As much as business processes change and adapt to present-day demands, the underpinnings of these processes stay the same; and the competitive internship landscape is no exception. While technology continues to democratize the hiring process – where web search queries yield several internship programs and contacting key decision makers is faster and easier – the fundamental practices for securing that dream internship has not changed over the years.
Internship opportunities are abound like never before. From taking the initiative to seek an internship at a company that previously never offered one, attending a career fair, or going to an on-campus recruiting event, there are as many disparate ways of securing this often-life-changing experience as there are as many unique companies that will provide it. Even just a few years back, how a college student searched for and secured an internship was quite different from the high-tech, gizmo-and-gadget-laden, social-media-savvy methods of today.
Elbow Rubbing vs. Googling
Trying to find companies that offered internships was an arduous process years ago. Garnering that coveted information that you knew could help make your life extraordinary felt like you had to be a member of the Dead Poet’s Society. Whether at the college, at the local watering hole, or at your Dad’s firm’s Christmas party at the country club, rubbing elbows with internship decision-makers seemed like a full-time job. You had to be in the right place at the right time; and connections meant everything. The patches on your jacket’s elbows weren’t there for style as much as they were for covering the worn material from having to rub elbows so much. Fortunately, today – from an access to information perspective – the landscape is wonderfully even. Anyone from anywhere in the world can now access internship opportunities and specific corporate contact information by simply Googling key words. Unfortunately, this paradigm shift in the hiring process has led to a large influx of applications and causes HR departments to heavily rely upon internal referrals – which makes it extremely difficult for a well deserving workforce newcomer to land the opportunity.
Snail Mailing vs. E-Mailing
Years ago, you had to have a job specific packet prepared for that internship and then take it to your local post office with hopes it was addressed to the right person at the company. Today, once you’ve found a great internship opportunity you’re interested in exploring further, you can simply e-mail the company an initial letter of inquiry or upload all the required documents they’ve listed on their website. While both ways of contacting the company still require you wait for a response (if they do respond to external requests with formal communiqué), that rejection or acceptance notice often comes faster via an email than a formal mailed letter.
Vis-à-vis vs. Vis-à-Skype
Years ago, your scheduled interview meant you had to be physically at the corporate location or at a hotel’s conference room to meet for the informational interview. The internship landscape of today easily enables you to have a virtual face-to-face interview with a corporate representative from the comfort of your home. Today you no longer have to plan a road trip across the country or hope to be flown in for the initial interview; with the convenience of Skype (or Apple’s FaceTime, or Google Hangout) you can now sport a button-down shirt and pajama bottoms – just don’t let your pajamas influence your ability to answer the interviewer’s questions. Now, more than ever, you need to be sharp and prove you’re more well suited for the job; a better fit than the hundreds (or even thousands) who apply to the internship opportunity.
Yes. It’s true. How you learn about internships, how you contact companies, and how you logistically have a scheduled interview may be different today than years ago, some things – the most important things – have not changed regarding how you secure that highly-sought-after internship.
Do your homework
Even if simply skimming your course notes before an exam was enough to score a decent grade, that won’t cut it as preparation for your internship interview. You must spend tons of time perusing (and retaining) information about the company to which you have applied. During your interview you will inevitably, undoubtedly be asked the $64,000 question: “How much do you know about this company?” While it may be worded different ways: “Why do you want to secure an internship with this company?” “Why do you think you are a good fit for this company?” or “What do you like best about our products and services?” The goal of the interviewer is the same. The professional needs to find out if you are simply seeking an internship anywhere, or if you are, indeed, the ideal candidate for a position with that company. Doing your research rigorously and comprehensively means not only finding out about the company’s products and services, but also learning about the company’s history, corporate culture, its executive team, what customers rant and rave about the company, and its competitors.
I’m not just the ideal candidate, I’m a customer
Whether you’re seeking an internship in the corporate office of Allens Boots in Austin, Texas or the global headquarters of Uber in San Francisco, California, you must not only know the product or service, but also be a customer. If you’ve never been near a horse and have no idea that Allens Boots is a leading retail store stocked with a sundry collection of boots fit for any occasion, that might not be the internship for you. No potential employer – whether for a full-time job or an internship – wants to feel like they are simply one of a hundred companies to which you have applied. Even if they are, you must act as if (and be prepared as if) they offer a product or service that you believe in, that you know a lot about, and that you use. As a result, you want to secure an internship with them because you want to contribute to the company’s continued success. You want to share with them what you love about their boots, and what you found through your own experience that could be improved.
See the forest
It’s not only important that you are able to see the big picture regarding an internship program and the host corporation, but also where you stand amidst that experience. As you research a company, purposefully identify how you fit with them. Align what you can offer with what they offer; recognize what you want with what they want; pinpoint in what aspect of the company you could best contribute.
Zeal beats GPA
Passion, fervor, and authentic enthusiasm for something comes naturally. If you’re excited about a company, what they stand for, what they create, and how they make a difference in the world, that spark will hold up and shine through above and beyond anyone who graduates top of the class. Companies want to bring interns aboard who think about, care about, and want to improve their company not just while they’re sitting across from the interviewer, but on their days off, and in conversations with friends.
A Short Takeaway
Simply put. You can apply to an internship on your own, and without experience navigating the internship landscape, and a guide like America’s Future Workforce, you can easily be passed over. Your dream internship could slip out of your hands because you weren’t identified as a perfect addition to an internship team – even if you were.
We, at America’s Future Workforce, have spent years creating relationships with internship hosts to make sure our fellows don’t only have guaranteed positions within companies, but have guaranteed positions that fit to fellows’ needs.