Although often unpaid, internships give students and recent graduates the priceless opportunity to hone new skills, put their knowledge to the test and forge powerful new connections. But is your application going to get you through the door? Check out these tips to make sure you'll get the chance you deserve!
1. Knowledge is Power
In your cover letter, it’s important to show that you have knowledge about the brand, company or organization you want to intern for. Be prepared to have at least six or seven facts ready to share if you’re called in for an interview. Kris Plantrich, certified career coach and resume writer says, “Being knowledgeable about the company has many benefits. It lets the interviewer know you are a serious candidate and truly interested in the position...It will also help candidates answer specific company or industry related questions with more confidence and understanding of what the industry is all about.”
2. It’s Not About You, It’s About Them
Remember John F. Kennedy’s famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”? Well, that same concept applies here. In your cover letter, focus on what you will bring to the table. Don’t say, “I’m looking to build my skills and gain experience.” Internship coordinators know this already. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be applying for an internship in the first place, right? Kimberly Foster, founder and editor-in-chief of ForHarriet says, “Candidates should focus on what they will bring to the table and any growth opportunities they see for the site. I love to hear new ideas. Someone who comes to me fresh with a project already in mind shows me they're passionate about the site. That excites me.”
Take the time to carefully examine all the materials you’re submitting. Think about it: if you were the internship coordinator (who is likely an employee with many other tasks on her plate), would you feel confident about an applicant who failed to take the time and effort to correct any misspelled words or grammatical errors in their cover letter and resume? Probably not. Remember, these people are busy, so don’t give them any excuse to toss your application in the trash. If possible, visit the career services center at your university to have your cover letter and resume critiqued.
4. Be Professional
When drafting your cover letter, be sure to address the appropriate person and keep it formal. Always start by saying, “Dear Ms. (or Mr.) Doe,” and in closing, thank them for taking the time to read your cover letter. While you want to tell them a little about yourself, including what school you’re attending and what field you’re studying, avoid discussing your favorite hobbies or the latest episode of Scandal. Also, include a professional-looking email address. Keep it simple by using your first and last name. Ex: email@example.com. Reserve your firstname.lastname@example.org account for your personal emails.
5. Make Your Resume Stand Out
On average, it takes eight to 10 seconds for employers to scan your resume and decide whether or not to continue reading, so it must stand out. You can do this by boldfacing and increasing the font size of certain words and phrases, including “Summary of Qualifications,” “Professional Experience,” your name and contact information, of course. Plantrich says, “There should be enough white space on each page to make it easy for the eyes to take in the words, and if this means two pages or even three, that is fine.” She also recommends avoiding using, “the same jargon for several industries … Research job descriptions, company and industry websites to learn about the type of job and industry you’ll be targeting and be sure to use the words that fit.”
Princess Gabbara is a senior at Eastern Michigan University, where she’s studying journalism. You can read more of her work on her blog: princessgabbara.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @PrincessGabbara