It’s January – which means it’s time to start working on getting a summer job or internship, especially if you’re currently a college student.
That’s right. If you’re planning on scoring a temporary job this year to gain some experience, now is the time to get started on the process. And the process, from the moment you decide that you want or need a summer job to the moment you accept an offer, can be stressful and challenging.
By starting early and following these 10 steps, you can greatly increase your chances of landing the perfect internship.
1. Plan Around Your Passions
Before you even start looking for a job, consider your interests and passions. You may be trying to land an internship relevant to your major, but you probably have certain areas within your field that you would like to focus on. For example, I was an Industrial Engineering major in college, and I wanted to focus on the service industry, specifically hospitality. So, naturally, I wanted an internship at Disney World.
If you have a specific company you want to work for, that great! You are ahead of the game. If not, at least figure out what industry or industries you are interested in and what type of experience you would like to gain. This will greatly narrow down your search.
2. Have Your Resume Critiqued
Recruiters may have to look through hundreds of resumes for a single job posting. It is important that yours is concise yet detailed enough to set you apart. It also needs to be free from errors. Make sure you avoid these resume, cover letter, and job application mistakes.
I highly recommend that you follow some of the best tips for resume writing and then have a professional do a critique. If you are in college, go to your career resource center for help. If you are not in school, check out ResumeEdge or even Fiverr to see if anyone would be willing to edit your resume for $5!
3. Prepare Answers to Interview Questions
Once you have your resume together, you need to prepare for what comes next if you’re selected: the job interview. Most interview questions that I have been asked aimed to find out how I responded to past situations; these are called behavioral interview questions. For example, a question might be, “When was a time that you had a difficult team member, and how did you deal with it?” With a question like that, the interviewer is asking you to describe the situation, how you overcame it, and the results.
In order to prepare for behavioral interview questions, list as many previous school and work projects that you can think of and write a short summary of each, such as if it was a team project, the challenges you faced, and the success or outcome. Then locate a list of example interview questions on the Internet, and go through each question to see which project on your list could be used to answer the question. This is an excellent way to prepare and you can use the list you create for a phone interview as well.
As you can imagine, a college degree isn’t valuable without job skills, so you’ll want to clearly show the interviewers that you have the job skills that employers are looking for. Describe your examples as proof, front and center. If you don’t really have anything currently, here are some ways to make yourself more marketable in the job market.
4. Go to a Mock Interview
I remember my first interview like it was yesterday. It was for a utilities company, and I knew nothing about the company or about the interview process in general. As you might have guessed, I completely bombed it, but I was really glad that I went because I learned what an interview is like. Had I done a mock interview however, I could have gained that experience before my actual interview. Check out your school’s career resource center to see if they offer mock interviews.
5. Join a Society or Club
One of the most helpful things that you can do to start networking is to join a society or club in your area of interest. I joined the Institute of Industrial Engineers when I was a college student and met colleagues not only in the chapter that I belonged to, but throughout the country. I actually was able to land a job after graduation by going to the organization’s website, looking through their list of members and their companies, and emailing them to ask if they had any positions available. I was more credible because I was a fellow member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers.
6. Talk to Upperclassmen
Another great way to network is to talk to juniors and seniors to find out where they’ve interned and what their experiences were like. If there is a particular company that you are interested in, ask around to find out if anyone worked for that company. When I was a student and wanted to work for Disney World, I asked around until I met someone who had interned there. I then gave him my information to pass along to the recruiters. Not long after that, I had an interview (and an internship) with Disney World.
7. Attend Career Fairs and Info Nights
Career fairs put you face-to-face with recruiters. They generally provide a relaxed atmosphere where you can ask questions and learn more about companies and organizations. At the same time, as you are asking questions, the recruiter is gauging your interest and learning a little more about you. Info nights are similar, but they usually consist of only one company giving a presentation about its various programs.
8. Participate in Networking Groups
As the saying goes: It’s not what you know, but who you know. The more people you know, the more likely it is that you will know someone who knows of an available job. And one of the best ways to meet people is to attend networking groups and events. This is one of the best ways to find a job that is not advertised. Also, if you don’t have a LinkedIn account yet, sign up and start networking, even online. LinkedIn is a great way to further your career, and you can often find a job using social media tools.
Tip: Chances are slim that you will find a summer job or internship by searching on the Internet. I recommend investing your time in networking with people as opposed to sitting in front of a computer screen. Here are some non-traditional places to network for employment opportunities.
9. Research the Company
In addition to preparing for interview questions and doing a mock interview, make sure you also study up on the company prior to an interview. Recruiters love to see that you have a passion for what they do and are excited by the possibility of working for them. Another great way to show your passion is to have some questions prepared to ask the interviewer at the end of the session. This shows that you want to know more and really care about the opportunity. Ask these questions with enthusiasm.
10. Follow Up with a Note
To show your appreciation and to reemphasize your name, send the recruiter an email immediately after the interview. It should be the first thing that you do. Then send a handwritten note that day or the following. The more the recruiter is reminded of you, the more likely it is that you will score the job.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the process of finding a summer job or internship. Just make sure to start early and follow these 10 steps. Treat finding a job as a job itself, something that you plan out and do on a daily basis. This is an investment in your future, your education, and in yourself as a person so definitely take it seriously, especially if it’s an internship that can lead to a full-time job. If you do, you will be rewarded in every way. Good luck!
What have your summer job or internship opportunities been like? What was the process like in finding it?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)