Not so long ago, my friends and I were the students applying for internships. Updating our resumes, applying to every interesting looking position, and trying to leverage our still growing networks.
Lo and behold, after putting our time in, we are now the ones hiring interns, reading resumes and cover letters, and, quite honestly, finding ourselves being appalled and turned off by things like spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. Stuff that when I was an intern, I knew was important, but didn’t quite understand how important until I was on the other side of the internship search. Since I’m not too far removed from the process of applying for internships, and since these are issues I know not only I, but other employers deal with, I hope that the following advice will be useful to you as you present yourself in your applications.
. For starters, please, please, check for spelling and punctuation errors. Your resume is not a tweet or a blog post and spelling matters. Spelling errors make me think you’re too lazy or sloppy to pay attention to your resume.
Also, if you’re going to have an objective on there, please make it relevant to you and the position for which you are applying. If it’s a vague general statement clearly pulled from a template, I’m going to consider it filler, and in my mind filler translates to lack of experience. Since this is an application for an internship, it is completely likely that you may not have a lot of experience. That is ok. That is the point of internships; gaining experience. Just please use a more creative way to make up for lack of experience than a stale boring objective.
Finally, pay attention to your formatting, and once everything is aligned perfectly, save it as a pdf, so that when I open it it’s not a mess. I, and many of my colleagues, do not have the latest version of Office, and can’t open your resumes if saved as a word docx. Pdf’s avoid all of these issues.
. Write one. I know it’s a pain, especially when you’re applying for a lot of different positions, but if you can’t take a few minutes to write me a cover letter, then you’re not really interested in my internship.
A cover letter gives you the chance to tell me things your resume does not. For instance, going back to lack of experience, use your cover letter to explain to me, why you would be such a great fit for this organization, and I should hire you in spite of your minimal experience.
Be sure to personalize each cover letter to each different position. I don’t need to read a form letter you’ve sent to 50 other employers (and yes, we can tell). Also, when addressing your potential employer in the cover letter, never, never, never, use to whom it may concern. Find a name. Finding someone to address it to, usually requires little more than visiting the company website. If you really can find no name to use, simply say Hello, or Greetings followed by the company name, (e.g. Hello Coro Pittsburgh).
Visit our website
. Use your awesome cover letter to explain to me why you are a good fit for this opportunity based on what you know about the work we do. Show me you are excited not just to get an internship, but to get this internship, with this organization. Flatter me. It makes a huge difference.
Doing the necessary research can also save time for both of us. Learning more about the organization you’re applying to, may make you realize it’s not the right environment for you.
I’m a millennial too so I’m not clueless about social media
. In fact, I use it every day. You can bet I internet stalk every one of my potential applicants. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Addictomatic, etc.
I’m not digging for dirt. Quite frankly, seeing pictures of you drinking with your friends on Facebook would not be enough of a deterrent for me not to hire you if you were qualified (although you really should detag yourself from those.) What I am looking for is how you manage your personal brand on line.
Since social media is a big component of what I do, and therefore what my interns do, I want to know that you already know how to use these tools, or have a willingness and eagerness to learn. Also, having things like a blog or website gives you an online portfolio showcasing your communication skills, thoughts, ideas, and experience that will probably represent you much better than your resume.
If there is a field or organization you are really interested in, find a person working in that industry or for that organization, and ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee and chat for an hour.
Ask them how they got their position, what they like about it, what they recommend for someone wanting to do something similar, and if they know of any opportunities available. At the very least, you’ll get some good insight into the job or industry you want. At the very most you’ll get a contact who will remember and recommend you, or hire you if they’re able. Most likely you’ll get something in the middle. No matter what, you’ll get some positive benefits.
Once you have done all of the above well, you have the opportunity to keep interning. It is so crucial to intern as much as you can. Once you’ve gained some experience, update your resume and portfolio and look for an internship that has more qualifications and responsibility.
Interning will give you experience and connections that you will need when you graduate. It also teaches you what you like to do, don’t like to do, and can open the door to some industries and experiences you’ve never considered
I know it can be exhausting. I know it can mean holding down part-time jobs in addition to a full class load while living off ramen noodles
. I know it can seem like you are too busy; but truthfully, there is no reason you couldn’t graduate with 6-8 internships. Aim for at least three. Think of it this way, if you start interning as a sophomore, by the time you graduate you will be able to apply for jobs that are looking for people with 3 years of experience. Interning is a great way to distinguish yourself from the other hundreds of thousands of graduates with a degree just like yours.
Good luck, and happy interning.