Internships can be incredibly important for a college student. If you’re an intern at the right place, you’ll gain experience you can’t get in a classroom setting. Securing a paid internship is even better — it’s hard enough to make money as a college student, so earning money and gaining relevant job experience is a double win.
Personally, I’m a huge advocate of internships: My editorial internship during my last year of college helped me land an amazing job right after graduation. Luckily, I had other relevant work experience prior to submitting my internship application. But what if I didn’t?
4 Tips for Landing a Great Internship
If you don’t have prior job experience, it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. Here’s how to apply for and land your dream internship.
1. Tailor Your Cover Letter and Resume
Yes, it’s still possible to personalize your cover letter and resume even when you don’t have tons of on-the-job experience. When it comes to a cover letter, each paragraph needs a main focus.
In the first paragraph, talk about yourself: who you are, where you’re studying, how you found the job and mention any connections you may have to the company or internship.
For the second paragraph, talk about why you’re a good fit for the company and internship. Incorporate key responsibilities and requirements listed in the job posting and connect any personal experience you have in the field.
In the third and final paragraph, talk more about your own personality traits and skills and how they benefit you in the workplace. End the cover letter with your contact information and when you’ll get in touch.
When creating a resume, keep in mind any of your important classes, volunteer work or extracurricular activities. Write down why you pursued them and what you learned from each experience.
It’s also important to tailor your resume to the internship you’re applying for. Your resume for a social media internship would look much different than one for a financial firm regarding what relevant experience you’d want to include.
2. Make the Most of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social network college students can easily overlook. Building a strong LinkedIn profile can help you stand out among your classmates.
If you haven’t already, create a free profile and make sure everything is up to date. Include any relevant career experience, whether it was a paid job or not. You could also list relevant coursework or skills you learned in college, such as your proficiency with certain programs.
In need of a professional headshot? Whatever you do, don’t use a selfie as your profile picture. Have a friend take one for you, or see if your school’s career services center offers a free headshot service — mine did!
Now that your profile is updated, it’s time to make connections. Start with fellow classmates, professors and any co-workers, then look for companies you’re interested in and follow them. It’s important to build out your network with connections you already know before adding connections you’ve never met before.
Introduce yourself to anyone you haven’t actually met with a brief message on why you want to connect.
3. Research the Company
Interviewing for an internship requires a little bit of research beforehand. Look into the company you’re interviewing with — know its basic information, goals, values and culture. When researching the company, come up with a few questions to ask. This could be anything from what the company’s strategy is, to examples of projects past interns worked on.
Take note of the environment too. If you’re interviewing with a casual startup company, you might not want to go decked out in your finest formal business attire. When I was interviewing for internships, I had multiple different outfits depending on the company. I had my business outfit for formal workplaces and a more casual, yet still professional, dress and flats for more laid-back companies. Showing up with the right outfit on shows you’re on top of your game and know how to fit in.
4. Always Follow Up
I learned this lesson the hard way. I went on an interview that went really well but waited a few days to follow up — I was told they were choosing another candidate because I had waited too long. After that, I made sure to follow up with anyone I interviewed with on the same day.
It doesn’t have to be anything complicated — just send a quick email thanking them for their time and that you look forward to hearing from them. This gesture is small, but so important.
Similarly, a lot of people apply to jobs on LinkedIn and other job board websites, and never follow up. If you submitted an application online and didn’t hear back, try to find out who the hiring manager or human resources person is and contact them via phone or email. It could mean the difference between getting called in for an interview or not.
Armed with these tips, you’re ready to apply for your dream internship. Good luck!
Jacquelyn Pica is a writer at The Penny Hoarder. Find her on Twitter @JacquelynTPH.