Peer advice: tips to land an internship

This quarter, I start my third internship since becoming a UW student in Autumn 2014. I found all of these internships through UW. The first was at the Internship Fair my freshman year; the second, through HuskyJobs; and the third, via the Carlson Center. This university has a wealth of resources for students if they know where to look. That said, I have applied to a lot of other internships that I found on other websites. Many employers want candidates who are interested enough in their specific company to seek positions out on their website. For example, many government internships are only advertised on websites like governmentjobs.com.

One of the main actions I encourage you to do when applying to internships online is to tailor your cover letter and resume to each position. It can sometimes feel like a lot of work, but making sure your cover letter and resume reference specific words used in an internship posting shows that you read the description thoroughly and care enough about the position and company to create an application package specifically for them. Referencing specific aspects of the company in your cover letter will also strengthen your application. Companies want to see that you care about them specifically and aren’t indiscriminately applying to positions with the hope that someone will think you’re qualified enough to interview. Looking up this information also has the benefit of giving you some preliminary research to build upon should you be invited to interview with the employer.

Other helpful steps to take when looking for an internship is to create and maintain a LinkedIn profile. Many recruiters seek out college students for internships on LinkedIn, so you might be missing opportunities by not having a profile. LinkedIn can also be a really helpful way to stay in contact with people you know at various companies. Even if your first-degree connections do not know of any open positions at their company, they may be connected to other people who do. If they do, you can ask them to introduce you. This can lead to an informational interview, more insight into the application process at a specific company or in a certain industry, and potentially even an internship interview. Just remember to be polite to both the person who is connecting you and the person to whom they are connecting you with. Thank everyone who helps you for their time and assistance, even if their help didn’t directly lead to an internship. Networking can have long-term benefits you can’t immediately recognize, and being grateful for people’s help makes them more inclined to help you in the future and is also just a nice way to treat people.

I believe any college student can, with enough effort and patience, be hired as an intern. Still, it is important to remember rejection is totally normal. Some of my friends think I have my life together because I have held three internships and interviewed for others, but they don’t realize how many more rejection e-mails I’ve received, or whether my application is acknowledged at all. Even if you tailor your resume and cover letter, network with people at the company, and keep your social media updated and appropriate, sometimes employers still won’t feel like you’re the best fit for their company — and that’s okay. The internship search process is about finding organizations with whom you have a mutually beneficial relationship, and no one is a good fit for every employer. Research and persistence will eventually lead you to an internship.

3rd year student in Community, Environment, & Planning
Outreach and Intake Intern with Treehouse

By Caroline Engle
Caroline Engle Outreach and Intake Intern