Whether you aspire to become a finance guru, doctor, lawyer, or teacher, internships give you an extra edge and an on-the-job instinct you can’t learn from earning a college degree alone. Having internship experience puts you ahead of those who don’t, and internships are a required stepping stone into today’s workforce.
The trend is showing no signs of abating. Of 2013 graduates, 62 percent (a record high) participated in at least one internship or cooperative education assignment (co-op), in which colleges and companies partner to combine classroom and practical work experience, according to from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
More than ever, employers aren’t just looking for applicants with a college degree and a high GPA — they’re looking for someone who is well-rounded and already has the skills for the job. Many college students know making the right connection at an internship can lead to that first step in the door, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to connect. So, what does it really take to snag that great internship?
Use social media to your advantage
Part of landing that perfect internship is to set yourself up for success. One of the best ways internship seekers can do this is to use the right tech tools, including social networking sites to make professional connections and search for employment opportunities. Employers are reciprocating, utilizing social media to vet prospective job candidates. A 2013 survey by CareerBuilder found 20 percent of hiring managers said something they found on social media helped a candidate get the job. Companies use popular social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to search for employees. It’s important internship seekers keep this in mind as they begin to establish their online footprint.
One approach to prepare your pages and profiles for recruitment is to treat them as a résumé, and include information about education, work experience, skills, and interests. Business-oriented networking sites such as LinkedIn particularly lend themselves to this approach. On LinkedIn, you can create a profile for yourself that highlights your responsibilities, accomplishments, industry-related coursework, and more.
Forbes even suggests you list any volunteer work you’ve done the same way you would a summer job, elaborating on tasks fulfilled and skills acquired. Employers will be impressed, and are much more likely to contact you if you present a clean, professional online presence.
Another way to bolster your online presence is through the use of Twitter. Twitter is all about networking, so you will want to build a network that makes sense for you. However, it can be slightly more difficult to come off as an industry expert in 140 characters or less. Make sure your Twitter stream represents you, both professionally and personally. Share links relevant to your followers, adding commentary to the latest industry news. This shows you’re keeping up with industry trends and gives potential employers a look into what you read and care about, which will help them to envision how you may fit into their company’s work environment.
Also, don’t forget to use Twitter hashtags. You can find general internship advice and lots of listings through hashtags such as #internship, #internshipadvice and #internshipposting. To narrow it down, use more specific hashtags, such as or #financeinternship or #marketinginternship.
Impress with technology
Looking for an internship in another city? Instead of attempting to tackle the dreaded phone interview, consider asking the hiring manager to have a live chat with you. In a phone interview, the interviewer can’t actually see you, so he or she is judging you solely on your voice, answers and any other sounds that come through during the conversation. This doesn’t offer the greatest forum for showcasing you at your best. By using live chat technology, which allows for a personalized, human interaction, you are able to create a more meaningful connection than a phone interview alone.
Use the Web to highlight your best attributes
Facebook is one of the most widely used communication tools by college students today. Likewise, it is becoming more common for employers to vet potential candidates by checking out their online profiles. With the prevalence of personal information available online, it’s essential to have a Facebook profile that doesn’t have any incriminating photos or blog posts attached to it. If you’re not careful, a prospective employer can see everything you post on Facebook. Inopportune comments and inappropriate photos could cost you an internship opportunity.
Take the initiative to ensure your Facebook page provides nothing but a professional image. Make sure you continually monitor your wall, and untag yourself from any photos to make sure no one else is posting potentially harmful information you wouldn’t want potential employers to see. Save all the non-professional pics to online backup from Mozy or another provider, so you still have access to them without having to show the whole world your less-than-stellar moments.
You might also consider crafting your page to cover a broad portion of your life, so you look well-rounded and show some personality. Then, censor the rest of it. Do a heavy-handed PR job on yourself, and cover up all your blemishes.