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Internship

The Ultimate Internship Guide

Written by Shefali Sundram

Updated on: 08 Dec 2023

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You’re in college and think it’s time to start looking for internships. You’re pumped up with energy to start your search but confused about how to get an internship.

That’s alright; we all have been there, equally clueless about how to land our first internship.

Where to find an internship?

How to create a resume or cover letter?

How to prepare for an internship interview?

How to get an internship with an email?

How to accept or decline an internship offer?

To get an internship, start with a strong resume and cover letter. Make sure you’ve taken courses and tests to build your profile. Highlight relevant skillsets and experience in your resume. Practice interview skills and apply on job and internship websites online.

This internship guide unfolds the best ways to get an internship. From creating a resume to cold emailing, read on to find your answers!

Where to find an internship?

As per data provided by Zippia’s 20+ Compelling Internship Statistics [2023]: Data, Pay, and Trends: roughly 60% of undergraduate students and recent graduates complete an internship.

Knowing where to find an Internship is the first step when students start their internship search. Most of them miss out on opportunities because they don’t know where to look.

Plenty of internship opportunities can be found if you try out the following ways:

Job websites and internship websites

The best way to get an internship is to sign up for job websites and internship websites. The websites post plenty of positions for internships. 

  • On these websites, you get to filter out the field, location, full-time or part-time, and a bunch of other elements. The internship listings aren’t limited either because a large number of openings are posted daily. 
  • Some well-known job websites that post Internship openings are Internshala, LinkedIn, Indeed, SimplyHired, and more. Check out this post on the Best websites to get an Internship and make your search easier!
  • Apart from well-known job websites, specific websites, such as Chegg Internships and InternMatch, also cater to internship needs. 

Network with people in your field

LinkedIn is one of the best ways to get an internship by networking with established professionals! LinkedIn is a job portal and a social media platform for professionals at all levels to connect. 

College students make up 20.4% of total LinkedIn users and are the second most popular age group (18-24 years). Try to form connections with professionals at various companies and find out if they have openings at their respective companies.

Another way to network is to attend job fairs and college fairs. You’ll get a chance to interact with companies and recruiters. You can find out about potential internship opportunities this way and apply accordingly. 

Big companies have internship programs in the summer and fall too, so try finding out when applications start getting accepted for the internship roles.

Connect with the college career center

The purpose of a college career center is to provide students with resources to help them out with their careers! Several colleges partner with companies and hire students for summer internship programs; other internship opportunities are listed at these centers. 

Career centers can also help you out with career advice and can assist you with resume & cover letter creation. 

Volunteering to intern at an organization that doesn’t have a position

Unlike big companies, startups and mid-sized companies may not have internship programs or opportunities. You can give your shot by sending cold emails to such companies offering to intern, which leads to creating an internship position for yourself!

Additional help is required at any company; no doubt, this approach might work out in your favor.

How to write a resume?

A resume is one of the key aspects of any job application process, including internships! The purpose of a resume is to showcase your previous work experience (if any) and your skills. It helps recruiters and hiring managers assess if you’re fit for the position or not. 

So what are the do’s and don’ts of a resume?

Must have sections for your resume

Since recruiters have to go through plenty of applications received, you should format it in a way that is well structured and catches their eye.

The basic elements of every resume should have the following:

  • Name and contact information

This should include your full name, email address, and mobile number. And you may also link your LinkedIn profile to it or a portfolio. Make sure to insert this information at the top of the resume! 

One common format followed is to make your full name the title of the resume and provide the relevant contact details below. 

Here is an example:

                                                 MICHAEL GRISHAM

Edison, NJ | http://linkedin.com/in/michaelgrisham | MobileNo | michaelgrisham@gmail.com

  • Professional work experience

This section will help you highlight your past learnings from your previous work! Your work experience should be listed from the most recent experience to the oldest. Ensure to list the date of joining and leaving next to the workplace title. 

The best way to write the summary of each experience is by mentioning the quantifiable and qualitative output. In other words, the work you executed and the results!

Here is an example:

Fujitsu Jan 2023-April 2023

Digital Marketing Intern

  • Created and designed copies for Instagram, and LinkedIn with an average of 5 deliverables a day
  • Brainstormed with the marketing team to formulate monthly campaigns for social media
  • List out your skills, accomplishments, and any courses taken up:

List your skills, accomplishments, and courses taken

Skills listed can be of 2 types, hard and soft! The hard skills listed would refer to Canva, Illustrator, and Photoshop skills. On the other hand, soft skills are more human traits like good communication, leadership, etc.

You can accomplishments from any competitions you’ve participated in and won! Online courses you’ve taken also can be added to the resume. It shows that you’re certified in a particular subject or skill.

Here’s an example of how you can list your skills:

Technical Skills: Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Canva, 

What to avoid in your Resume?

A resume should never contain :

1) Too much personal information

4) Your current or previous monetary compensation

5) False information or qualifications

How to create a convincing cover letter?

A cover letter is a one-page tailored document that shows your interest, skills, and talents in relation to a job position. A well-written cover letter adds leverage to your experience, career history, and overall profile when accompanied by a resume.

Even if recruiters and hiring managers don’t read them, 85% of hiring managers want to see a cover letter. The cover letter is your opportunity to demonstrate why you are a good fit. Having an impressive cover is the best way to get an internship. Here are tips on how to convince your HR manager with a cover letter:

Write out what you can offer the potential employer

This can get confusing. Because we also include most of the details on our resume. The difference is that a resume is typically shorter and more to the point than a cover letter. We describe our accomplishments and then allow the employer to decide if we are a fit for the organization or not.

Include your individuality

While keeping a professional tone is essential, personality also makes a significant impact while looking for a job. Your dedication shows your personality just as much as the manner in which you approach your work. 

Be brief

Try to be as brief and professional as you can. Never go beyond a page. Try to keep it to three paragraphs or less. When editing and proofreading, make sure there are no needless sentences.

Avoid a generic cover letter

Make sure your cover letter differs from every other one that has ever been written. Choosing where to start could be challenging.

The contents should be your own, even though the letter’s main structure can be the same. If you use the same words, then your cover letter will become generic.

The hiring manager is already familiar with the position and how it will advance your career. Don’t go into great detail about why the position is perfect for you; the company needs to understand why you’re perfect for them. Ensure the abilities you include in your application relate to the job description.

Avoid making a summary of your resume in your cover letter

The key to a good cover letter is to be focused. What are your favorite highlights? What do you have to offer? What distinguishes you? After all, there will be many more applications from people with the same critical experience and abilities required for the position.

One of the worst mistakes you can do is just summarize your resume in the cover letter.

There will be many applications from candidates with the crucial skills and expertise needed for the post. Simply summarizing your resume in the cover letter is one of the biggest errors you can make.

Make an attempt to stand out from the crowd.

Avoid grammatical errors

The challenging element of a cover letter is that it can be discarded with your resume if one small error is made (such as a grammatical mistake). Make sure you thoroughly spell check everything, ensure that the company name is spelled correctly, and that the letter is written clearly. 

Try to get it proofread by someone too!

To learn everything there is to know on how to create a cover letter, read more here: How to write a cover letter for an Internship

How to prepare for an internship interview?

If you do this right, you win the battle! On the other hand, you will waste all your efforts if you don’t carry out this step wisely. The first advice – stay calm and positive. Confidence is the key to cracking an interview. And to boost your confidence, all you must do is know that you can ace it! Believe in yourself.

Different types of internships require different types of answers to the interview questions depending on their field. Regardless of the type of internship you aim for, certain common tips can help you crack your interview confidently:

Research the companies you apply to

Visit the company’s website and LinkedIn profile in detail; you need to be aware of the key details, including the activities, the products, and the company’s values!

If you are a content writer, review their testimonials, website content, blog pages, marketing content, and so on. Similarly, depending on your profession, you can do in-depth research about your field in the company.

Learn more about the position you apply for

Reread the internship offer carefully, and while you’re doing it, consider the potential challenges of the position. You can also check out reviews by past interns and learn about their experiences. It will help you in making the decision.

Be prepared on how to introduce yourself

You’ll likely have to introduce yourself at the start of the interview. Summarizing your past concisely is important. Don’t forget to connect your key qualifications to the position you’re looking for. 

You have the option to practice at home in front of a mirror, record yourself, and time yourself.

Enhance your communication skills

An interview is also meant to test your communication skills and how well you’re able to express yourself. Know what you will talk about and what not to mention. When you know what information to share, you will be confident in speaking about it.

Also, be yourself when you speak. Do not fake your accent. Speak clearly and confidently.

Most importantly, be calm when you speak. No matter what is storming in your mind, maintain a calm stance while you speak.

Know what to expect

What are some common and important questions in your field and position? Rehearse your answers well for these questions. You can search for “practice common interview questions” and get a list of questions to rehearse.

Be on time, Always!

Since it will undermine the professional image you want to project, any delay, even one or two minutes, should be avoided. To determine the exact amount of time needed.

In the best-case scenario, you should arrive approximately 20 minutes early; this will allow you time to breathe and will make you feel more at ease.

Ask questions to your employer 

You can show interest and determination by asking questions at the end of the interview. Be interested in the organization, its goals, and requirements. while demonstrating excitement and, if feasible, some uniqueness. You can ask them about the work culture too!

Keep in contact

After your interview, send a brief thank-you email the same day or at the latest, two days later. In this manner, the interviewer will remember your application, and you will stand out from the competition by demonstrating your enthusiasm for the internship.

How to get an internship with a cold mail?

Cold mailing to recruiters enquiring about internships lets students know the availability of opportunities at organizations. But what is the right way of emailing someone without the email landing in the junk?

Like any other resume or cover letter, it should be well structured. A good email asking for an internship would contain a short subject line and should be to the point.

Here’s an Example: Application for Summer Internship Program – Mondelez International

The next elements include a polite greeting, followed by your introduction, your request, what makes you good for the position, and your resume and cover letter, attached for their reference.

Something to keep in mind while writing internship email requests is to ensure your email is without errors! 

You should proofread it to ensure there aren’t any mistakes.

Here is an example of an Internship email request to a recruiter:

Subject Line: Summer Analyst position

Dear Ms.Dorris,

My name is Emily, and I am a sophomore at UCLA. I was excited to discover a summer analyst position (posting ID #45672835) on Mondelez International’s website. I am interested in Human Resources and would like to learn the practical aspects of people management!

I applied for this position online, but I’ve attached my cover letter and résumé for your consideration here as well. Having employed the use of industrial psychology in my past HR internship experiences, I feel I would be a good fit for the role and contribute to the organization overall. I hope to have the opportunity to talk with you in more detail soon!

Best,

Emily Dawson

For a more detailed step-by-step guide, check out this blog post on How to write an email asking for an Internship!

How long does an Internship last?

The typical duration of an Internship is about 8-12 weeks for college-going students! 

Many students take up internships in the summer break to intern full-time. The benefit of summer internship programs is that students do not have to attend classes. They can completely focus on their work.

Meanwhile, other students may choose to intern during their semester while attending classes side by side! However, semester internships are mostly part-time to accommodate the schedule of students. 

To learn more about the duration of an Internship, check out this blog post: How long does an Internship last?

How to reduce or increase the length of an Internship?

Reducing or increasing the length of an Internship can be done, but it depends on the employer and the needs of the organization. While most internships range from 8-12 weeks, you can express your interest to intern for a longer duration. Regardless of whether it works in your favor or not, informing them will benefit both parties. 

To reduce the length of the Internship, you can put in a request to your employer stating your reasons. Students may have different reasons for cutting the internship short, such as needing to return to college after the break to attend classes or because they no longer wish to continue.

Note that Internships have a notice period in most organizations that interns must serve if they choose to stop their internship sooner than planned.

When is the best time to apply for an Internship?

The best time to apply for an Internship program depends on the internship type. 

For more context, Internship programs run by big companies like Goldman Sachs, Mondelez International, etc., would require you to apply 5-6 months before the program begins. 

This is because they receive several applications for a few internship openings.

Meanwhile, smaller companies and startups may not require you to apply months in advance. 

They don’t have internship programs as such and list out internship openings based on the requirements of the company. So, you can expect opportunities to be rolled out throughout the year at any time. Keep an eye out for these opportunities and apply immediately. You can expect to join them and start interning pretty quickly.

How to accept an Internship offer?

Hooray, you’ve landed an internship offer or multiple offers! Now, it’s time to accept an offer via email. The next step is to respond if you’re willing to proceed. If you want to take some time to think about it, you should limit it to 2-3 days at most. 

In your response, you may state the conditions of employment, such as the number of working days, compensation, start and end date, and any other discussion you had with the recruiter during interviews to reinforce it in writing.

Here’s an example:

Dear Mr. Ford,

Thank you for your internship offer with Ford Motors! I am pleased to accept the offer and am excited to work with the team.

My internship availability begins on 1st June and ends on 1st September. I confirm that I am accepting the position of Marketing Intern at Ford Motors with a monthly payment of $3,040. 

Please let me know if you require any documentation from my side or if there’s anything I can do. Looking forward to starting work!

Best regards,

Emily

How to decline an Internship offer?

Perhaps you’d not like to proceed with this internship. It could be because you found another opportunity that fits your interest. So now you have to decline the internship offer.

Start your email by showing appreciation for receiving the offer letter, and then you can proceed to state your reason for declining it. 

This shows that you’re professional and not leaving the recruiters hanging. They can move on to other candidates. 

Here’s an example:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

Thank you so much for the offer to intern at Mondelez International. I appreciate your efforts during the application process. After due consideration, I’d like to inform you that I cannot accept the offer. 

I have decided to go ahead with another opportunity for my internship and have accepted a position at the organization. It’s been a pleasure to have interacted with you.

Sincerely,

Emily Dawson

How to make the most of your Internship?

Did you know that Steven Spielberg started his journey as an unpaid full-time intern at Universal Studios? Internships can be one of the best learning experiences. It gives you insight into the working world, and you get to take up real tasks. Your contribution also plays a significant part in the organization’s overall objectives. 

So what should you do to make the most of your internship?

  • Take up self-learning:

Now that you’ve started your internship, try learning more about the nuances of the industry! You can also try to observe the roles of different people in your team and what they are tasked with. Such observations can help you boost your interests if you’d like to dive into such jobs in your career!

  • Develop your skills:

As an intern, you will be taking up real tasks as part of your temporary opportunity at the organization. This is your chance to perfect the skills you use to execute work. Developing these skills will help you in future internships and your first entry-level job!

Being open to learning new things and observing your co-workers or mentor is an advantage too. This is one of the best ways to learn new things, especially in the form of informal training.

  • Establish good connections with your co-workers:

Go beyond just work. What I mean to say is, socialize with your co-workers or mentor. This way, you’ll get to establish good connections, and relations will exist even after you leave the organization. But why? What’s the need of doing this?

Building a good rapport with them may help you with opportunities in the future. This can be through referrals or potential full-time conversion of your internship.

  • Get feedback: 

You should be active in seeking feedback for the work you carried out. Getting feedback will help you assess your strengths and work on areas that require improvement. This will help you get better and show that you’re willing to improve yourself to your employer. It reflects responsibility.

  • Gain a letter of recommendation: 

You can always ask your employer for a letter of recommendation. It will help you out with your next internship or an entry-level job where your performance and character are spoken of. It also speaks of your suitability for the role you’re applying to and how you will be a good fit!

Externship vs Internship

Externships allow students to watch and shadow a professional in the workplace. Externs are not given any responsibilities to do. They observe the work performed by the expert they are shadowing in order to understand what it takes to be in that profession. 

They are also invited to staff meetings and are briefed on how the organization operates. Externships, on the other hand, last from a few days to a few weeks and are unpaid. 

Meanwhile, Internships require you to collaborate directly with team members in an organization and support them with initiatives. Interns actively participate in projects and complete tasks. 

It contributes to the development of their major skill set. Internships can last from a few weeks to a few months and be paid or unpaid. 

To learn more, check out our article on Externship vs Internship!

Co-op vs Internship

Students obtain job experience in a co-op by working full-time for a whole semester and taking classes the next semester. Co-ops require students to work for the same company for numerous terms during their education. Students are always paid!

They also receive credit for the semesters in which they participate in co-ops. The amount of academic credits awarded varies per program.

Meanwhile, interns work for a variety of companies for brief periods of time. This is usually done over the summer or spring vacations to try out several career paths before committing to full-time employment.

Checkout out our resource for a deep dive on the difference between co-op and internship

Related stories internship guide

Here are some stories on how these aspirants landed their first internships.

Got a software engineering internship as a freshman.

3 internships in freshman year.

How I got Google and Facebook internships in freshman

Key takeaway

Let’s summarize the internship guide for a quick recap. Here’s everything there is to know on how to get an Internship:

  • You should know where to find an internship! This can be through websites, networking, or college career centers.
  • Create your resume adding all the relevant information.
  • Then, create a cover letter and tailor it according to the position you apply to.
  • Prepare for your interview so that you put out the best version of yourself and you know how to showcase your achievements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I get an Internship for the first time?

Now that you’ve been accepted to college, what happens? You could feel overburdened as a college student by the unfamiliar surroundings, freedom, and heavy workload.

Despite all of that, remember that your first year is a great opportunity to begin looking for internships and ensure you are heading in the proper direction.

Even though you might not yet be qualified for your ideal internship, if you use the advice provided below, you will definitely be able to get a position during your first year!

1. Utilize the career center.

Take advantage of it since it is there for a reason. It provides services including resume review, interview practice, and help to choose a major.

You can learn about internship possibilities from these centers since companies collaborate with colleges.

2. Become part of clubs 

Join groups where you are genuinely interested and prepared to go above and above when necessary. During your first semester, join two to three organizations, then try out for a leadership position the following semester. 

By doing this, you’ll be able to produce a resume and develop the skills employers are looking for.

3. Attend professional gatherings 

Each college holds professional gatherings with a speaker panel and a networking session. This is a great method to grow your network and meet people who have previously achieved your goals.

It also offers the opportunity for mentorship.

Do I need skills to get an Internship?

Employers want students to have four types of skills, according to national employer surveys.  This helps organizations decide whether you are the ideal candidate for the post you seek.

Self-sufficiency skills: 

Self-sufficiency abilities demonstrate your capacity to function independently. It demonstrates your ability to take on new challenges and learn to do so without the assistance of a mentor.

People skills: 

The capacity to show interpersonal skills! It could help you get to know and establish a solid relationship with your team members.

Specialist talents: 

These subject-specific knowledge or technical skills are frequently acquired during your education.

How to ask a recruiter for an Internship?

Students who’d like to reach out to recruiters or hiring managers via cold mail can follow this approach!

Step 1: Understand how recruiters work

Recruiters are efficient at reviewing resumes to assess candidates for a certain position in seconds. With so many applicants contacting them, recruiters would run out of time if they responded to each inquiry.

As a result, reaching out to them in the right way is essential. 

Step 2: Determine the type of recruiter you want

You must determine the type of recruiter you are contacting. There are two kinds: internal and external. This is done so that they can be contacted appropriately.

Internal recruiters

Internal recruiters’ tasks are to identify and hire individuals from a company’s current workforce. Like traditional recruiters, internal recruiters manage candidate sourcing and recruiting, but their concentration is on internal rather than external candidates.

They also collaborate with organization members to establish employment requirements, placements, and rules.

External recruiters

An external recruiter is a professional who works independently to discover qualified candidates for job openings.

Recruiters are not normally employed by a single firm, and they are frequently hired by a variety of organizations in order to discover the greatest talent.

These recruiters may collaborate with several hiring managers from different companies to identify the best capabilities for a new position, create a job description, and handle the recruitment process.

Step 3: Know how to approach a recruiter

This is the most significant stage. Approach a recruiter only after you’ve completed your research, updated your LinkedIn profile and resume, and are prepared to interview.

Understand if the recruiter is internal or external, as well as the kind of roles they recruit for.

Here is a template:

[Dear] [Name of Employer],
My name is [sender’s name], and I am a [freshman/sophomore/junior/senior] at [university] studying in [program/major].
I’m [Insert your area of interest]. I’ve begun my search for [semester/season] internship options.

I’m contacting you because [I discovered internship possibilities at your organization/I’m curious if any internship slots are available at your organization/other requests]. 

[Include 2-3 words regarding your request, credentials, and availability for the duration]. 

Please find attached my resume and cover letter for your consideration! If you have any questions, please contact us! Thank you for your attention and time.

Best wishes,
[Name of Sender]

Do Internships matter in a resume?

An internship is essentially the new entry-level employment. Employers want to recruit college graduates with the necessary education and training for the position and relevant experience.

As per Zippia’s 20 + compelling internship statistics 2023: Data, Pay and Trends: A graduate’s chances of obtaining at least one job offer in the months after graduation by up to 32%.

Internships considerably enhance the likelihood that you will have the advantage of being hired than those who don’t have any internship experience. 

References

Elsie Boskamp, 20 + Compelling Internship Statistics [2023]: Data, Pay, and Trends. (n.d.). Retrieved May 8, 2023, from https://www.zippia.com/advice/internship-statistics/

Written by

Shefali Sundram

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