you get involved with campus clubs/activities or you just participate in class, you need to be out there consistently. This helps with networking with other students (you aren’t competing, you’ll all go your own way in the end with different interests) and being visible to those who can help you find these opportunities. For instance, when my full-time job was presented to me, I went to a trusted professor who helped me understand how to negotiate my salary. Because I was active in his classes and got to know him well, I knew he was a good person to turn to for help. Many times, professors have close connections with local businesses and can refer you to hiring managers for internships or job opportunities.
  • If it’s free, take it! The amount of services colleges and universities provide for free (well, surface level free) is insane, and utilizing your Career Center should be one you use constantly. Not only do they give free resume and cover letter reviews, they also host interview prep sessions, networking days with local hiring companies and can work with you advisor to make sure that if you do get an internship, it can count for course credit (which many majors offer!). Their job is to get you hired in internships and full time positions, so that they can improve that hire rate they put on marketing materials – so of course they want to help you succeed!
  • Go after something weird. Are you a nursing major but see a social media intern position you’re interested in? APPLY! The worst that can happen is no, and at this point in your life you can take the chance to try out anything. It may seem disjointed to go for an internship not within your major/field of study, but everything you learn anywhere will help you in the future.
    Also, don’t be afraid to apply for fall or spring internships. While many do happen over the summer (June – August), many companies post year round. This is where working with your Career Center/your advisor can help, because you can probably get that course credit instead of a class for your time worked!
  • Make sure it’s paid; if not, have a plan. I would recommend only going after paid internships, because while yes you’re learning from the company, you’re also doing work for them so you should be paid as such. There are some exceptions of those in media/creative fields where it isn’t the norm to pay interns (which to me is bullsh*t but that’s for another blog post), and if that’s the case for you, make a plan to supplement your income during this time. This is especially crucial if you are moving to a new city for the months of the internship and will need things like rent, gas, car maintenance, food, etc. and other bills to pay.
    If you are doing an un-paid internship that is 40 hours a week and you’re not sure how to make extra money, TO THE INTERNET! No, not in a weird way. Make something on Etsy that is passive income, like printable wedding shower games. Or maybe you know Procreate really well, sign up to teach it through a site like Udemy or SkillShare.
  • Always be looking. Sometimes a posting is only up for a week to three weeks at a time before submissions are closed. You have to be checking back every day, or at least once a week. If your Career Center has a job portal, subscribe to alerts so you can automate your search. Attend Career Fairs on campus, go to speaker events. Any place where you can get more knowledge and possibly meet someone new, is an opportunity for an opportunity!
    Typically, Summer internships will be posted the Fall before, and interviews happen October – February. This gives the company the opportunity to secure funding for paid interns and plan in advance for projects you’ll be contributing to.
  • Prepare. I know, I know, cliche af. But it’s true. You have to practice interviewing, you have to know your experience on classroom projects and any work you’ve done outside of class (help a non-profit with their social media or website? It counts!). Research the company, research the position. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer questions – even ones as simple as ‘What do people typically wear to the office?’. This question will tell you a lot about the culture, whether it has a relaxed, startup feel or it’s very professional and formal business. Even within an industry, you’d be surprised how different companies approach something simple like dress code.

Now, not every internship will turn into a full time job. Another big point to remember is although you’ve aced the interview and have the internship, that internship is a 3-6 month long interview for a potential job. You have to keep working at networking and putting your best foot forward long after your Day 1 begins.

What are you struggling with in your internship/career search? What else would you like to read about in the next How To? Let me know!

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