Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Summer interns need apply now

GET AHEAD: Line up your summer internship early
Applying for a summer internship should be top of mind for college students. Many employers are beginning their summer intern search in the winter and setting application deadlines for the spring. Now is the time when college students typically have the greatest availability and selection of opportunities.

What's more, college students are facing intense competition from not only other students who are seeking summer internships, but also among the unemployed looking to get their foot in the door through an internship, and those wanting to change fields by starting as an intern.

Students who start the summer internship hunt early can maximize their chances of finding the best position they can. Here is some guidance on how to go about your search and stand out from the competition to secure a summer internship that will propel you forward in your career goals.

1. Approach internship searches like full-time job hunts. Students should approach the summer job or internship search in much the same way they will need to approach their full-time job search once they graduate. This should be a real-world dress rehearsal for students in which they can get their feet wet, learn the ropes, and see how much work actually goes into securing a job after graduation.

2. Tap your college network. This includes the Career Services office, job postings on the board outside the Career Center, talking with professors about their contacts and suggestions for networking, and any other areas where career help is provided. Networking is a key element in an internship/job search, whether it is for summer or full-time work. Open positions provided through your college are low-hanging grapes, immediately available and waiting for you to pursue them.

3. Target summer internships and jobs that are related to your major. Besides earning money to help with expenses during the school year, this is a perfect opportunity to get some experience in your chosen field of study and be able to put real work experience on your resume. Ultimately this will contribute to your desirability as a job candidate when you graduate and are looking for your first destination job, which will probably be an entry-level position in your major.

4. Beat your competition with your resume. The first and key component of a successful internship/job search is your resume. And to have a strong resume, students need to first build needed job skills through classroom, extra-curricular, community service, and part-time work experience and then showcase those skills on a well-crafted resume. As always, students (and all job applicants) need to "show," not "tell," how their skills will benefit the hiring organization.

5. Showcase desirable personal qualities. Employers evaluate your personal qualities during interviews, so be aware of your words and actions. Show enthusiasm for the job and what YOU can do for the employer should they offer you this position. Share how you would treat their customers, and demonstrate your dedication to doing an outstanding job, not just showing up. Also be prepared to demonstrate your honesty and integrity by arriving on time, treating everyone you meet with respect, and doing what you say you will do.

6. Follow up with respect and assertiveness. After applying or interviewing for a position, identify the organization's process and timeline for filling the position. Ask who will be reviewing your application. Find out the next steps in the job process after submitting an application, and how long the organization expects it will take before you hear on your status. Employers usually don't see this attempt to gather information as overbearing or pushy. Rather, it demonstrates forward thinking, thoroughness, and a sincere interest in the position. Based on the information gathered, you can then make a reasonable decision about how best to proceed with following up on your application. And, it's always a good idea to check back in with the HR office if you haven't heard back within a couple of weeks. Many a person has landed a job by being respectfully persistent and showing a genuine interest in joining the organization.

For Post University students, we've placed many internship and career resources on our Career Services website. You can find help on creating your job search strategy and planning documents, identifying transferable skills, crafting your resumes and various letters (including the crucial cover letter), honing your interviewing skills, creating your Internet brand, and exploring internship and job search engines that are general and specific to your major.

There are also a host of online career tools there as well -- a resume builder, letter builder, video mock interviews, skills assessments, and career website builder. With the resume builder, students select their resume format -- section sets -- which have been customized for each undergraduate degree major by that program's academic manager. Students can also interact with Career Services coaches inside the tool to bring their resume to a final document, buffed and ready to win them an internship or job.

For all students, a useful news article to look at for more summer internship help is this FOX Business piece by Emily Driscoll, where she featured some of my tips as well as advice from other career experts.

At the end of the day, finding the right summer internship or job takes persistence and patience, as well as embracing all the career services resources and networking opportunities available to you. Students who demonstrate that they have a "go-getter who will not be denied" attitude can gain the leg up required to beat the competition and acquire the ideal summer internship or job.