Landing an internship is an ideal way to explore career paths and try out some new skills. If you’re not sure what you are good and or what you will enjoy, internships can help you figure it all out. If you haven’t decided on the career you want after college, they can offer you a bird’s eye view on the type of qualifications you will need to land a good job after graduation.
If you’re looking to secure an internship, we’ve got you covered with some top tips for preparation.
Before the Interview
Conduct Your Research
The first thing you should do is start researching each company you are considering applying for an internship with. You are going to want to have an extensive understanding of the business before you head to an interview. Look over the company website and learn everything you can about its services or products, the company culture, and the leadership. You can check out LinkedIn profiles of some of the current employees, so when you get there, you will already see some familiar faces. It would help if you also looked over any recent press releases, so you are abreast of any new changes or developments within the company.
Get Your Hands on Some Trade Magazines
While researching each company, you should also take some time to investigate the industry as a whole. Go to the library and pick up some trade magazines. Peruse each one and read about any industry trends or changes. Doing this can provide you with valuable insight when it comes time to start your internship. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of the industry but having a bit of inside knowledge will show that you are interested in what you are doing. It can help the company view you as a professional vested in your work instead of as a part-time employee.
Get an Early Start
Even if you know a company is not hiring for a couple more months, you should contact them as far in advance as possible. While you don’t want to be a pest, you also want to show you are genuinely interested in the position. Being persistent and getting your name in front of the key players will keep you etched in the memories of those contacts, giving you a better chance when it comes time to choose a candidate.
You should follow up with the company within a week after you send in your resume and maintain contact regularly. The worst that can happen is you will be told your resume has not been reviewed yet, or you are a little too early. However, it’s much better to communicate your clear interest than it is to be nonchalant.
Create email folders for each company and save every email you send or receive. Why? It can help you remember previous conversations so you can recall them when necessary. If you are applying for several different internships, it can be easy to get the names and details of your contact people confused. You don’t want to send something to the wrong person accidentally.
Saving each piece of correspondence will also allow you to bring up critical points during the interview that you may have forgotten. Set alarms and notifications to remind you about any upcoming deadlines, meetings, or phone calls. You don’t want to go through all that work to forget when you need to be at an interview.
During The Interview
If you’ve managed to secure an interview, congratulations! This is where you will finally have a chance to show what you’re made of. To make the most of the opportunity, follow these tips:
1. Be on Time
There is nothing more disrespectful than showing up late to an interview, and it’s the one thing that can completely blow your chances at an internship, so keep an eye on the clock. Arrive at least five to ten minutes early and alert the front desk that you are there. If you are even the least bit concerned about being late because of traffic or confusing directions, get there an hour early and wait in the car. It will give you a chance to pull yourself together and practice some relaxation techniques.
2. Dress the Part
It doesn’t matter if the company culture is casual, or the job itself doesn’t require professional attire. You should always dress for success for any position you will be interviewing for.
3. Practice Your Intro
Introduce yourself warmly and enthusiastically. Smile and make eye contact as you shake the interviewer’s hand. Be confident in your abilities and convey your pleasure at being there.
4. Turn off Your Phone
You are probably used to taking notes and making appointments using a phone or tablet. However, in this case, a plain notebook and pen will do. Looking down at your device conveys a total lack of interest in what the other person is saying. Besides, you don’t want your mother calling in the middle of your meeting.
5. Follow up With a Thank You Card
This old-fashioned way of expressing your appreciation for someone’s time is still the best way to conclude each interview. You can send an email, but a handwritten note is far more memorable. In the digital age, receiving snail mail is a novelty that is always well-received.
If You Land the Position
If you are lucky enough to land the position, you will want to make the best first impression you can. To help yourself be seen as a valuable employee from the very beginning, follow these essential tips:
Be Ready and Willing to Help With Any Project
The success of your internship relies on what you can offer with your particular skill set. It is up to you to prove you are valuable, motivated, and possess initiative. Be willing to help with any project that comes up, even if it’s something menial. Do your absolute best. If you are asked to tidy up the employee breakroom, make it sparkle! If you see a coworker overwhelmed with filing and you are idle, ask if you can assist them.
If you are tech-savvy, your skills may come in particularly handy among those who find computers frustrating. Be willing to lend a hand wherever you can, and you will make a lasting impression.
Don’t Be a Know-It-All
Even if you are absolutely sure that you are correct about some fact or procedure, avoid trying to show up your coworkers with your knowledge or expertise. Most of them have been there much longer than you. They likely know a thing or two about how things work.
Instead, always be willing to take constructive criticism and advice, and approach each shift ready to learn something new. Stay humble. You will get the opportunity to show off your skills soon enough. There is no need to try and over impress anyone in your first week or two on the job.
Enlist a Mentor
If you can find someone you connect with at the company, consider asking them to mentor you during your internship. They will likely be honored and feel happy that you chose them. Putting yourself in someone’s back pocket is a win-win for everyone. Your mentor has a better overview of office politics and the company as a whole and can help you navigate any potentially sticky situations. A mentor may also become a lasting colleague and friend for many years after your internship.
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