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Your Summer Internship Search: What You Need to Know

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Your Summer Internship What You Need to Know Summer – it’s just around the corner (we promise). And if you’ll be among hundreds of thousands of students searching for a summer internship, you’ll want to get your foot in the door – i.e., resume in the inbox – before everyone else.

This internship may be your first proper career experience – and it could lead to a job offer. You’ll want to invest a good amount of time so you have the advantage of entertaining several offers from your top choices. Between researching companies and writing cover letters, then the time between phone screeners, interviews, and call backs, to offer letter (which may not to be until April or May), you should begin your summer internship mmm, yeah, right about now.

“Unfortunately, hiring timelines rarely favor the student,” says Heather Huhman, a career expert based near Washington, D.C. Some companies – larger Fortune 500s, for example – may have a more structured process and longer lead times. Other businesses may be more last minute, so you’ll have to be prepared for both scenarios. “It’s not unheard of for a company to give applicants less than a week to put together everything that’s required to be considered,” she says.

To keep track of all the positions you apply to (because, yes, it can be a numbers game and you may need to apply to 10 to 20 companies to land your summer internship), Huhman recommends the mobile and web app Rake.

“The best way to manage an application timeline is to document when you submit things or communicate with the company,” she says. “This will help ease stress because you can see that not as much time has passed as you thought since you last heard something.”

What else can you expect and how can you make yourself stand out? The recruiter and founder of Come Recommended chatted with us about internship timelines, resume advice, and more job search tips.

Heather-Huhman-Career-Expert-Summer-Internship Q: When should students start their summer internship search?
A: It’s never too early to start looking at internship options. While you might not want to start applying in September for the following summer, you can begin to do your research and compile a list of companies you’d enjoy working for. This also gives you time to reach out to your favorite companies that might not advertise all their internship opportunities. Sometime in early winter, you can send out an email expressing your interest in the organization to see what options exist.

Q: Do you recommend search sites or going directly to company websites?
A: The whole point of an internship is for the student to learn and improve their professional skills. Given that, it’s more important for them to find the right internship rather than any internship. When you go straight to the company’s website, you can get a better picture of what the work environment is like and if it’ll foster your professional growth. It’s hard to gain that understanding from a listing on a job board.

Q: Summer internships can be highly competitive. How can a student stand out?
A: Being new to the job market, many students rely heavily on template resumes and cover letters from their career centers. While these are great resources for the foundation of these documents, they do little to help you stand out as an individual. Feel free to adjust the subheadings of your resume if the traditional ones don’t apply to you. If you’ve had little or no work experience, trade out that section for volunteer work you’ve done. Also, don’t be afraid to submit samples of your work if they can show employers what you have to offer.

Q: What are people’s biggest mistakes when it comes to summer internship applications?
A: Unless you’re applying for the exact same internship a dozen times, you need to customize your resume for each position you’re interested in. While the differences might be nuanced, it’s important that you adjust how your skills are presented so they appeal to each company and what they are looking for. One way to do this is to pay attention to keywords that differ in each job description. For example, if one stresses great communication in a team setting, but another is looking for someone who stays organized in a team setting, reword your teamwork experience to reflect those differences – while still being accurate, of course.

Q: What’s your top piece of advice when it comes to resumes and cover letters?
A: Make sure your resume and cover letter are telling a story – and the same story, at that. Resumes and cover letters should be seen as partners, not as two separate documents. Your cover letter should be tailored to the internship, and your resume should work in concert with your cover letter. If there’s something on your cover letter you haven’t mentioned on your resume, it may make you look inconsistent and put questions in a recruiter’s mind. The smoother the transition and the less questions they ask, the better it is for the candidate.

Q: Should students expect their summer internship to be paid? What do you recommend they take into consideration if an internship is not paid or low pay?
A: It depends on the job and the industry. Working for free is a catch-22. A candidate might be able to get valuable experience as a free intern, but that’s an incredibly privileged position everybody can’t afford to do. If money isn’t an object or a candidate is able to supplement the income in some way, working for free should at least be considered. If a candidate can’t afford to work for free, then they either shouldn’t apply or they should reach out and see if there’s another arrangement that could be made. Perhaps that's free products the company sells, paid professional development training, etc. However, there are plenty of paid internships across all industries, so it’s possible to hold out for one that compensates.

Q: Rejections are an inherent part of job search, no matter your experience level. Do you have any tips for students who get rejected from their top internship choice?
A: Don’t sweat it. A rejection doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that you didn’t get your first choice. It’s not always an indictment of your character, resume, or job skills. Just take a deep breath and keep on trucking. The race isn’t always given to the swiftest or the fastest, just the one who endures. Applying for internships is a marathon, not a sprint.

Connect with Heather on Twitter and check out more useful internship search tips on her website.


Check out Heather’s book, #EntryLevelTweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle



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