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Six Simple Strategies for Landing Your Dream Internship

Gone (in most cases…) are the days of high-profile internships revolving around dry cleaning runs and complex coffee orders. Now more than ever, organizations are working to make their internship programs more meaningful on both sides—you as the intern get real-world experience while your employer gets a chance to identify emerging and secure emerging talent. 

That, though, has made many premier internships much, much more in-demand—but, also, much, much more valuable from an early-career perspective. According to NACE’s latest  Student Survey, 58% of students interns reported receiving job offers from the company—14 points higher than those who didn’t. So not only is interning a pro from a skill-building perspective, but it could be your one-way ticket to that dream job post-graduation. Win, win, win. 

But, again, there’s that one major hurdle: the competition. In this crazy-competitive internship landscape, having the right degree—or, even, a previous, relevant internship won’t make your application shine all that much. So what’s a (super qualified, amazingly ambitious, totally all-in) potential hire like you to do? Bring it. Start with these simple strategies and, soon enough, you’ll have an inbox jam-packed with offers.  

#1. Get that resume UPDATED

Start by reading over your resume and make sure it’s a clear, quick read. Or, create a resume if you haven’t already. Either way, make sure yours checks a few key boxes: 
  • Do you have all of your relevant work experience listed—and are the dates correct? 
  • Do your job descriptions communicate your true potential, passion and experience?
  • Don’t sell yourself short with vague descriptions. Instead, lead with the benefits. You didn’t just “manage customer service calls” you “improve long-term loyalty and brand engagement by supporting all aspects of the customer experience.” Both are appealing, but one is much more exciting and likely to grab a hiring manager’s attention. 

It’s also important that your resume is one, single-sided page and that you use a common, easy-to-read font such as Helvetica, Arial or Times New Roman in size 10 or greater—don’t make your future boss strain her eyes trying to read your amazing accomplishments. 

One final note: check your email address before you send your resume out. If you’d be embarrassed your new boss or colleagues tied you to that email address, it’s probably not resume-worthy. Get an email address that’s, simply, your first and last name. If your first or last and/or last names are tough to spell, consider shortening or using an initial. 

#2. Dress for the part

You already know how important it is to dress for the part—and this tiny but mighty detail could very well be the difference between landing the internship and losing out to the competition. Not only does dressing well boost your confidence, but it demonstrates to people that you take work seriously and leaves a strong first impression that is sure to boost your chances.


#3. Keep Your Social Media G-Rated

No matter the company or the position, expect your employer to demand behavior, both online and in “real life,” to be a respectable and professional. And, many times, hiring managers will turn to social media to confirm that’s the case, especially with new hires and interns. 

Your social media is a great indication of how you conduct yourself, express your beliefs and communicate with others. Before circulating your resume, ensure all of your photos and other posts are workplace appropriate—and G-rated. Pics of PM bar crawls, bachelorette trips to Mexico and late-night beer pong tournaments have zero place on a future leader’s Facebook feed, Instagram Stories and every other social platform out there.

#4. Seek out and secure those connections 

Making the right real-life connections improves your chances of landing your dream internship. Why? Because people know people—and the wider you cast your professional net, the more likely you are to get connected with people who can help your internship and, eventually, job search. 

While we aren’t putting down applying for internships the “old fashioned” way—AKA job portals, emailing hiring managers and other more formal internship application processes—those can often lead to a whole lot of silence, especially for competitive spots. If you’ve got an inside track, your resume is more likely to be plucked from the pile and reviewed personally. 

And keep in mind the insider you tap doesn’t need to be the hiring manager or even in the same department. A quick email from anyone in the company with your application attached could be all it takes to get your resume flagged for further review—and, from there, your stellar credentials can do the talking. 

Before you dismiss this thinking you know no one at your dream companies, think again. Start by searching for potential employers on LinkedIn and see if you have any personal connections—or even second- and third-tier connections—to those organizations. If you do, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask your contact for an intro to their contact—people are almost always eager to help. 

Another simple way to grow your network? Start talking—to anyone and everyone. The guy standing behind you in line at Starbucks? He’s the CMO at the company you’ve been eyeing. Your professor? Her brother is in the marketing department of that massive tech firm you’d love to work for—and they’re accepting applications now. So don’t be afraid to chit-chat and see where things lead. You may be surprised. 

#5. Don’t Be Afraid to Send Cold Emails

Yes, cold emails can work. If you’ve been browsing LinkedIn and found managers at a few companies you’d love to work for, figure out how to write a killer cold email and take a chance. Fortune favors the brave, and if you’re fearless enough to reach out to cold contacts, you may be surprised at how many doors start flying open for you. 

#6. Prepare to Land The Offer

Your resume is stellar, your social energy has worked its magic and you’ve dug into every skill relevant to the internship—and now it’s time to master the interview. Here’s how to work it:

First, study the company. Show initiative by doing your due diligence beforehand. Study and be ready to speak to the company’s mission, what market they target,  how they are making a difference for their customers and what their strengths and weaknesses are. While your interview shouldn’t be a rolling list of fun facts, it’s good to bring your responses back to their core values so your interviewer can easily imagine you fitting right in… 

Second, be sure your handshake is solid. A wet noodle-like handshake is a one-way ticket to not being taken seriously—so don’t do it. Firmly shake your interviewer’s hand (but don’t be overzealous and hurt them). This shows confidence going into the conversation. Then, repeat when you exit the interview, looking your interviewer in the eyes and giving a confident, can’t-wait-to-get-started smile. 

Third, ask questions. Interviews should be a two-way street, so don’t be afraid to turn the tables a bit and ask interviewers questions. Not only will you get the insights and intel you need, but you’ll show how much thought and research you’ve put into your interview prep—and that’s always a plus. 

Stumped for questions?

  • When did you start working here? What’s your favorite part about the day-to-day now?
  • What do you think is the most unique part of company culture?
  • What types of interns are most successful here? 
  • What advice would you give to an intern or entry-level hire coming into this organization? 

Lastly, FOLLOW UP.  As soon as you can (ideally, within an hour or so of leaving the interview), send a quick email thanking the interviewer and anyone else you engaged with during your sit-down. Thank each person for them for their time, consideration and mention something memorable about the interview or your conversation with them. This follow up will keep your name top of mind even after the interview. 

Put it all together and these six super-simple, super-actionable steps will help you make the most of every opportunity—and, more importantly, help you land that all-important internship. Good luck!