With December graduation at colleges across the country and the impending last semester of college for seniors, more students are asking themselves what they are going to do next. In the working world these days, most likely you’ll be interning.
Let me be honest—I am still an intern eight months after I graduated. But I love my company and enjoy what I do. My connections that I’ve made so far come because I landed my first-choice internship. I applied at several locations for my top choice company, Fleishman-Hillard. After attending the college career fair and meeting the Fleishman’s intern coordinator, I decided on a whim to apply at the global headquarters in St. Louis. What’s the worst that could happen? Much to my surprise, I was invited to the internship program. Since May, it’s been the best thing that I could have done for my career.
Several people have reached out to me recently regarding interning. Securing a top internship can be easier than you think if you know what to do. Preparation is key—you can’t just get a great job when you haven’t worked hard in the long haul. However, you can take steps to make yourself stand out from a crowd and be a good candidate. Here’s what I did to get my dream internship:
1. Research and reach out.
Know about the company. Use the information you’ve found in your research to connect yourself with the company. You eat gluten-free? Perfect! One of their clients is a gluten-free food manufacturer. Through researching the company, you can see what skills or qualities you have that would benefit them. If you’re applying where you know someone, ask if they like their employer. Let them know about your interest in the company, and they can help you. Who knows what they might be able to do!
2. Monitor your online presence.
If you meet someone out, what is the first thing you do the next morning? You check them out on Facebook. Employers do this to you too. Sign up for LinkedIn.com, a networking website, and make sure your information is accurate and up-to-date. Clean up your Facebook and Twitter accounts to the standards of your chosen industry. For example, advertising agencies will overlook more than a corporation.
Google yourself. If you don’t like the results you see, post your name on the web. Use your professional name for all social media channels. Create a website for your resume and portfolio, posting your name on every page. Comment on articles around the web. These are easy, free ways to get your name on the web in a positive way under your control.
3. Connect yourself to what you want to do.
I wanted to work in public relations or advertising. This meant I needed to have writing and design samples, a good resume, familiarity with technology and a presence online. I made sure to sign up for any social media program I heard about. I started following leading companies and professionals on Twitter. This will help you learn about the different companies and see where you’ll be a good fit. Read blogs about your industry and stay informed. Save any work that you could show a potential employer and post it on your website. Think of everything an employer would want to know and make it easy for them to find online.
4. Every experience gives you experience.
Each activity you’ve done has (hopefully) given you some type of experience that you can talk about in an interview. Greek life can teach you how to work in a group for a common goal. Intramural sports show you how to be a team player and a passion for doing what you enjoy. Look at what you’ve done and evaluate what you got out of it.
Even the most far-reaching extracurriculars can be valuable. I directed and acted in plays throughout college. What does that have to do with PR? I knew how to manage conflict, write, speak in public and think on my feet. Guess what? You do too.
5. Use your manners and be honest.
Don’t forget the power of a thank you note—to your interviewer and to anyone who helped you prepared. Listen when someone is talking. Be friendly to everyone the second you step into the building. Most of all be honest in your interview. Interviewers can see when you’re making something up. People always value an open, honest answer even if it’s not exactly perfect.