Friday, July 7, 2017

How to Land the Internship of Your Dreams

Hello, beautiful! For the past month, I've been interning in the office of my Massachusetts state representative, Rep. Kate Hogan. Working there has been an incredible experience that's given me tremendous insight into the problems facing my state and my country. Plus, I've gotten to see how politics works from the inside, with some amazing female mentors to guide the way!

Every girl should get to have an incredible internship experience at least once in her college career - but applying for internships (and getting the job!) can be nerve-wracking if it's not something you've ever done before. Thankfully, as a college sophomore who's already done two internships - one my senior year of high school in the office of Governor Charlie Baker, and the one in my state rep's office this summer - I've learned a thing or two about landing (and nailing!) the gig.

In this post, I'll be sharing my best tips to help you land the internship of your dreams, all the way from the application to the final interview! And, be sure to subscribe to my email list at the bottom of this post to get your free printable Interview Cheat-sheet to remind you of some of the things you learned during this post :)

The Application

First thing's first: to land the internship of your dreams, you have to know where you want to intern. If you're someone who's said for years "I want to intern at the New York Times" or "I want to intern at Goldman & Sachs," then applying for your dream internship is as simple as googling their website and application. 

However, if you don't yet know what you want to do, there are a couple of websites that can help you:

  • LinkedIn is a great place to find internships by reaching out to people in your network. Have a family friend who works at a small tech startup? Send her a message and get to chatting about an internship! 
  • is made by the same people as the college site Chegg and lists tons of internships by zip code.
  • Indeed is a job-hunting site that also lists internships. Just search by keyword/major and zip code!
  • Another job-hunting site, Glassdoor can help you find the internship of your dreams with a quick search.
  • And, of course, don't underestimate the power of Google! Try searching "computer science internships near San Francisco" or "political internships near NYC" and follow where your heart takes you.

Even if you have your heart set on a single internship, I would recommend applying to at least 3-5 internships (more is always better!) in case your Plan A doesn't work out. (And if it doesn't, remember you can always apply again next summer with another year of college under your belt!) For example, if I wanted to intern at the New York Times, I would probably also apply for the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, U.S.A. Today and a couple of local papers.

As for the actual application, most applications are as simple as sending over a cover letter and resume to the right person. Check out my handy tips below for each to help you make a great first impression!

The Resume

Your resume is the essence of your professional identity. Basically, you get one page to wow the hiring manager into handing you the internship (and trust me: they really won't read past that first page). However, resumes can be tricky territory, so here are some of my best tips for putting your best foot forward with your resume: 

  • Pay for a unique template. Lots of millennials make the mistake of using one of those pre-crafted resume templates from Microsoft Word - which doesn't exactly scream "unique" to an internship recruiter. If you have design skills, you can certainly create your own resume template (I did!); however, if the concept of a layout and color scheme is foreign to you, you can easily pay for resume services online and get a unique template to carry you through the next ten years. If you're really stuck, here's the $10 template I use for my resume: the free digital download comes with a references sheet and cover letter free of charge!
  • Don't exceed one double-sided page. Another huge resume mistake is piling on as much experience as possible to overwhelm the recruiter into giving you the job - in reality, they're not going to say "Wow, look at all those experiences!" They're just going to throw the last three pages of your resume into the trash. So, try to condense your resume into one double-sided page and really think about why each experience is on there. If you can't come up with a good reason why you're including a particular experience, then don't include it just to prove you did it: delete it!
  • Link to your LinkedIn. In the digital age, your LinkedIn profile is a HUGE part of your professional identity. Take a few minutes to spruce up your profile and add a custom link. Then, include your custom link in the contact information on your resume. Not everyone does this - especially in college - so it will really show your employer you're different from the crowd!
  • Personalize your resume to the job you're applying for. If you have just one resume for every internship you apply for, then you're doing it wrong. You should be including job-specific details on your resume - like personal traits and relevant experiences - for every single internship you apply for. On that note, I like to save my resumes under my last name and the name of the internship on my laptop so I don't make the mistake of sending the wrong resume to the wrong employer! 
  • Only include your GPA if it's above a 3.0. Just like anything else on your resume, unless your GPA really sets you apart from the crowd, there's no reason to include it in the first place. Same goes for your high school GPA and class rank - unless you made the top ten, you're better off saving the space for something more important. 
  • Don't forget volunteer experience! Especially if you don't have a ton of paid experience, volunteer experiences can really make or break your resume. One-off volunteer experiences probably won't make the biggest difference, but if you've been involved in a cause for years now - for example, raising money for your sorority's philanthropy - including that experience on your resume shows the recruiter you're dedicated to and passionate about serving others. 

The Cover Letter

A cover letter is exactly what it sounds like: a short, but professional letter designed to give the reader an impression of what you're applying for and why, your prior work experience and what you hope to gain from this internship. If you're not sure where to start with writing the perfect cover letter, check out my fast tips below for advice:

  • Refer to a template. Whenever I'm writing a cover letter, I always Google "college internship cover letter" and look at one of the images that pops up so I can copy its formatting and ensure I have all the parts of the cover letter I'm going to need.
  • Match your cover letter to your resume. You know that fancy header on top that includes your name and contact info? In the modern age, you should always match the format of your cover letter to the format of your resume. Use the same fonts and color schemes to show the internship coordinator you went the extra mile.
  • Find the hiring manager's name. There's nothing worse than a cover letter that starts with "To Whom It May Concern." You might have to do some extra sleuthing, but trust me: the hiring manager won't be mad that you stalked them on LinkedIn when it means you put in the extra effort to avoid this shoddy opening. 
  • Highlight experiences that aren't on your resume. Your cover letter is a great place to draw attention to experiences that might have been cut out of your resume or that don't exactly fit under work experience, such as a cool class you took last semester that taught you all about the field you want to work in.
  • Ask for the interview. I'm a big fan of the following line: "My resume further details my qualifications, but I believe an interview would best showcase my experience." 
  • Always, always, ALWAYS say thank you. You wouldn't believe how many people forget the power of saying "thank you" these days...when I was in high school, one of my friends' moms was on the board for a big scholarship. My friend told me they awarded the scholarship to the guy they did partly because he took the time to say "Thank you for your time and consideration." Ever since then, I always wrap up my emails, cover-letters and thank you cards with that simple phrase to show the hiring manager some extra respect! 

The Interview

If you're reading this, congratulations! You made it through the application process and a hiring manager has hand-picked you as a candidate his or her company would like to consider. 

You're probably nervous, which is normal on an important occasion such as an interview. To wind down some of those nerves, I like to do a quick meditation before I walk into a job interview, whether it's before I step out of the car to walk into the office or on the train during my long commute into Boston. The free app Simple Habit can help you - its on-the-go feature has a meditation especially for big events. 

But first thing's first: before you even think about walking into the office, you need to determine what you're going to wear. Thankfully, my 5 Under $50: Summer Internship Outfits post has affordable options for every type of internship, from the conservative legal office to the creative startup agency. 

It's also important to plan ahead on what to bring and what you're going to say on the day of the interview. Below, I'll be dropping a packing list of interview essentials, as well as some speedy (yet smart!) answers to some of the most standard interview questions on the book. 

But first, let me wish you good luck on the big day :) You're gonna nail it, girl boss! 

What to Bring

So, what do you need to bring to prepare you to nail that big interview? In short, you'll want to bring anything you need to right anything that could possibly go wrong on the day of the interview. Preparing for all the possible mishaps is a must to ensuring your interview success - so, here's my ultimate packing list to help you plan for Plan B:

  • Copies of your resume. Bring at least one or two copies of your resume, printed out on high-quality cardstock paper, to the interview, in case either you or the recruiter needs to refer to it in the future.
  • Pen and paper. Don't be the girl who asks your interviewer for a pen during the interview. Have your own on hand for emergencies - and be sure to bring along a notepad or notebook in case you want to jot any notes down before, during or after your conversation.
  • A reference sheet. Any job interview will almost always ask for references. To avoid frantically scrolling through your phone in the hopes of finding your old boss' phone number, bring along a reference sheet (preferably one that matches your resume in style) with at least three great people for your interviewer to reach out to.
  • A list of questions. NEVER, EVER say you don't have any questions when you're asked at the end of an interview - and the interviewer will ask. At the very least, come with one or two stock questions you can throw out under pressure: my go-tos are "How did you get your position?," "When can I expect to hear back from you?" and "Can you tell me about your company's culture?"
  • Business cards. If you have them - which you should, at least by the time you're getting ready to graduate from college - always bring a couple of business cards along to an interview. Being able to hand an interviewer your card as a college student will set you apart as a #girlboss from the crowd of unprepared wannabes (not to be harsh or anything). 
  • Bobby pins. As I mentioned, the key to succeeding in a job interview is being prepared for whatever might come your way. Throwing an extra bobby pin or two in your purse is an easy way to ensure that a stupid little mishap like a messy bun won't get in the way of your anticipated success. 
  • Extra pair of stockings. Okay, okay - TBH, professionals disagree on whether stockings or pantyhose are really necessary anymore in today's corporate culture. However, if you DO choose to wear stockings or pantyhose, toss an extra pair into your purse before you leave the house. If you get a run on the train, you'll want to make sure you can swap them out before your interviewer can say "How are you today?" 
  • Sewing kit. Skirt rip on the way into the waiting room? Don't run away screaming - fix that sh*t in the bathroom! An on-the-go sewing kit is a staple of your interview toolkit for that very reason. You wouldn't want to let a silly little wardrobe malfunction detract from you achieving your dreams, after all! 

What to Say

Interviewers are trained to ask specific questions (and not others) for a reason: your answers showcase who you are as a professional and, most importantly, how well you've prepared. If you've really thought ahead about your answers to some of the most common interview questions, that effort will come across front-and-center during your interview. Oh, and if your interviewer throws you a nail-biter, don't sweat it - first of all, it happens to the best of us; but second of all, it's better to ask for a moment to think than stammer out a thoughtless reply! 

  • If they say "Tell me about yourself," you say... "Hi, my name is [your name]. I'm majoring in [your major] at [your university], and I'm looking to [state your goal for this internship - i.e. "gain hands-on experience in legislative affairs" or "add to my creative resume"]." Keep it short and sweet!
  • If they say "What made you interested in this internship?," you say... Tell the truth! Whether you wanted to learn more about real estate development from the pros or broaden your experience to include a smaller agency after interning for a big firm, let the employer know why you care in 1-2 concise sentences.
  • If they say "What's your greatest weakness?," you say... Anything but a cliche like "I work too hard" or "I'm a perfectionist." Instead, tell the truth - and focus on steps you've taken to correct the problem. For example: "I tend to rush when I do my work, so I've started to use the Pomodoro method to better pace myself and force myself to take breaks more often."
  • If they say "Tell me about a time you've experienced failure and how you've dealt with it," you say... Talk about a time when you struggled in a difficult class and the study techniques you used to improve - or, talk about a time you faced a significant challenge at a previous work experience. Come in with one or two stories beforehand and jot them down in your notebook, instead of putting yourself on the spot the day of! 

Get The Interview Cheatsheet...

Nervous you're going to forget everything you learned on the day of the interview? Thankfully, I've got you covered! To download your free printable Interview Cheatsheet, follow the three simple steps below - you'll be interviewing like a pro in no time.
  1. Sign up for my email list by entering the information below.
  2. Confirm your email address following the instructions in the email.
  3. Open your welcome email for the link and password to my free Printables Library! (And be sure to bookmark the link for future reference, too.) 

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