The best piece of advice I can give you about the hunt for the perfect summer internship is to start thinking about the process as early as possible.
Many competitive internships at large or well-known companies will have early application deadlines. For example if interning at the White House is what you have in mind, your application is due January 23 (yikes!). Luckily, the deadline can usually be found on company websites so you'll have plenty of time to prepare.
Other smaller companies may be more laid back in their due dates, but you'll want to make sure you get your materials in promptly for a competitive edge.
The best part of my internship timeline is that it involves doing much of the work ahead of time. This way you save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety later on in the semester, when you are deeper into classes and homework while trying to manage the search for an internship at the same time.
Summer Internship Timeline
- Visit your school's Career Center and start scouring the many websites that feature internship listings like YouTern or Internships.com for internships that interest you.
- Don't forget that one of the best ways to find an internship is by utilizing your existing contacts, so talk to your professors or people you have worked with in the past to find out about new opportunities.
- If you have your eye on a particular internship or are aiming to land a dream gig, make sure you do some research and mark down the application deadline now so you don't forget. Also, start looking into what exactly the company requires in order to apply well in advance.
- If you have some spare time, run by the Career Center at your school and sign up for a mock interview session. Getting some practice time in now will help you feel confident enough to face any question you encounter in an interview later on.
- You will want to have several generic cover letters written targeted at each industry that you plan on applying for an internship in. For example, if you plan on applying at a magazine, but are also going to shoot for a broadcasting internship, you will want to differentiate between your cover letters. You will be able to personalize the letters more when you make your final selection of where to apply, but this gives you a head start.
- By now your resume should be looking sharp with updated information on any recent internships or work you have done. Run it by someone at your school's Career Center to make sure your resume is in top-notch shape and ready to go.
- If you don't already have several letters of recommendations on hand, start the process of acquiring them and set a deadline of the end of the month to have them by. A good strategy is to have at least three letters of recommendation from different sources: one academic, one professional, and one of your choice.
- Make sure that you have all written materials both in digital form and on nice quality paper with plenty of copies in case you are asked to submit material in the mail.
- Finalize the list of internships you will apply for.
- Aim to apply to a range of different companies. You will probably want to apply for at least five internships, however if you are looking at more competitive opportunities applying for more is usually better to be on the safe side.
- Start digging around for contact information. The main goal is to send your materials to an actual person, not a generic company email, so if their website doesn't list specifics call and ask.
- Submit your materials to your final list of companies.
- Track all of the companies that you actually apply to, since keeping good records will help keep you on top of things. Jot down information such as the contact information you sent your info to, when you sent it, and when you plan to follow up.
- If you haven't heard from a company that you sent information to, now's the time to call and politely ask if they received your material.
- If you haven't had any luck with landing an internship just yet, keep your eye out for other opportunities. Many smaller local companies can offer great experience and sometimes don't hire their interns until closer to summer.
The trick is simply to start early and to dedicate yourself to the search. Show the companies you want to intern for that you are driven and prepared by following these steps, and you will be well on your way to internship success.
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