Keys to Your Dream Internship: Academic Excellence, Clean Image, Networking and Persistence

One of the first major events I remember at college was a career fair. I’d only been in school a few weeks, but I was already looking for a summer internship. I didn’t know anything about my major. My resume was ugly and sparse. I was uncomfortable talking with recruiters. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t hear back from the companies I visited. However, by my senior year, I was interning at one of the most prestigious companies in my field. To get to the top, it took strong academic performance, a professional image, networking skills, and lots of dedication.


Own Your Academic Studies by Becoming Involved in Activities Related to Your Major

Academic performance is crucial for an internship. Most recruiters look for candidates with at least a 3.0 GPA, so keep up with coursework and seek help from professors and other students when needed. Don’t cram information for a test and forget it; take extra time to fully understand the concepts taught in your classes. However, academic performance is not limited to coursework. A friend of mine likes to say, “Don’t let your classes get in the way of your learning.” There are lots of opportunities to learn outside of classes by joining student organizations, helping professors with research, and working on personal projects. Take these opportunities. Do more than the minimum of what is required for your degree. Recruiters want to find passionate, motivated students who truly enjoy working in their field of study.


Dress For Success and Project Confidence – Even if You’re Not Feeling It

It is important to cultivate a professional image while seeking an internship. When meeting recruiters, make sure to groom and dress nicely. This may seem obvious, but I have seen dozens of unkempt students attending career fairs wearing casual clothes and dirty tennis shoes. Invest in professional clothes and keep them ironed. If cost is an issue, your university career center may offer free or reduced professional attire. Learn to carry yourself with confidence. Hold your head up, smile, stand up straight, and look people in the eye when speaking with them. Put effort into your image. People will notice.


Write a Spotless Resume and Keep It Updated

A resume is also an important piece of your image. Look at some online templates, find a good resume format, and keep it updated with current information. I update my resume once a month, and I have a few academic and professional contacts critique it regularly. Be prepared to share a copy of your resume at a moment’s notice. I keep a PDF of my resume stored online, ready to be emailed if I don’t have a paper copy on-hand.


Network like a Ninja to Form Industry Connections

Obtaining a great internship requires lots of networking. Almost all of the offers I receive come from companies where I networked and formed a connection. These connections can be made through career fairs, company information sessions, professors, and even classmates. Prior to the networking event, research the companies to which you are applying. Usually, this research generates more questions than it answers, giving you plenty to ask a recruiter during a conversation. Work to develop and practice networking skills required to make connections.


Practice Talking with Other Recruiters before Approaching Your Target Company

When I attend a career fair, I usually approach two or three “trial” companies first. I have little interest working for these companies, but speaking with their recruiters puts me at ease and gets me in the zone. After a few of these chats, I know I am ready to speak with my top choice companies. Do not be afraid to chat about your personal hobbies. At one career fair, I received an interview after a recruiter and I talked about our mutual interest in electric guitars. A warm smile, firm handshake, and pleasant conversation opens the door to countless opportunities.


Don’t Be Afraid of Rejection – Let It Empower You to Keep Pursuing Your Goal

The search for a dream internship takes time and dedication. My junior year, I made a promise to myself: “I will apply to at least one internship every day until I accept an offer.” I spent the next few weeks researching opportunities, attending career fairs, networking at company information sessions, and filling out online applications. It was exhausting. I received dozens of rejection letters. However, I stuck to my promise, and soon it paid off. I accepted a top-tier internship offer in October, giving me peace of mind the rest of the school year. Some of my less-dedicated classmates spent the month of April in a nail-biting frenzy as they begged recruiters for a summer job. Don’t wait until the last minute. Start your search early and reap the benefits.


Use Your Time Wisely to Create Other Opportunities

What if you don’t land a summer internship? Don’t worry, there are still plenty of opportunities out there. Assist a professor with research. Take summer classes. Volunteer in your community. Work a summer job in retail. Just make sure you do SOMETHING. A recruiter wants to see you are an active student who is constantly working and learning from every opportunity, no matter how big or small.


Put time and dedication into your academic performance, professional image, networking skills, and you will soon be on track to a fantastic internship.