By Sara Aisenberg
This past December, I graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a minor in Spanish. As an English major, I had a goal of working in the publishing industry or as a contributing writer or editor for a major publication post graduation. Fate, on the other hand, had an alternative plan for me.
During my junior year, I landed an internship at a marketing firm that taught me the ins and outs of SEO copywriting and Internet marketing. Two years later, I’m the executive writer at one of the nation’s leading surety bond companies. Yes, I’m proud of my pre- and post-graduate accomplishments, but that’s not the point of this article.
The point is that my internship helped me develop my career goals and determine the course I would take once my college career was complete. Now that the fall semester is underway, most college upperclassmen are on the search for the perfect internship that will open new professional doors for them. If you’re one of these experience-hungry students, consider the following tips during your search to land an internship that will help you achieve — or shape — your life and career goals.
1. Use your school’s resources. I’m living proof that using you school’s resources can land you a great internship and — if you’re lucky — a post-graduate job. To make the most of what your school has to offer, make sure you do the following:
- Put yourself on the email lists for your college, major and the campus career center. When you receive emails from these sources, thoroughly read through them. It’s likely that you’ll find information about a potential job opportunity or career fair in every email.
- Talk to anyone and everyone. If you notice that the girl who sits next to you in your business class always comes in dressed for work, ask her where she works, what she does and if there are any job openings. Also, it’s important to build relationships with your professors for more reasons than securing good grades. Often, good student-teacher relationships evolve into good colleague relationships when professors help their former students land internships and full-time positions.
- Schedule an appointment with your school’s career center to ensure that your resume and cover letter are as perfect as possible. You want potential employers to get the best first impression of you, and that starts with a solid — as well as comprehensive, grammatically correct, attractive and persuasive — cover letter and resume.
2. Sell yourself and stay connected. The job market is more competitive than ever, and the Internet plays a larger role in helping employers narrow down job candidates than ever before. This means that you need to do the following when you’re ready to look for a job or internship:
- Set up an online portfolio on a site such as WordPress or Tumblr. Make this portfolio attractive, easy to use and grammatically correct, and include your best work and your preferred contact information. Publish a link to this portfolio on your social media profiles and include it on your resume.
- Create profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms that apply to your field. Then, make sure your security and privacy settings are where you want them — high security is almost always a good idea—and post relevant, appropriate and interesting content on a near-daily basis. The more you showcase your work, knowledge and experience, the better.
3. Follow up. When it comes to internship and job searching, not following up is one of the most common rookie mistakes.
- If you submit your resume or send an email in response to a job posting and you haven’t heard back in three to five business days, send a follow-up email stating how much you’re interested in the position, why you think you’d be a good fit and asking for confirmation that the employer received your initial email. The extra effort and interest will most likely elicit a response from the job poster.
- Any time you have an interview — whether it went well or not — send the interviewer a note to thank him or her for meeting with you. If you’re interested and feel that you’re a good fit for the position, include this in the note with a few compelling reasons. Always end on a positive note by saying something along the lines of, “Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.” Because time is of the essence when it comes to job searching, try to get the note in the mail the day of or the day following the interview. If you have a phone interview for an internship or job, an email following the same guidelines is appropriate.
4. Do your research before an interview so that you know as much as possible about the company and so you can ask intelligent, thought-out questions about what the job entails.
5. Apply for positions that you’re interested in even if you might be a little under qualified. Don’t waste the employer’s time by applying to positions that you have no chance of getting, but by applying to positions that are just out of your league, you’re demonstrating that you’re confident in your skills and are willing to work hard. If an employer thinks you can grow in and shape a position, he or she might contact you to schedule an interview.
6. Wear business attire to your interview even if you know that the company’s atmosphere and dress code are extremely casual and relaxed. This shows that you’re serious about the position. There’s plenty of time to wear shorts and flip flops to work once you get the job.
7. Arrive on time — or early — to your interview; if this means that you leave your house that’s ten minutes away an hour before your interview is scheduled to start, do it. Nothing says you’re not serious about the job like showing up late. If the interviewer keeps you waiting, however, just deal with it. He or she could be your boss once the interview is over, after all.
8. Volunteer to be the company’s first intern. There’s nothing wrong with being the guinea pig, and you’ll be able to set the standard for all future interns.
Since the school year just started, now is the perfect time to use these tips to land your dream internship. Good luck!
Sara Aisenberg is a recent graduate of the University of North Texas and the Executive Writer for the Surety Bonds Insider, a blog that helps surety bond companies stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and legislation. To learn more about Sara, follow her on Twitter @SaraAisenberg.