So, now that you know how to apply to college and how to pick the right one... how do you get work experience while there? This next (and last!) panel is for you, curious young grasshopper!
"From College to Career: How to Land an Internship in College" was a panel that, well, covered just that! Pretty straightforward, no?
Our panelists were prolific in the art of getting an internship- two were recent grads/current college students with more than ten internships between them. Our other two gurus were professionals, with amazing advice to bestow on waiting notebooks!
Let's dive right in, shall we?
One such gem of knowledge was that "interning is like dating." What could that mean, my (even more awkward around cute guys) high school self would ask. Basically, internships allow you to try on a career, to figure out what you want and what you do not like at all. You might stumble upon the one you want to stick with for the rest of your life right away... or it could take a crazy number of tries. Either way, you're getting quality experience and skill sets that will make you very desirable to employers.
Speaking of employers and actual paying jobs (we were, right?), did you know that only 20% of jobs are posted in the traditional sense? The other 80% are obtained through networking, and internships are a great way to build those connections!
So awesome, internships are a thing we want (I can hear you thinking "thanks, Ingrid, I already knew that"). The next step is crafting the resume and cover letter to help you stand out and actually get the seemingly mythical opportunity of your dream... or make it yourself!
For your resume, make sure your name and contact information is larger than your other text-you want to make sure they know who did all this cool stuff! Also, do something to make your whole resume stand out visually- I'm not saying go all Elle Woods in the thing, but a thicker paper or simple design go a long way! Find a balance between white space and text- there are some templates on Microsoft Word and around the web if you go looking. Of course, there are different expectations for different openings- if you're applying for something arts related, go nuts on the design aspect of it! But this approach would probably not help you if you are applying for an investment banking internship...
For the body of your resume, make sure it is clear, concise, easily scan-able for vital information, varied in terms of action verbs, and devoid of personal pronouns and/or TYPOS (the bane of my existence)!
If you're in high school, use the internet as your resume guru (totally counting this post!) It should include your contact info, education (where you go to school, any academic achievements, awards or recognition you've received etc.), experience (sports teams, community service, things like that), skills and interests (make sure to list social media! Also, any computer skills like proficiency in Microsoft office and any language skills and eclectic interests you have!). In college, career services AND the internet are open to you if you have any questions!
One last note on resumes- they will constantly be changing. Ideally, your resume should not exceed a page, so your resume as a high school student, or even a freshman in college, will look vastly different from your resume as a senior. Embrace the change!
Speaking of your college's career services (we actually were this time!), they have an infinite number of ways to make your internship search easier! For example, they can help you articulate exactly what you're looking for in the face of the deep sea of internships posted online. They can also connect you to online resources and databases, and connect you to alumni!
BC's career center even held a LinkedIn workshop! I wish I'd gone, because LinkedIn is a tool that can really help you in this endeavor (and many others down the line, when you actually start looking for employment!). LinkedIn allows you to connect with companies you would want to intern with. You can look up their employees and scan for alumni from your school to reach out to! If you do take this route, make sure to be polite and don't ask for an internship right away. You can lead up to it, but phrase it more as a question- something like "I'm looking for internships right now, and am interested in your industry. Could you tell me how you got to where you are? (or) What do companies such as yours look for in interns? (or)..." I don't know! I have an internship already! Be polite, be personable, and be prepared to be helpful. Boom.
Your cover letter is the explanation of tasks you've completed. Your cover letter, on the other hand, is about what skill sets you've acquired from these tasks. It's also about highlighting how these skills will fill a need in this company. Because, the cover letter isn't really about you- it's about them! What are you going to bring to their company? What can you do for them that someone else can't? WHY did you choose to apply for an internship with them? Companies want to know why you picked them as much as they wart to know what you can deliver!
Make sure you do your research before applying, so that you can answer that question specifically-nothing is worse than a copy-and-paste cover letter! Check out your potential interning site's mission statement and use similar wording in your cover letter to show that you're on the same page. Show your passion and excitement at the possibility of working with them and learning from them. And then...
...Kill it in the interview with these tips from #HStoHC's lovely panelists! Know going in that it'll be pretty short- your interview should only last 20-30 minutes. They will probably ask you some pretty generic questions (for example, what are your strengths and weaknesses?). Because the interview itself is so short and the questions so cookie-cutter, the pressure is on. So, make sure you prepare as much as you can ahead of time to dazzle them in that short and scripted time period! Practice with a parent or friend! Figure out how to get there ahead of time and BE on time! Always have a question t ask at the end! You can be certain that they will ask if you Ave any questions for them... so have some ready and waiting, stashed (figuratively) in your back pocket. Some to brainstorm off of are "what is your favorite part of working here?" and "where are your past interns now?" and "what led you to your position?" You can even look up your interviewer ahead of time in order to craft questions specific to him or her. The interviewers want you to do well! So, prepare ahead of time and ride that wave of pressure straight to an awesome conversation!
After the interview, be sure to send a "thank you" email (or written note, if you're old-fashioned like me!). Whether an offer or a denial comes, you want to say thank you to the person who interviewed you for taking the time from their day to do so. Make note of specific instances in your conversation that you found particularly interesting or exciting!
Another thing, take some time after your interview (and thank you form of choice), to re-evaluate your feelings towards the company. It's not just about them picking you. You need to feel good about picking them! Is it a good fit? Will you be happy there? If the answer is yes, great! If it's no, feel free to turn any offered position down without guilt. You'll find a place that's right for you!
Some closing advice from the awesomely informative panelists:
- Don't be afraid to take risks and branch out from your comfort zone. You could learn some really awesome skill sets and find a career you'd never have picture otherwise!
- Never be discouraged, whether after an interview, a denial, whatever. The more you do, the more practice you'll have, the better you'll get!
- Be willing to be geographically diverse. Smaller cities don't get the same influx of college students looking for internships as big cities like Boston or New York. That leaves their best and coolest open for you!
- Start interning with smaller brands or companies. They're going to need you more, which will let you do more. You''ll learn so much and get mad skill sets to impress the bigger powers-that-be when you apply later!
- And, lastly but not lastly - Never say, "no," Always say, "YES!"