You've probably heard it from a million places that your college resume isn't complete without an internship. That's because internships provide a valuable opportunity to gain experience and build connections in a field of your choosing. It's also a great chance to "try on" a career to see how you like being a professional in that employment arena.
The bad news is that good internships are hard to come by. Highly coveted internships, like those at Google or Procter & Gamble, have many more applicants than available opportunities. Even less lucrative positions might have a line out the door to do the work.
Getting one of these positions is a complicated process, and more than a little luck is involved. It takes some planning and focus. Here are three steps you can take to help position yourself at the front of the line for the summer of a lifetime!
1.) Start early
The application process for an intern starts the second a company starts looking. They want to find someone who's proactive and organized. That means applying early is to your benefit. Think of this from the company's point of view. If all they know about you is that you were scrambling to get your application materials together four days before the deadline, they don't have a lot of reason to believe you're "detail-oriented" or "hard-working." Have a resume and cover letter ready to go now so you can start applying tomorrow.
2.) Customize your documents
There's no such thing as "your" resume. Resumes and cover letters are sales documents that need to be custom-tailored to the company for which you are seeking employment. Do some research on projects the company is presently involved in or ones that have recently been finished. Explain your admiration for the work and talk about how you could add value to those projects. These steps will put you head and shoulders above the cookie-cutter resumes your peers are writing.
3.) Make your own opportunity
If you can't find an internship you really want, it might be time to make your own. Call or email small- to mid-sized companies in your town or community and explain what you can do for them. Work with a trusted professor or internship director at your college to build your own internship experience. This is a nerve-wrecking process, but remember: The worst they can say is no. The experience in marketing yourself alone will be incredibly valuable as you prepare to enter the job market.