Searching for an internship can feel like a daunting process. However, Linda Peacock-Landrum, director of career services at UW-Green Bay, says many resources are available to students to help make the most of opportunities.
Here are eight tips for UW System students to put themselves in the best position to gain that valuable work experience:
1. Start looking early. Peacock-Landrum said if students wait until spring semester to look for a summer internship, they are likely too late for most of their opportunities. Many employers will start recruiting summer interns during the fall semester prior to the start date.
“A lot of organizations will start hiring for their summer interns for next year when their current interns walk out the door,” she said.
2. See what services are on campus. Peacock-Landrum urged students to reach out to their campus’ career services office as soon as possible to share their goals and get help on how to reach them. She also suggested students talk with their advisors, or faculty members in their major field, to find any connections to local employers or alumni that can benefit them.
3. Attend job fairs. Peacock-Landrum said job fairs can be a valuable way for students to make a personal contact with a company they’re interested in and ask questions. Even if you’re not yet eligible to apply for an internship, Peacock-Landrum said, establishing an early connection shows you’re interested in the company and can position you better when you do apply.
4. Use digital resources. Peacock-Landrum said digital platforms such as LinkedIn and Handshake are helpful ways to establish connections with employers, especially if you can connect with alumni from your school who now work there. Both can also help you stay informed of opportunities and job postings.
5. Don’t just use sample cover letters as your own. Peacock-Landrum said while it may be tempting for students to google sample cover letters or resumes to alter slightly for their own skills, it can ruin their chances with employers.
“I’ve even had some of my employer partners say, ‘If I see any cover letter that starts with this sentence or this sentence, I immediately discard it because it always comes up number one in a Google search,” she said.
6. Check for spelling, grammar and word use errors. Peacock-Landrum advises students to not just use spell check in a document, but also to read their written work out loud to ensure it sounds right. You may be using the wrong word for what you mean, like writing “defiantly” instead of “definitely.” She also suggests having someone else read over your work, to best ensure accuracy and meaning.
7. Follow good etiquette. Peacock-Landrum reminded students to act professionally and respectfully when contacting employers. This includes asking questions, showing engagement and following up any interviews with personalized thank-you notes. If you’re no longer interested in an opportunity, decline it respectfully.
8. Apply for multiple opportunities. Peacock-Landrum said some students get tunnel vision and focus all of their attention on just one opportunity, which can cause them to skip other good job postings. She advised students to follow up on any opportunities that sound interesting, so that they don’t limit themselves to one thing that might not work out.
For more tips from Peacock-Landrum watch WiSys’ “Secure Your STEM Internship” event on YouTube, or dive deeper into the specifics of internships in the following areas: