There’s a circular argument when it comes to getting your first job: you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. It can be frustrating for freshly graduated 20-somethings to realize employers want more experience than they’ve got.
Fortunately, there is one thing you can do to gain experience before you’re ready for your first job:
Internships provide you with real-world job experience, teach you valuable skills that will make you more hireable, and get your foot in the door at a company that might end up offering you a job.
Here are some tips to help you find the perfect internship.
1. Treat it Like a “Real” Job
You’d be surprised how many college students are too laid back when it comes to getting an internship.
From the start, you should pretend this is a job. Send your resume and write a cover letter, just like you would for a job. Dress professionally for your interview (and show up on time). Show the employee representative that you take this seriously, and they’ll take you seriously.
2. Start With a Company You’d Like to Work For
If you’re majoring in public relations or communications, you should, naturally, look for an internship in that field. But go one better and start with your wishlist of employers. There’s a chance — but not a guarantee — that if you do a great job with your internship, you’ll be offered a position, so apply at companies where you’d like to work at after graduation.
3. Go Through College Organizations
If you’re a member of an association like the Public Relations Student Association, there may be opportunities with college alumni that go through here. You always stand a better chance of scoring an internship if there’s a connection, such as the hiring manager also went to your college.
4. Knock Their Socks Off in an Interview
Employers sometimes have lower expectations for interns than they do their own employees. That presents you with the opportunity to blow them away in your interview. Show that you’ve researched the company thoroughly, and that you have a clear understanding of the industry you’d be working in.
5. Tell Them What You Can Do
Even if you don’t have any job experience yet, you can still show your portfolio of press releases (either from class or simply ones you create to build your experience), talk intelligently about public relations or communications, and express interest in learning new skills.
6. Follow Up with a Thank You
Just like with a “real” job interview, sending a follow up thank you card (handwritten and mailed) can impress the hiring manager and make you stand out from the sea of intern applicants. It’s little touches like this that make the difference.
Once you are hired as an intern, it’s up to you to get the most out of the experience. Show your enthusiasm about learning new skills, and offer your help wherever needed. Not only will you develop plenty to add to your resume, but you’ll also prove yourself as an indispensable member of the team.