Posted tagged ‘getting an internship’

Don’t let your online identity spoil your chances of getting an internship

October 15, 2010

The New York Times (Sunday, Oct. 10) had a very timely article, warning job seekers to protect their online identities. To paraphrase this informative piece, you may have a great resume, outstanding references, and a successful interview, and still not get the offer, whether it’s for a job or an internship.  Why?  Well, remember that companies often view internships as tests for potential new employees, so establishing yourself as a reputable person who will add value to the company is important.  To supplement Dr. Woody’s recent post about online identities, here are our top 5 tips advised in the NYT article to help you protect yourself as you apply for internships:

  1. Assume that you may be looked up on a search engine, so review the results of a quick search of your own name. If you find anything negative, do some damage control by entering a few positive items about yourself in hopes that the new entries will appear above the negative ones.
  2. Review your Facebook page. A potential internship supervisor could become a friend of one of your friends and gain access to your page. According to the article, you don’t want anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. Be careful about photos, too.  Drinking beer at a bachelor party may have been fun, but it could give some companies the wrong impression.
  3. Understand that having absolutely no mention of yourself on online tends to be viewed with suspicion. If that’s the case, then create a professional identity on the Internet for yourself, utilizing Google profiles, LinkedIn and ZoomInfo to establish a positive presence for yourself.
  4. Check your credit report for mistakes and develop a plausible explanation if your credit score is poor, which might be the case for many college students. And for government or security positions, you need to have a perfectly clean record in terms of character and behavior. If you’ve had any criminal charges, even if they occurred years ago and have been resolved or proven false, check the internet to make sure you have a clean slate.
  5. Consider your internship target companies. If you’re looking for a highly competitive, paid internship that could lead to a permanent position with a Fortune 500 company, then you might want to double and even triple check any online data about yourself, including political interests, buying habits, and hobbies. The petition you signed online or political blog on which you commented during an election might alienate a company that supported an opposing candidate.

Q. Are there internships available during the school year?

July 23, 2010

A. Yes, lots of them in lots of different places. And since many students only take summer internships, you may have a better chance of getting an internship during the school year. The good news is that more and more companies want to keep interns coming all year-round. After the company educates an intern supervisor and sets up a working program, it makes good sense to maintain the routine—and capitalize on the extra help—365 days a year. Here are some of your options: 

  • Start with your own school, especially if you live on campus. Begin at the career center, asking the staff about on-campus internships. Or visit the different departments, such as your major department, in which you’d like to intern, present your resume, and ask about openings.
  • Next, scout out the surrounding companies that are geographically within reach by public transportation or car. Again, check in with your career center about local internships and make application. You may want to request an information interview with a company about internships in order to get your foot in the door.
  • Look into a virtual internship (Check out these great virtual opportunities!), which allows students to sample different fields or concentrate on a niche industry while still going to classes and working. The most common ones are in information technology, software development, research, sales, marketing, blogging, and social media. If you’re a self-reliant, self-starter who is comfortable with Web conferences, emails, and phone calls, a virtual internship during the school year might work well for you.
  • Create your own internship by networking with other students, faculty, and staff professionals at your school to discover any potential internship sites. Many companies that have never had professional internship programs are interested in setting them up. If you locate a local company in which you’d like to intern during the school year, but it has no established program, suggest that your school help the company initiate a good program. 
  • Explore the opportunity of an internship during the school year in a company in a different locale. If it’s a full-time internship with academic credit, you may want to talk with your academic advisors about rearranging your classes or going to school an extra semester in order to take advantage of a great internship. Keep an open mind, and the right internship during the school year will be yours.

For an intern’s perspective on doing an internship during the school year, check out the new Eye of the Intern blog, “Tracey’s Angle: Is a school-year internship worth it?“.

Q. I’m only going to be a freshman. Should I start thinking about internships?

July 19, 2010

A. Yes, it’s not too early. Lots of students in high school are now thinking about internships to strengthen their college applications, resulting in the field becoming more and more competitive. If you start with an internship during or after your freshman year, you’ll be able to build up to better and better internships by the time you reach your senior year, which will strengthen your graduate school or job applications. Here are a few tips on how to proceed:

  1. Transition:  Your first semester is going to be a period of transition. You should visit the career center on campus and explore your future internship opportunities. The fall semester is not as busy as the spring one at the career center in terms of internships, so it’s the perfect time to get to know the staff and register your interests. Then, when an internship in your field comes up, you’ll be first in line to apply. Use this time to network with older students about their internships and get tips from them on good internship sites.
  2. Type:  Like many freshmen, you may be uncertain about your major. And what better way to discover your talents but through an internship. Ask the career center to administer some assessment tests to help you figure out what types of internships are best for you and take the Internship Predictor on internships.com Also, consider the company in which you’d like the experience. If you see yourself as working for a big corporation, investigate those options. Or you may prefer a small company or a non-profit for a first internship, especially since it may be easier to get an internship in those organizations.
  3. Timing:  In the spring, you might look into a virtual internship that you can perform at your computer without leaving your room. Or you could explore the options for the coming summer. Review your budget to see if you can afford to take an unpaid internship or if you have to get a paid one. Meanwhile, revise your resume and create a general cover letter that you can customize for different internships. The career center can help you with those items. And educate yourself about all the new internships available by checking daily on internships.com.
  4. Details:  Check to see how many college credits you are allowed in the internship category. If you’re limited, you might want to simply take a summer job for pay or perform volunteer work, saving your internship credits for later in your college career. Talk with family and friends about potential locations of future internships. Do you want to do one in another country? If so, do you need to start learning a second language? Or is there a part of the United States that you think you might enjoy living in after college? An internship would help you decide if you really want to move to that area.

Q. What takeaways should I have from my internship to show what I worked on?

July 6, 2010

A. Good for you for thinking ahead! You do need to collect examples of any project on which you worked in order to build your portfolio. Whether your major is marketing, finance, design, nursing, or whatever, you want do have a strong record of your accomplishments. Here are some tips on what to collect: 

  1. Documents:  These items can be reports, surveys, technical problems you helped solve, sales materials you helped write or design, or a press release or article about a special event. Your company may have also featured you as a new intern in an employee newsletter, so save several copies.
  2. Photos:  Graphic depiction of your efforts, showing you at your desk or with co-workers, is tangible evidence of your involvement. Make sure you document your presence at both work and social events. You may want to include informal photos of colleagues to illustrate the quality of people with whom you’ve worked.
  3. Company materials:  You can impress future internship or job supervisors by letting them know that you’ve worked with companies that accomplish their goals. You want to be associated with successful companies, demonstrating that you bring added value to your new internship or job.  Collect company annual reports, newsletters, brochures, press releases, etc. to demonstrate the high quality of the company with which you’ve interned.
  4. Correspondence:  Letters of reference or recommendation, thank-you notes from employees or final evaluation forms can go in your portfolio. Your Career Center or professors might also have relevant letters or correspondence that promote you as an outstanding student. If you’ve written an excellent paper on some aspect of your internship, which earned you a top grade, include that, too.
  5. Online exhibits:  If your internship included lots of online or IT work rather than paper assignments, you might want to develop a section listing websites, printing out materials, or even producing a DVD or CD to showcase your work.
  6. Presentation:  Consider asking the company for a professional folder or binder with the company name in which you can display the above items. If necessary, create labels and descriptions to expand on the materials. Be sure to make copies of all your items to protect against someone misplacing your portfolio or not returning it to you after an interview.

Q. I didn’t find a summer internship. Is it too early to look for a fall one?

June 25, 2010

A. Absolutely not, especially if you want to get a really good one. There are lots of resources on internships.com to help you get started. If you don’t know exactly what kind of internship you want, the Internship Predictor can help you out. Or the Company Directory can help you identify companies and people that you want to reach. For good measure, you could complete the Intern Certification Program. And check out the Intern Tool Kit for other resources. Here are a few more tips:

  1. Lay out your fall schedule. Decide how many hours you want to put into a fall internship and where you want to do your internship. You may be limited by class hours and location. If you have transportation issues, you could consider taking an internship on campus in a department that is relevant to your career interests.
  2. Review your resume and cover letter, making sure that you have updated your resume with any summer accomplishments, including jobs, volunteer work, sport achievements, travel, or new skills, such as foreign languages. Internships.com will help you decide if a video resume is appropriate for you. Write a basic cover letter that you can customize for every application.
  3. Visit your Career Center for advice. These professionals work with companies and help you get interviews with the proper personnel. Companies usually offer internship opportunities year-round to a school. Discuss the many new options that are available to you, thanks to technology. The online internship often works well for a fall internship because you can work at your own convenience.
  4. Network. Talk to other students, friends, and family members about your plans for a fall internship and ask them for suggestions. The best way to evaluate an internship is to talk to a student who has just completed it.
  5. Tracey’s Angle. Check out the newest Eye of the Intern blog by internships.com intern, Tracey. She has some great tips for finding a fall internship.

Q. I can’t do a summer internship because I have family obligations. What should I do?

April 30, 2010

A. I admire your priorities. Don’t worry, there are lots of internships offered on a part-time basis throughout the year.  

  1. Explore opportunities if you have a part-time job during the school year. Ask your employer about internship opportunities at work. You may be able to move to a different department or assume more responsibilities that advance your skills. You may also be surprised to find that you can receive internship credit for your current job.  
  2. Check into campus internships. Many departments, such as Human Resources, Communications, Alumni Affairs, and Admissions, use interns throughout the year. Your own major department may employ interns to assist professors or work on special projects, which would advance your own knowledge and increase networking opportunities.
  3.  Sign up for a full-time, month-long internship—called  the January term—during  the winter break if your school offers such a program. Since many schools close for nearly a month at the holidays, it’s become an opportune time to arrange internships for students who can’t do summer, fall, or spring internships.
  4. Keep in mind that it’s not too early to apply for a fall internship. Most companies appreciate a 3-month or longer lead. Be the first to apply and get your internship lined up. Companies that offer a variety of internship opportunities—fall, spring, or summer—tend to be flexible in hours and schedules.

P.S. Here are a few part-time fall and spring internships that might work for you:

Going to school in San Francisco? Try the deYoung Art Center.

Chicago? Get in touch with CBS 2.

In Washington, DC? Apply to the US Dept. of Justice—Community Relations Service.

Want a January term internship? Go to the International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership in New York City.

Any readers have experience in non-summer internships? We love comments!

Q. What are some tips for prep and performing well in a group interview?

April 27, 2010

A.  Group interviews can be challenging. You want everyone to think you’re great, yet each person at the interview has different standards and opinions. Here are several techniques to make you everyone’s #1 choice for the internship: 

  1. Do your homework. Find out the names and titles of those individuals who will be at the group interview. Review the company material to learn any interesting facts about them or their departments. Use social media or Google to get more information.
  2. Gather a few friends around your kitchen table and ask them to question you about why you want the internship? What are your skills? How do you see your career forming? And, where do you want to be in five years? And so on…Invite them to throw difficult questions at you, so you can practice appropriate responses.
  3. Dress carefully for the interview, choosing neutral colors and classic styles. Keep your jewelry to a minimum and avoid scents. Be conservative in your hairstyle. Practice your body language—sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor.
  4. You may want to arrive carrying a folder with company materials and a pen to take notes as a sign of your serious intent. Also, holding a pen gives you something to do. And a mint before your interview ensures that you have good breath. Do arrive early and don’t complain about getting lost or transportation difficulties. Interns should help solve problems, not bring them to work.
  5. Walk in the door with a brisk step and smile at the group. Exude positive energy. Appear confident and don’t admit to being nervous. Show respect by waiting to be directed to your seat. Even if people are introduced to you by first and last names, such as Joe Smith, address each person by his (Mr. Smith) or her last name unless directed otherwise.
  6. Look at the interviewer and also make eye contact with other members of the group when you’re answering questions. Be sure to give equal attention to each person since every individual’s evaluation is important. Don’t show favoritism.
  7. Articulate your answers clearly. Short sentences are easier to manage than long ones and easier for the group members to absorb, too. At the end of an answer, you may ask if you’ve answered the question to his/her satisfaction to demonstrate your willingness to please. If you don’t know the answer to a question, simply say you don’t know but will find out and then follow through.
  8. You will probably be asked if you have any questions, and the right answer is yes (to show your high level of interest). You can ask a simple question, such as: How long has the internship program been in existence or what is the next step?
  9. Thank the group members collectively at the beginning and end of the interview session for the opportunity to apply for the internship. Write a thank you note to each member of the group, restating your interest. The office secretary can give you the proper spelling of their names and titles.

Q. Is it too late for me to get a summer internship?

April 23, 2010

A. Absolutely not! The official first day of summer isn’t until June 21, so don’t panic. There are still lots of opportunities for you to invest in your future through an internship. In fact, you may even have more choices now than back in the early spring. Also, your summer plans have probably taken shape, giving you an accurate view of how much time you can dedicate to an internship. Here’s how to find the right one:

  1. Check the new listings on internships.com. Thousands of internships have been added over the spring, and hundreds are added every week. There are two ways you can sort through these postings—by company or by interest area.
  2. First, consider which companies appeal to you the most when you review the new listings. The internship may not be your first choice in terms of responsibilities, but at least you get inside a desirable company and can network for future opportunities. Second, explore the postings by interest area related to your major, for example, Accounting or Biology. The size or type of company may be secondary to your interest in getting an internship in your chosen field.
  3. Stop by the Career Center at your school and ask about new openings for summer internships. Schools frequently get last-minute requests, especially from local companies that prefer to work through your Career Center. If you live near the school or are staying on campus to take summer classes, you may be able to fit an internship into your schedule. An internship near your school can also be helpful because you may be able to turn that summer internship into a year-round opportunity.
  4. Create your own internship using the resources that you’ve learned from the tools on internships.com. Research the city or town where you’ll be living this summer and make a list of the companies in which you’d like to have an internship. Many small and mid-size companies don’t have formal internship programs but would value your skills and welcome you as an intern. Find out the name of the Human Resources director and send a cover letter and resume, or stop by to make an appointment. Local companies like to work with local residents.
  5. Talk to your friends and classmates about their summer internships. You may find that a few of them are unable to fulfill their internship obligations because of unexpected changes in summer plans. Perhaps you could take on the internship instead, so the company wouldn’t be left without an intern at the last moment. Or if one of your friends can’t dedicate 40 hours a week to an internship, you might suggest that you do internship-sharing—two interns handling one position. You may even end up with more than one option for a summer internship!

Q. What are some tips on preparing for a phone interview for an internship?

April 20, 2010

A.  Phone interviews are commonly used to sort out applicants for an internship. If distance is a factor, a phone interview may result in an internship offer without a personal interview. Here are some tips to make sure you get the offer you want:

  1. Research the company and compile as much material as possible about the organization and its people. Read about the company’s career offerings on its website and take note of the desired qualifications and skills. Write down any company slogans or specific phrases used to describe the company.
  2. Compile a list of potential questions that you might be asked, such as: Why do you want this internship? What special skills would you bring to the company? Describe yourself. Why should we select you over another applicant? What are your career goals?
  3. Select a friend to role play as the potential internship director and ask you these questions. Give your friend a timer to measure how long you take to answer each question. Record the practice interview and critique your performance, ensuring that you’re not talking too fast or using poor grammar.
  4. Take several deep breaths before you begin the actual phone interview to steady your nerves. Keep a glass of water nearby in case you start to cough or your mouth becomes too dry.
  5. Make sure you’re in a quiet environment and won’t have any interruptions. When the interview is set up, ask how long it will take, so you’ll know how much time to set aside. Have your list of company slogans ready to use when appropriate. Double check the name of the person who will be the interviewer.
  6. Express your appreciation of the opportunity to interview both at the beginning and the end of the phone call. Speak slowly and distinctly when answering each question. You may even want to say, “That’s a good question,” before you begin your response. You’ll gain time to gather your thoughts and also compliment the interviewer.
  7. Request clarification when necessary by saying, “Would you please repeat that?” or “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that.” Use specific examples when answering questions. If asked about your computer skills, name each program you can use. Don’t simply say, “Yes” or “No” to questions but add specific details to each answer.
  8. Be proud of yourself and never put yourself down. Rather than say, “I don’t know how to do that,” you could say, “I’ve never done that, but I’m willing to learn.” Mention the company’s own slogans or statistics when speaking to show you’ve researched the company thoroughly.
  9. At the end of the interview, say that you’d very much like the opportunity to intern at the company. If you know anyone at the company, you might want to mention him/her at this point as someone who seems very happy at the company.

Q. I have very little work experience, so what can I put on my resume?

April 15, 2010

A. Many college students lack work experience other than retail, fast food or cutting lawns. But don’t worry, you have accomplishments in other areas that will impress resume readers. You may be a volunteer for community activities, which is a good reflection on your character. Or, you may be skilled in computer programs or have developed expertise in a sport or an art. These activities do not have to be current. You may want to add the dates for accuracy. Use the following list of examples to generate new additions for your own resume:

  1. Tutoring/Coaching: Tutored disadvantaged children in an inner-city program. Coached softball at the YMCA. Taught swimming at local pool.
  2. Fundraising: Helped raise money for Cancer Care Clinic. Organized a toy drive for Toys for Tots. Lead a drive to raise money for Haiti after earthquake.
  3. Music: Played first violin in high school band. Wrote original music and produced own CD. Organized band and played gigs. Performed as a DJ.
  4. Volunteering: Worked at local hospital delivering flowers to patients. Helped Habitat for Humanity build a home for local family. Went to New Orleans to help clean up after Katrina.
  5. Sports: Ran 10K marathon. Hiked the Appalachian Trail. Won tennis championship. Played on local basketball team.
  6. Entrepreneur: Started lawn service business to help pay for college. Launched babysitting service, matching sitters and families. Set up new website for a small business.
  7. Travel: Backpacked through Scotland and Ireland. Worked in Japan at a monastery for one summer. Biked all around Thailand.
    Computer Skills: Proficient in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.
  8. Awards: Took first place in a chess tournament. Earned Eagle Scout badge. Had poem published in literary magazine.

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