PRO TIP- HOW DO YOU GET AN INTERNSHIP?
Memoirs of an Intern
Contributed by Adedamola David Odusote, Summer Research Associate
Internships are work experiences offered to students by companies or organizations and serve as learning intensive programs used to gain professional experience for a specific period of time. The primary intent is to help the student obtain work exposure to an industry, acquire essential skills and enhance their knowledge of the business. In most cases, an internship experience has an extensive impact on the career path the student chooses…. Thus, internships are important. However, before you worry about whether an internship is the right fit for your career aspirations, you should understand how to get an internship first.
In most cases, people ask the following questions when in pursuit of an internship
1. Why do I need an internship?
2. Where can I find an internship?
3. (Good) Internships are hard to come by & the application process is competitive. What are the best practices for applying and standing out?
4. How do I prepare and position myself for the interview?
5. I’ve secured an internship – What do I do now?!
1. Why do I need an internship?
Think of an internship as an extension of your college/graduate school studies, and the purpose of studying is to secure a full-time profession upon graduation. Internships can provide a platform for strengthening various skills including professional communication, collaboration and teamwork, project management, and industry-specific experience. An internship should be engaging, rewarding and can assist you in uncovering your passions, interests, and future career.
2. Where can I find an internship?
Finding an internship is the same as finding any great job (from what I’ve heard) – it can be taxing. However, it can also be streamlined depending on the resources available to you. My college, New York University, has a university-wide career platform, CareerNet, designed for its students. Based on my interests, the platform compiles a list of prospective companies, from which I might be interested.
If your university doesn’t have this platform, there are several other options from which you can choose. Most universities hold career fairs every semester. They host middle-market businesses, large corporations and start-ups eager to hire talent distinctly from campus. As such I would encourage you to attend. If you are interested in companies that are not at the career fairs, you could make use of online resources. AngelList, LinkedIn and Indeed are several professional search engines; based on your experiences, interest, location preference(s) and the role(s) you are interested in applying for, the website(s) will curate a detailed list of companies from which you can choose. Even reaching out directly to companies you admire on LinkedIn, if done properly, is a great option.
3. Applying (and standing out) for an internship opportunity.
Applying for an internship is quite long and arduous – there’s no escaping this by the way. After developing a list of companies you are interested in, you must look at the requirements to apply. The requirements are usually detailed in the internship job description and depending on the internship role you’re applying for, the requirements will vary. For instance, Applying to a number of start-ups, I was required to provide a resume and a cover letter. The resume is a snapshot of your experiences and skills, and the cover letter is an explanation of why you want and would be suitable for the internship position. These documents are standard requirements. However, a number of firms require additional documents. For instance, an investment bank might ask you to build financial models in excel based on financial statements. A film company might ask you to provide a portfolio of screenplays you’ve written or video content you’ve produced. A recruitment company or consultancy firm might ask you to provide samples of your writing and give you a research project. As such, make sure to consider the documents needed to apply carefully. Not doing so will seriously jeopardize your chances of being a successful applicant.
4. Interview process and prep.
After applying for internships, you might be scheduled to interview with a representative from the prospective company – on rare occasion some companies don’t hold interviews with potential interns and only require codility tests or other standardized screening processes. In most cases where there will be phone calls and/or onsite interviews, prep is key and you should focus on your communication. Spend time rehearsing your narrative to explain why you are looking for an internship. Prepare to articulate your interests, skills, life experiences and what you want to do in your future – all of which can be helpful in successfully navigating the internship process.
When an interview is held, it is a way for prospective companies to understand you beyond your resume and cover letter. It’s a mechanism used by companies to gauge whether or not you fit the company’s culture. As such, I advise you to conduct a thorough research on the companies you are interviewing with.
Researching your prospective company will help you understand their core business, history and success rate. Moreover, it will provide you with an extensive knowledge of the company’s core values and ambitions. I would encourage you to make a list of sourced data points on the hiring firm and reference them to your own goals. As such, during your interview you can discuss how you, if given the opportunity, will contribute value to the company by emphasizing how your work experience will assist the company achieves its objectives.
After your interview, send your interviewer a courteous email appreciating him or her for taking time out of their day to talk to you. This shows good professionalism, and it conveys a sincere interest in the internship position.
5. Congratulations, you have an internship! (How to Prepare?!)
If you’ve received an offer for an internship, Congratulations! Before settling into the excitement, there’s still a little bit more work to do before your first day.
Prior to your first day arrival, resolve any outstanding discrepancies. For instance, make sure to have a discussion with your employer with regards to your weekly schedule or lunch break. Solving this issue will help you to better plan your day. Also, inquire into the distinct tasks you will be expected to complete day-to-day and the expectations on deliverables. If you have a fundamental understanding of what is required of you on the job, you can prepare prior to arriving on the first day, this will not only make you look capable of doing the tasks efficiently, but it will also impress your employer.
I hope you find my advice to be helpful – we always enjoy hearing feedback. Any thoughts or tips – comment below!
And of course… Good luck!