A young woman applying for a job, where she's being interviewed by two business professionals.

Land Your Dream Internship with These 5 Tips

A top career coach shares his advice on how to get hired for the perfect internship.

Snagging your first internship can seem daunting. Between resumes, networking and interviews, there’s a lot to think about and prepare for. We’ve got you covered. Alex Toomey, career coach and director of career management at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, shares some helpful tips and tricks to get you headed in the right direction.

1. Find Your Focus
Not everyone knows what they want to do right away – and that’s okay. While it might be tempting to jump in feet first and start applying for every exciting internship you find, Toomey recommends taking time to home in on exactly what you want to do first. “Before you can build a network or look for job postings, you need to understand what your focus is,” he says. “With employers that we work with, the biggest problem is that students don’t know what they want to do.”

If you’re unsure about which profession or industry you’d like to pursue, taking a personality assessment can sometimes help you drill down on what you’re most interested in. The Myers-Briggs personality inventory or the Gallup StrengthsFinder, for example, can help students discover the areas in which they’re most skilled and find career paths worth exploring. “It would help first to figure out what you’re good at,” Toomey explains. “Then you can parlay what you’re good at into larger industries and practical areas.”

2. Build Your Network
With 85 percent of today’s jobs filled via networking, it’s more important than ever to start building a solid network, both online and offline. The idea of networking can seem intimidating, but according to Toomey, anyone is capable of doing it. “Networking does not have to be going to a mixer and meeting 50 different people,” he says. “It could be making one deep, meaningful relationship with someone.”

Finding connections on LinkedIn is a great start. Try searching companies that you’re interested in to find alumni from your college or high school, or other mutual connections. Setting up informational interviews is another way to put yourself out there. Not only will you make connections, but you also have the opportunity to ask professionals in your chosen career path how they got to where they are and what an actual day on the job looks like.

Plan on attending a local career or internship fair. Be sure to grab a few business cards from people you speak with, and connect on LinkedIn afterward to keep the conversation going.

3. Create a Standout Resume and LinkedIn Profile
Resumes are often used as a filtering tool for open positions, and turning in anything less than perfect is a big mistake. Be sure to tailor your resume to the open position, and always align your skills and achievements with those listed in the job post. Since hiring managers generally spend only 15 to 20 seconds looking at each resume that comes across their desk, it’s important to highlight the education and work qualifications the company is looking for. “If that’s not easily identifiable, your resume is going to get thrown into the trash bin,” Toomey says.

Did you know that 50 percent of hiring managers decide whether to move forward with a candidate’s application based on their LinkedIn profile? Make sure yours is polished and professional by uploading a photo, providing a headline and filling out the experience, education, skills and projects sections. Utilize the summary section to showcase your personality and tie it all together.

While they shouldn’t be identical, your LinkedIn profile can help complement your resume. “I’m a fan of putting your LinkedIn URL at the top of your resume,” Toomey says. That way, a hiring manager can see more than just a snapshot of your work history – they can also see multimedia projects and other examples of the relevant work you’ve done.

4. Use the Technology and Resources at Your Disposal
With myriad resources at your fingertips, sometimes all you have to do is pick up your smartphone to get great career advice. By downloading the LinkedIn Students app, you’ll gain access to articles and handpicked content that will help empower and prepare you for your internship or job search. The app also offers role recommendations and company suggestions based on your school, major and profile, as well as an alumni tool that lets you connect with fellow graduates of your school and see common career paths for your major.

“Ultimately, it’s a big job to know how to do all of this stuff,” Toomey says. “You’re not alone. There are people out there who can help you.” Toomey stresses the importance of checking out the career services programs already available at your school. Offering everything from leadership coaching and courses to mock interviews and networking events, these people know how to help you get where you want to go.

5. Brush up on Your Interview Skills
It’s never too early to practice your interview skills. Once you’ve gotten past the application process, it’s important to be on point when you finally get face to face with your potential employer. Work with a friend or family member to practice and verbalize your responses to common interview questions, or check out career services to get help from an outsider.

Toomey also recommends using the STAR approach to practice your potential responses. Utilizing the Situation, Task, Action and Results technique can take the fear out of answering behavioral questions and also add structure to your answers that will impress the hiring manager.

While practicing is important, you can’t expect to know the answer to every question you’ll be asked. “There are a lot of students who try to memorize answers to questions that they might get,” Toomey explains. “I think that’s the wrong way to go. Your time is better spent knowing the job, knowing the company and knowing yourself. If you can answer questions about those three things, you’ll be able to answer any question they give you.”

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