Financial Resource Center

Money Management

Land Your First Internship

by Brandon Kappel / April 26th, 2018

You've most likely seen movies or TV shows that portray interns as people who only take coffee orders and make photocopies.

In reality, internships often provide hands-on experience that can help you land your first full-time job.

Not only will an internship help you pick up new skills, an internship also can give you a leg up when you apply for future jobs.

What can an internship do for you?

There are several categories of internships including co-ops, fieldwork, practicums, service learning, externships, and apprenticeships. It's up to you to determine which type of internship will fit your needs.

While hunting for an internship, consider:

  • Your field of interest
  • What kind of compensation you need—internships can be paid or unpaid
  • Whether you'd like the internship to count for credit
  • Your availability

Your time as an intern will:

  • Help you decide if you would enjoy working in a particular field
  • Help you develop your interests and refine your goals for the future
  • Provide you with valuable experience that will appeal to future employers
  • Help you develop business connections that will aid your job search
  • Teach you about real-world work

Tools to find an internship

An easy way to start looking for an internship is by talking to your friends and family and other people in your personal or professional network.

For example, if you're interested in marketing, ask your parents, other family members, and friends if they know anybody in a marketing position who could help you find an internship or if an internship might be available at their place of work. You might be surprised by the leads you find.

Your college's career center also can be useful during your search. The counselors on your campus have experience with connecting students to internships, and might already know the perfect fit for you.

There are also a variety of websites that will help you find an internship that fits your needs. You generally can narrow down your search by location, major, compensation, and time frame. 

This is just a partial list of sites that list internship opportunities:

Now, how do you get that perfect internship...

Perfect your résumé

Once you find a place that you'd like to intern at, do your research about the company. Your knowledge about the position and the company will impress an employer both on your cover letter and in an interview.

Before you even start thinking about an interview, perfect your cover letter and résumé.

It's important to tailor your résumé for each internship you apply for. Read each job description carefully to understand the skills and experience the hiring committee is looking for. Also, be sure your cover letter and résumé are error-free. Employers don’t want to hire someone who hasn’t taken the time to check his or her work.

Ace your interview!

It's easy to get nervous for an interview. One way to stay calm, cool, and collected is to prepare yourself prior to the interview:

  • Research possible questions. Look up common interview questions and prepare answers, such as "What's your biggest weakness?" and “Tell us about a difficult situation you’ve been in and how you overcame it.” Ask a friend or family member to help you run through possible answers.
  • Dress professionally. It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed during an interview.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get there. A late arrival to the interview definitely won't help your nerves—plus getting there early will show that you are organized and punctual.

And once you get to the interview, keep these things in mind:

  • Collect your thoughts before answering each question. Even if your response is slightly delayed, a well-thought-out answer will reflect better on you than blurting out the first thing that pops into your head.
  • End on a good note. Ask at least one question at the end of the interview to show your interest. Make sure to thank your interviewers and send them a thank-you note after the interview.

Even if you don't get your dream internship, the experience of applying and interviewing will be valuable to you down the road as you look for additional internships and full-time positions.

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