Career Advice

6 Tips to Stand Out and Land an Internship

min read
Mikaela Thompson

Just have a look at statistics from companies like Patagonia that admit to having 9,000 applications for just one role! Yes, you read that right 9,000! The pressure can be overwhelming for many students and recent graduates who are trying to stand out while up against hundreds, if not thousands, of other applicants. So what can you do to make sure you’re not just another piece of paper? Let us get you on the right track with these 6 key tips…

Polish up on the fundamentals

Before applying for anything, make sure you spruce up your application fundamentals — your resume, cover letter, references, and Linkedin profile. These are the things that are going to help you get your foot in the door.

It’s essential that your resume is up to date and full of information that is relevant to the position you are applying for. You want to make sure you’ve tailored the content to fit the skills required for your desired internship and that you’re presenting it in the correct format too. Don’t underestimate the importance of keywords as well. When HR is skimming through hundreds of applications, keywords play a big role in getting you noticed. Another key point is to feature any remote technologies you are competent using e.g. Slack, Zoom, Asana, Google Docs, etc., (this is super relevant during the COVID era and remote work). Panicking because you haven’t got any work experience yet? Don’t fret, just be sure to include any volunteer work, big school projects, or collaborative work. If you’re a bit of a novice when it comes to creating a resume and don’t know where to begin, take a look here to get some inspiration and examples of intern profiles to get you started.

It can be tempting to skip the dreaded cover letter, but don’t! Many hiring managers actually consider this more important to your application than your resume (especially for intern positions). Customize your cover letter for each company and let them see that you haven’t just recycled a generic cover letter but instead made a genuine effort. Address the hiring manager by name and make sure you’ve got a snappy opening line that will grab their attention. Highlight your most relevant skills and experiences and be sure to let the company know what you can contribute to the position and how you align with their values. Most importantly, let your personality shine through. This is your first big chance to stand out from the pack! To see how to craft your cover letter take a look here.

When your work experience is limited, references go a long way! Make sure you have a selection of references you can call on if a recruiter asks for them. A reference can be anyone from campus staff, lecturers, current or former employers to coaches and tutors. Just make sure to give them a heads up before using them, as these people will need to confirm what your character, work ethic, and skills are like.

The final fundamental, and arguably the most important one, is your Linkedin profile. These days, many employers use Linkedin as a way of not only gauging your work experience and who your connections are but also for recommendations from previous colleagues/superiors. So it makes sense this platform is crucial to you landing that dream job. A catchy headline on your profile along with a professional headshot is necessities as you build your network. Your profile should reflect the type of career path you’re aiming for and ‘open to work’ for the 95% of recruiters that use Linkedin to source candidates. Take a look here for a step-by-step guide to creating your Linkedin profile.

Showcase your personality

Once you’ve nailed the fundamentals, the next big thing is to make sure you’re showcasing your personality. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes, sifting through hours of applications daily and consider how you can creatively capture their attention. Your online presence is going to be the most obvious drawcard. A personal website is an excellent way to showcase your personality as you can include your personal bio, achievements, references and photos that won’t fit on your resume. You can also include any side hustles, projects or volunteer work in detail just make sure it’s relevant to the types of internships you are applying for. If you have any other social media handles that are public, make sure the content is career appropriate and if not, change it to private! Nobody wants a prospective employer stumbling upon last night’s beer pong or pub crawl photos. With the current pandemic keeping many of us housebound, recruiters are relying on your online presence more than ever.

Cast your net far and wide

This is the time to ‘fake it till you make it’ and find the confidence to reach out to recruiters or companies you’re interested in working with. Don’t be afraid to connect with people on Linkedin or attend virtual career events so you can utilize the chat section. It might be a little tricky right now with COVID dictating events, but if you can, attend any career fairs or networking events. Don’t forget that your own campus is full of connections too, as well as, friends and family! You really have to break out of your shell (as much as it makes you introverts cringe) and be proactive, as networking is a major aspect of job searching. Even your immediate social circle like church, sports, clubs, etc could be full of untapped opportunities and connections.

Establish your goals

This might be obvious, but knowing exactly what type of job you want and in what industry is going to make things a lot easier from the get-go. It’s always a good idea to create a list of career objectives and then a list of businesses, and even locations, that would facilitate these goals. After this, you can go about tailoring your application fundamentals to match these and seeking out connections at these businesses. Remember that a lot of smaller companies may not even advertise their internship opportunities publicly, so emailing their HR department could be the initiative that will land you a job!

Solicit feedback

Finding out why you were rejected for an internship might seem daunting, but it could actually be extremely beneficial to your next application and chances of getting that job. Start by politely emailing your interviewer, thanking them for their time and the opportunity they gave you to be interviewed. Then, ask if they happen to have any feedback/pointers for you that could make you a better candidate in the future. Don’t be tempted to email again if you don’t hear back or be demanding. Sometimes, people are just too busy. Cut your losses and move on to the next opportunity. If you are lucky enough to receive feedback, make sure you don’t take things too personally, instead see it as an opportunity for self-improvement. Sure, hearing you talk too much or cut people off when they’re talking, isn’t a fun realisation but it’s valuable feedback that could help you land that dream role. Your willingness to learn and grow may also keep you in their mind for future opportunities.

Get organised

For many students/recent graduates, they learn the hard way that they’ve left their application process till too late. If you want to increase your chances of securing an internship, organisation is key.

  • Start searching the season before you actually want to commence employment and double-check when the deadlines are for your goal companies.
  • Find someone qualified to review your applications before submitting them and to give you pointers. This could be parents, faculty members, tutors, student counselors, or anyone else with the right experience, to guide you through the process.
  • Get your interview attire sorted in advance if you know the industry and environment you’re going to be applying within. A little lost in this department? Check this out for a heads up.
  • Practice with mock interviews, so you can get feedback and become confident in talking about yourself.

Landing an internship can seem like a disheartening process at times. However, once you do get hold of that dream opportunity, you’ll realize all the hard work was worth it and that tips like these can make it that much more attainable.

If you’re ready to give it a go and put these tips into action, check out the Happyer platform for up to date internships.

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