An internship is an excellent opportunity for you to link what you are learning in the classroom to real life situations. It is also a good opportunity to build on and develop some of your soft skills. In some cases, internships can serve another purpose, too. They can help you decide on or opt out of a certain vocation, or even change your educational path.
It is never too early to start your first internship. In fact, the sooner you start, the better prepared you will be for your first job.
To ensure that you are maximizing your chances of finding your dream internship, we recommend 5 things to keep in mind as you start applying.
1. Have a clear idea of what you want out of an internship
Think about why you want to do an internship (besides it being a university graduation requirement in some cases) and what tangible benefits you want to get out of this experience.
If you are doing an internship to test-drive your future career, you might want to use this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the industry and the responsibilities of entry-level employees, to get strong references, and to expand your network for future work opportunities.
If you are seeking an internship at an early stage in your education, or you are still unsure of your career plans, you might want to use it as an opportunity to gain insights into the professional world.
2. Build a professional resume
Your resume is one of the first things that employers read about you. The way you present it has a strong influence over whether they will open it and read it. Take the time to create a professional resume and do not hesitate to ask an older classmate, a professor or someone at your university career center to share feedback. Click here to see our article on creating a resume.
3. Develop your professional presence online
In today’s interconnected world, the first thing most recruiters will do when considering you for a position is ‘google’ you, so it is important not only to develop your presence online, but to make sure it is a professional one. First, check that your personal photos and activities on your social media accounts are not publicly visible. Next, create profiles (based on your resume) on professional platforms such as LinkedIn, and keep them updated. Finally, develop your network - connect with companies and organizations that match your interests and follow their activities.
4. Take advantage of all available resources to find a suitable internship
Use your network - friends, classmates, family, and even university alumni and professors. Do not hesitate to ask people around you if they have heard about an internship opportunity in your field of interest. If they haven’t, some of them might at least give you advice on where/how to look for one.
Regularly check specialized websites such as LinkedIn, Bayt, Internsme, Gulf Talent, Jobzella, or other country-specific websites for internship opportunities. Create a professional profile on these platforms and sign up for alerts on relevant new openings.
Use your university's resources. Most universities have career centers that regularly share work experience opportunities for students. Some universities also host annual career fairs. Before attending, be sure to research the companies participating in the fair. On the day, do not hesitate to approach those that interest you to hand in your resume and ask a few questions that would leave a good impression. Be prepared to say to briefly introduce yourself and share why you are especially interested in joining them.
Contact companies & employers. Spend some time researching companies in your field that you might be interested in applying to. Visit their career or job sections on their websites to learn more about available opportunities. If there are no openings available, feel free to email your resume to the human resources representative so that you can be considered for future opportunities.
5. Apply early and follow-up
If you are planning to do your internship in the summer, start applying as early as January. Keep in mind that recruiters receive a lot of applications and it often takes time to process them all. Today, internships have become as competitive as jobs, so it is best to apply to as many as possible to increase your chances of landing one of your preferred options. Finally, do not hesitate to follow-up politely if you have not received a response after 3 or 4 weeks.
No matter the type of internship you do, keep in mind that any professional experience is a learning experience that will help you develop your interpersonal, communication and time management skills, and more. Your first internships do not need to be at your ideal company, performing only tasks that you enjoy. It is by accumulating meaningful experiences that you will be able to land your dream job. Good luck!