How To Find and Land Your Dream Internship
Internships are a great way to gain experience and start out your career on the right foot! Rather than applying for an internship and then fitting yourself into the position, figure out who you are, what you want out of a career, and what lights you up. Then apply to internships that align with those things!
Find, Land, and Keep Your Dream Internship
Here are eight steps to finding, landing, and keeping your dream internship.
1. Self Reflection & Exploration
Before applying to internships, take some time to think about who you are. You want the foundation of this internship search to be comprised of the most important thing – YOU!
Here are some things to think about when taking stock of yourself:
- Your Passions – These are the things that energize you throughout the day vs. starting at the clock and counting the minutes. What are things that light you up and make you lose track of time?
- Your Gifts – These are the unique talents you possess rather than just the areas you’ve been previously trained on. What are things that come naturally to you?
- Your Values – These are principles that you hold dear and are important to you, like teamwork, authenticity, or adventure. What are the principles you want to be known for and stand by?
- Your Purpose – This is a succinct vision for the impact you want to make in your career at this time. Defining your purpose helps you to gut check if the job aligns with your broader vision. What is your vision for yourself? What impact do you want to make?
4. Determine Your Industry
Now that you have learned about yourself and laid a solid foundation of introspection, think about what you want out of a career and what industries are interesting and exciting to you.
Dream big, now is not the time to hold yourself back – we’re just exploring here. A great place to start would be thinking about what classes did you always look forward to?
3. Narrow It Down
Once you’ve determined what industry you’re interested in, you want to make a list of companies you’d like to apply for. Start with a big list, and taper it down from there. You can narrow it down by thinking about what companies align with your unique strengths and the things you’re passionate about. Focus on companies whose values align with yours so you’ll be a good fit culturally.
Do a quick gut check to ensure this role will help you reach your longer-term goals. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, do some research – what will the day to day look like, what’s the company culture like, etc.
This is also a great time to think about your non-negotiables. Do you care if it’s an unpaid internship? Are you willing to commute? These are important questions to ask yourself when deciding where to begin your career path!
4. The Tacticals and Practicals
This is the step that you want to make sure you all your pieces of collateral reflect who you are and what you want to say. Your resume, LinkedIn, elevator pitch, and any other personal branding piece should be cohesive, up to date, and something you’re proud of and want people to see. Looking for more tips and tricks? Feel free to download this guide!
5. Apply, Apply, Apply!
Now that you’ve decided where you’d like to get an internship and have the tacticals and practicals you’re proud of, you get to apply. The application process can be overwhelming and daunting, you’re not alone in thinking that!
But you want to give the applications the time and effort they deserve. Stay organized in your applications and make sure that you don’t miss deadlines or confuse your contacts. Here is a great resource to learn how to get that interview!
6a. Interview Prep
You have applied and now the interview process begins. Interviewing can be intimidating, but preparation can really help you out here. Things to research prior to any interview are
- The company – what are their values, have they been in the news, are they working on any big projects or initiatives
- The culture – check out their social media, see what people are saying on Glassdoor, browse the linkedin profiles of their employees
- The people – who are the key people in leadership, who will you be working with, who else should you know
- The process – what is the interview experience like, what are commonly asked questions, what is the average timeframe to hear back from them
Interviews are pretty nerve wracking and it’s easy to ramble on and on. When asked an open-ended question, use the Rule of 3’s tool where you first speak to the most important thing, then the other two things can be supportive – this keeps you structured and thorough but concise.
Another great tool when you’re asked a behavioral (tell me about a time…) question is the STAR Method:
S – Describe the event or situation.
T – Explain the task you had to complete.
A – Describe the specific actions you took to complete the task.
R – Describe the results of your efforts.
Nervous about how to break down those “about me” questions, check out this resource.
7. Day One Success
You’ve landed your dream internship – congratulations! But the hard work doesn’t stop here. You want to set yourself up for success so that one day this internship can turn into a full-time position if you want to stay with the company. Ways to do this are:
- Finding a mentor who has been right where you are and can share advice.
- Schedule a one on one with your boss to discuss responsibilities, expectations, communication style.
- Learn quickly and stay up to date on industry news.
- Internal networking is important and doesn’t just stop once you are on the job. This is a great way to advance, so aim for a coffee date a week, or join a committee within your company.
Once you’ve been in your internship for a while, you want to re-evaluate and determine if this is the path you want to continue to be on:
- How has your experience been?
- Has it been great and meaningful and you want to stay?
- Has it been okay, and you like the work but maybe this company doesn’t align?
- Or has it been terrible and this path is totally not for you and you need to go into a totally different industry?
All of these options are totally okay! You are figuring out what you want and need, and are one step closer to figuring out right where you should be!
Internships are a great way to gain experience and start understanding yourself as a young professional. Use this as a learning opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you want. Don’t be afraid to go after the internship of your dreams – you’ve got this!