Internships: 8 tips to stand out from the crowd

Internship season is upon us. For most college students, the search for the right internship usually begins in January or February. Even if you haven’t begun your search yet, have no fear.

Here are a few tips to make sure you get noticed and make a statement that your potential employer will like to hear:

  1. Pursue your passion: Too many students pursue internships with particular companies simply because it will look good for their resume. While experience with a reputable company is a plus, your internship should push you towards your desired career. The best way to do that is to gain experience (or at least exposure) in an industry that you have a passion. Rather than thinking only about what would look good to a potential employer, think about your interests or passions first and then think about how to make that look appealing to your employer. Beyond what’s lucrative, what will give you the type of experience that can start you on a path to a career you’ll love?
  2. Make a good first impression: With small to mid-sized companies, internships are positions that desperately need to be filled, but they don’t have the full-time HR department able to respond to all requests. In that case, it is especially important to make a great first impression in order to be remembered. Send a written note after your first email. In a busy world of almost constant email, a simple letter or introductory note can cut through all the white noise and make a great first impression.
  3. Know your company before you call/interview: Interns are a valuable part of any company that is growing. If you want a great internship, you’ll want to work for a firm that has real work that needs to be completed. Come into the interview with an understanding of your potential employer and how you could contribute. The company’s website or social media presence can provide a great deal of information. You will want to make sure to have a basic knowledge of the company’s history, their key personnel, and their client list. Depending on the situation, some internships may need someone who can do additional background research on a project, writing or errand runs for a client. Don’t be afraid to ask how you can help.
  4. Don’t be afraid to follow up: While it might be nervous to follow up, understand that time always is moving faster for your employer than it is for you. A lot of students will send an initial email introduction, but never follow up. Reach out again to confirm they received the message. The lack of response is not anything personal; they simply have not had the opportunity to read through your email.
  5. Use your connections: Don’t be afraid to ask people you know to make an introduction. A lot of students will quickly dismiss their connections and say that they have no network. Connections are the fastest way to cut through the noise and help your name rise to the top of a list. All it takes is one person to make an introduction for you. Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family, professors, etc. if they have any connection to the place you are looking to intern. Have them make an introduction for you.If you know a person inside of a company, contact them first and see if you can ask them some questions about the company’s needs for the internship. It is always better to make your first introduction with a little knowledge of what the company needs.
  6. Show your willingness to learn: It is important to know your value, but in the interview, it is more important to be focused on the value you can provide the company. Your employer knows that you are still in the midst of your training, so they aren’t looking for a stellar list of experience. You need to position your skills in a way that can showcase how you have a passion to learn and take on new challenges. It is your mindset and approach they are hiring, not your experience.
  7. Demonstrate how you serve with a positive attitude: The best way to capture someone’s attention and build an ally is to serve with a positive attitude. While you are interviewing though, it can be hard to demonstrate that quality, so it is important to be able to talk about your background in a way that your employer can see your character.
  8. Engage and provide real-world examples during the interview process: Since your real-world experience may be limited, be prepared how you have dealt with situations you have encountered. How did you balance schoolwork with extra curricular activities? What have you done in a college setting that might be of interest to the company where you would like an internship? During many interviews, the interviewer might ask if you have any questions. Do not get stuck not having one. Many of the questions asked of you could also be asked to the interviewee. You can always say, “I’ve researched your company before this interview, but would like to hear how you would describe what happens here.” Engaging the interviewer and demonstrating a genuine interest will likely help get you to the next level.

As an intern, you will have a number of jobs that, on the outside may seem boring or trivial, but they have major implications for the company you are working for if they aren’t done right. Always push yourself to see the bigger picture. Your career path will always be determined by your approach to the tasks at hand.