It's a numbers game. You have to apply to at least 150 job postings before you land an interview. Once you land an internship with a well known company, it gets easier getting others down the road.
Internships are the first points of impression for your career. Better make it count.
They help you explore different paths and gain valuable work and life experience.
But, when it comes to applying for an internship, the competition can be fierce. With hundreds of applicants vying for the same position, you need to make quite an impression.
So how can you increase your chances of getting hired?
The key is to leverage your network and establish your own credibility.
To increase your chances of getting hired, use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. These platforms enable you to connect with hiring managers and employees at the companies you are interested in.
Engage with them and establish your credibility by highlighting your skills and experiences. Sometimes engaging with them will help in doing your own research about the company.
But what if you don’t have any work-related experience?
As a high school student, you might struggle with this.
The solution is to find ways to show your potential. So, you could volunteer, start a blog or social media account about a topic that interests you. Or complete an online course to gain new skills.
But let’s talk about the roadmap to securing a great internship and kick-starting your career early.
Your roadmap to finding internships
Below, we will guide you on how to get an internship - from applying to preparing to following up.
Applying for Internships:
- Identify the industry or job sector
To begin with, start by identifying the industry you want to intern in. Look up different firms, companies and organizations that offer internships in your line of interest. An important point to keep in mind is “Don’t apply for jobs unless you have applied your skills.” It could be a hackathon or a side hustle. Get the experience you need.
Check our list of business ideas for teens to get you started.
- Start with your school’s career center
Many high schools have career centers that can connect you with local businesses offering internships. Even if they don’t have any opportunities available, they may be able to provide guidance on where to look next.
It is also helpful to reach out to professors, advisors and alumni. They can provide you with valuable recommendations as well as have connections that could lead to an internship opportunity.
- Reach out to family and friends
Hiring managers look at referrals. Referred resumes go to the top of the pile. If someone they know has recommended you for your competency and capabilities, you have a better chance of getting a call back. Similarly if you have a direct connection with the hiring manager (via events or activities), your chances of being considered will also be higher.
Ask family members or friends if they know of any companies that are offering internships. Or if they have any connections in your desired field. Then set up a 15 minute discovery call with any referrals so you can ask them what their internal recruitment strategy looks like, what tips they might have.
- Tap into job forums
After referrals, cold applicants or applicants who are already in their database are considered. It is important to note that companies often hire for positions before the job postings are posted. So networking with people who work at your desired company/ies can give you a leg up.
Find niche job forums like the below to look for internships;
- Handshake allow college students to find internships.
- If you are more interested in outdoor internships have a look at CoolWorks.
- And if you are looking for social impact internships give Idealist a try.
Websites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor or Internships.com do have listings of internships available, but the pool of applicants is large and sometimes the postings are outdated.
Filter your search based on location, industry, experience level and other factors. Consider the options that best fit with your goals and schedule.
- Attend career fairs and networking events
Many cities or organizations host career fairs and networking events specifically for young adults. These events can be a great place to make connections and learn about internship opportunities.
It’s not scary as it sounds.
Reach out to the people who work in companies you are interested in. Or reach out to hiring managers or technical recruiters. You can find them on LinkedIn. Let them know you are interested in a specific role (accounting, marketing, sales etc..). Ask them for a discovery call.
You can also find internship networking events on sites like Meetup.com. Search for panel discussions or conferences that you can attend. The topics you discuss are great conversation starters for your interviews.
We have a great article on how networking can elevate your career.
- Create your own opportunities
If you are having trouble finding internships, consider creating your own. Reach out to local businesses and pitch an idea for an internship that you would like to create. Reach out to the person you want to work for. This shows initiative and may lead to a unique opportunity.
- Create a compelling resume and personal statement
A CV can leave a lasting impression on others if it showcases your academic success, relevant coursework or projects and past work experience.
Draft a personal statement that introduces yourself. Explain the reasons you are interested in the specific internship position and state how you’ll add value to the team. It is best to tailor your cover letter to each internship position you apply for.
If you need more guidance, our article on creating a resume (even when you have no experience) would be helpful. We also give you a step by step on crafting a personal statement.
Preparing for Interviews:
- Research the company
Look up the company, browse their website and social media pages as well as read their latest news. Familiarize yourself with their mission and values.
- Create a list of potential questions
Prepare a list of potential questions the interviewer could ask you and practice answering those in front of a mirror. Take note of the ahh, umms and your body language while answering. Practice with a family member to build confidence and refine your responses.
- Dress professionally and arrive on time
Carry a copy of your resume and additional documentation. Make sure you arrive at the location of your interview on time. Avoid going in casual wear.
Nowadays most interviews are held virtually. Even in such instances it is best to dress professionally. It will set you in the right frame of mind prior to your interview.
Listen attentively to the questions asked. Respond with clarity and confidence. Show your enthusiasm and knowledge about the company and position.
If the hiring manager gives you a test case during the interview that you need to present to them on the spot, don’t panic. Take a deep breath before you go off rambling. Make sure to walk them through your thought process. Listen clearly to what is asked of you and respond clearly.
Recruiters gauge your ability to communicate and reason as well as your technical skills.
Here’s an easy-to-remember tip - follow theSTAR process
Situation - what is the situation?
Task - what is the task they want you to solve?
Action - what is the proposed action you intend to take?
Result - what is the result that will come out of the action you have taken?
- Thank you email
After the interview, send an email to the interviewer. Thank them for their time as well as for giving you the opportunity to interview.
- If you don’t hear back from the company after attending an interview. Don’t fret. Follow up with a polite email or phone call to inquire about the status of your application.
- If you receive a job offer, respond promptly with your acceptance or counteroffer. Negotiate your salary or benefits, if necessary.
- If you receive a rejection, don’t take it personally. Take any feedback as constructive criticism. Work on improving your skills or tailoring your application for future opportunities.
Remember, finding an internship takes time and effort, but it is worth it.
Stay positive, persistent and proactive in your job search.
Insider tips on how to land your dream internship
If you’re a high school student seeking to land your dream internship, you might be surprised to learn that the secret to success is not necessarily good grades or a long list of extracurricular activities.
The key is to master these three skills:
Figuring out what you’re excited about
Showcasing your work and,
Mastering the interview.
First, is to figure out what you’re excited about. This might seem like an obvious step, but it’s one that many students overlook. The best way to figure out what you’re excited about is to start by making a list of your favorite hobbies, interests and activities. Once you have a list, take some time to think about how you could turn those into a career.
The second step in landing your dream job is showcasing your work. But even early on in your career, you can sell yourself with hard work and willingness to learn.
Social media can be a powerful tool if used right. It can help you build your personal brand and connect you with potential employers. Start a blog, build a newsletter on beehiiv, do a project of your own, or something that shows your ideas and how hard you are willing work.
Personal and academic projects are a great way to showcase your skills. If you are looking to get into a tech field put your code on Github or design portfolio on Dribble - so recruiters can view your portfolios online. Try out tech programs to build your portfolio.
If you’re unsure of what you want to do, or which industry will help you move towards your goals, don’t worry.
You are not alone.
Many people feel the same way.
That is why programs like BETA Camp, Apollo and LaunchX exist.
These educational programs help you work on projects that display your skills and capabilities. The projects help showcase where you took initiative, what you were able to build, and the solutions that you came up with and can offer to other companies.
The third and final step in landing your dream internship is to master the interview. The key to acing the interview is to show both warmth and competence. In other words, employees want to know that you’re not only qualified for the job, but that you’re also likable and would be easy to work with.
To show warmth, smile, tell a story or ask for advice. (Just make sure whatever story you tell is relevant to the role.) Also, never make up a story. Inauthenticity is visible from a mile away.
To prove competence, prepare for the interview by researching the company and practicing your answers to common interview questions.
An additional tip - apply for internships during the fall or winter semester. The pool of applicants is lower and you will be able to land more opportunities.
Alternatives to traditional internships
As internships become increasingly in-demand for college students and recent grads, the competition for spots has become cut-throat. Traditional internships may not be feasible for everyone, but there are some good alternatives where you can also gain valuable skills and experience.
What are these alternatives?
One alternative is to participate in co-op programs. They are similar to internships in the sense that they provide real-world experience. Co-op programs differ because they are often long-term commitments that can include academic credit. They also have a more structured application process.
Another alternative is to volunteer your time and skills to a nonprofit or community organization. Volunteering can provide a wealth of experience in project management, fundraising, event planning, and more. Plus can you feel good knowing that you are making a difference in your community.
A third alternative to consider is job shadowing, which allows you to observe a professional and gain valuable insight into their day-to-day work. Head to a local small business and ask the owner if you could shadow them for a few hours a day for a month. You will learn how they make decisions, what they focus on for their business. It could be a football coach for your local team or a patent lawyer or an event management owner.
Finally, consider online courses or certification in your desired field. Online learning platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Google Digital Garage offer a wide range of courses and certifications. These can help you gain the technical skills and knowledge needed to succeed in your career.
In summary, squeeze in as many internships as possible when you are a student. These are great trial runs without the commitment of tying yourself down.
If you want to work at Google, you will probably need to work your way up to a big multinational company because you likely won't check every box straight out of school. Hence it is best to work on and create a step by step plan and use internships to provide you with the skills in the industry you want to be in.
Internships can help you stand out when applying for future jobs. With persistence and an open mind, you can find the perfect one for you.
And remember, any experience is good experience when you are starting from zero.
Be intentional with your search.
More doors will open in time.