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The College Series: Setting Yourself Up For Internship Success

The College Series: Setting Yourself Up For Internship Success

The expert in anything was once an unpaid intern.

This week, we welcome our youngest sister, Elaine, as she offers a perspective on the internship process. Elaine is currently finishing up her last year as an Architecture student at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She will provide lessons from her experience as she navigates the move from school to full-time work and what financial independence means to her. This summer, she is an interning in New York City for a well-known civil engineering firm.


It’s the beginning of the spring semester and you realize that you’re going to have to face the realities of the real world in five months or so. It’s prime internship-searching season. You’ve googled “interview questions” dozens of times and are already anxious for your school’s career fair. This isn’t an article asking you to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, nor is it a guide on what to look for in a company, but rather things to consider to ensure a more successful job searching experience. Whether you’re applying for summer internships or an internship over the school year, it’s important to think ahead and cover your bases when it comes to the internship applying process.

 
 

Before the Interview

Find Opportunities

Google is your friend. Don’t limit yourself to big name companies or places your friends have worked at. Don’t be afraid to look at less familiar, but related fields. Browse different job searching sites, as well as company’s actual websites for open positions. Understand when the best time to apply for an internship is in your field and keep track of companies you’re interested in. Not everything is laid out for you on Indeed, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn Jobs. Your school will probably have a career center, so look into your  school’s career development services as may even offer a lot of on-campus interviews and job opportunities. Do your research and you’ll be surprised to see other opportunities out there for you.

Social Media Clean Up

Recruiters check. Clean up your social media presence and privatize any content or profiles you wouldn’t want your potential boss to see. Even if you post different content across the internet, be cautious and aware of all of your platforms because even your Snapchat and Insta can be at risk. When in doubt, solo cup out.

Perfect your Professional Presence

How you look professionally matters in person, on paper, and online. Beef up your profile online and on paper. Leverage keywords and your accomplishments and update consistently. Don’t wait to post all of your accomplishments at once.

Go to resume workshops and see what people in your field usually bring to the table and what recruiters look for. A pre-med resume might look completely different from a design major’s resume. Resume templates exist, but you can always design your own. Ask friends, family, faculty for input and for a quick spell check!

Have appropriate supplementary methods of displaying your work and achievements. This could be achieved through a portfolio, Github, a website, a catered Instagram page, etc. Business cards are a power move, but aren’t always necessary when you’re first starting. Budget in money for your professional documents. It costs money to print out business cards, CVs, resumes, and portfolios, especially if you’re printing in color and on nice paper.

Evaluate your closet

College isn’t always sweatpants or Thirsty Thursday clothes. Have work appropriate attire ready for when you stop by a career services event (career fair, mock interview, etc.) or when you actually land an interview. If you don’t own an ironing board or steamer, know someone that does. Sometimes arranging an interview is sudden, so be ready! You don’t want to be scrambling when you realize all you have are sneakers or inappropriate outfits.

Dry Run!

Whether you do a physical dry run or mentally map out your schedule, sit down and evaluate your commute. How long will it take to get there? Did you allow buffer time for travel? How about a spare time to sign in at the lobby desk? Know where you need to go, or budget in time in case anything goes wrong. Don’t forget to do a dry run on the actual interview process itself. There are dozens of interview question guides out there -- both general and specific to your field. Look into what they may ask you and think about what you’ve done professionally and in school.

 
 

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

Follow Through

Don’t forget to grab a business card and make note of who to contact. Follow up with whoever you interviewed with and say thanks. Shoot them an email, in a timely fashion. Make it personal and include a note or two from the discussion you had with your interviewer to show that you were engaged. Ask any questions that you forgot to ask at the end of the interview. Let them know you’re excited to hear back.

You Got the Job! Time to Budget

You just landed a new job, so now you probably want to treat yourself to a new professional work wardrobe. Anticipate budgeting for new clothes. Also, take into consideration your commute to and from work. Depending where you live, public transportation might be a viable option. Check how much you will be saving if you are using a weekly pass versus a monthly. And check if your school offers any discounted student passes.

Room for Improvement

Once you solidify your internship, a huge weight will be lifted off your shoulders, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook completely. There’s always room to improve your job searching abilities, interview questions, and profiles. Maybe this was your first internship process, but it won’t be your last, so always strive to be the improved version of yourself.

It’s a struggle out there and we’re all just trying to make it through. Best of luck!

 
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