Internships are an amazing opportunity for students
Landing an internship can be exciting, eye-opening, educational and…even a little daunting. The process of meeting and impressing real-world employers while fighting for limited slots against qualified and competing students can obviously be intimidating the first time around.
So how does one overcome those feelings in order to get the position and prepare for their future? By taking the knowledge they’ve gained in their coursework along with a strong work ethic, great attitude and finally, displaying a very intentional desire to serve in order to be an asset to the organization. Interns who display these traits and show their commitment to carrying out an organization’s overall mission will no doubt prove to be an invaluable asset and find success in their first internship role. Following are three practical steps that will ensure you are fully prepared to find, secure and succeed in your first internship.
1. Students must understand their most valuable assets and brand them
Interns that weave in their core strengths and values showcase purpose, prowess and expertise right off the bat. Asking yourself questions like what motivates you, differentiates you from the pack, and why you are the best choice for the role will be critical in creating your “mission statement”. A mission statement is important because they serve as a backdrop for the cover letter, resume, elevator pitch and interview. They should incorporate values, define goals and point to your applicable skillsets. It may sound something like, “I am a creative problem solver who works with teams to promote positive communication and increased workflow efficiencies within organizations.” Employers expect to hear mission statements because it clearly positions candidates and will help determine who can best serve the desired needs of the organization.
But don’t stop there. Instead, further refine your mission statement into a polished, catchy and memorable personal slogan that will catch the attention of decisionmakers. This process is called branding; it takes an authentic, deeply rooted mission statement and elevates it into a sentence that is both memorable and marketable.
The idea of personal branding used to just be a recommendation but has quickly become mandatory in the internship preparatory process. Students must have an established and highly reputable brand and online presence that will leave a lasting yet positive impression.
Students navigating the process of creating their own personal brand should turn to experiential learning programs they’ve participated in college or otherwise to showcase unique skills sets they’ve acquired. Westcliff University’s Innovation Hub is a great example. Students engaged in programs like this tend to outshine competition by referencing past work as a professional consultant or project manager that has solved real world problems for companies.
2. Find the delicate balance between confidence and humility.
Once students have established a brand they are proud of, they may be brimming with confidence for the hard work they put into the development process. That said, be cautious of being overly assured and instead channel that energy towards your commitment to service. The Gen Z population has high career fulfillment expectations that come laden with grand requirements. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but tempering demands with humility will go a long way to please employers. Students will better their chances of finding a position if the main focus stays around service to the organization’s goals and egos are checked at the door.
At Westcliff, we routinely ask employers how to better prepare our students as prospective candidates to not only serve the organization but also for the current challenges of the workplace. The resounding response echoed in every industry is simply a willingness to start at any level and do whatever work it takes to learn company operations and culture.
Ergo, humility must be embraced as students get ready to take on an internship or even their first real world job. Career development professionals even integrate this into the strategic career planning process for students regularly. More students need to take advantage of the treasure trove of resources available in college career services departments.
In an elevator pitch, being of service and showing humility is as simple as this:
“Hi, my name is John Doe. With an MSCS from Westcliff University, I’ve spent the last eight years learning and growing my skillsets in IT support, where I’ve developed and optimized strategic projects for top clients while managing 12 technicians as a team lead. I was recognized with the “Outstanding IT Mentor of the Year” award at my company due to my ability to deliver quick results and uphold an exceptional work ethic. Since your company is at the forefront of innovation, I am prepared to start in whatever capacity would best suit the organization’s needs to prove my expertise. Would you be willing to put me in contact with the person in charge of recruiting?”
Voila! The perfect mix of confidence and humility with a clear desire to serve.
3. Showcase technical skills.
Brand gleaming and mindset calibrated, students must then be ready to display their technical skills and savviness with a polished resume that has been refined and tailored by researching the organization of choice to show proper alignment in core values. This is yet another opportunity to lean into available college career services department resources that will help the student be fully and properly prepared.
A resume should succinctly encapsulate the candidates experience, list related awards or recognitions and relevant education. Students should always include quantifiable accomplishments rather than buzzwords to showcase understanding and success as it relates to the desired role. And don’t forget to diligently check for proper grammar, spelling and formatting. The devil is in the details and one misspelled word, regardless of how qualified a candidate may be, could completely derail the chances of landing a position.
Research is also a technical talent that must be employed when applying for a position. Be fully prepped with knowledge around the organization’s mission, values, goals and everything else made visible via the company website, social media and networking.
Students must also practice interviewing with trusted individuals and resident experts. Doing so reiteratively is critical as there is no such thing as too much practice, albeit out loud and with feedback in tow. Knowing the narrative and having a variety of specific examples will legitimize and boost a candidate’s chances of being chosen for the role.
A student that follows these guidelines as they prepare for the internship hunt will be ahead of the curve and have great odds of getting the gig and also securing a spot at an organization you are truly interested in. By developing a strong personal brand; exuding confidence and humility in all steps of the preparatory process; and tailoring the resume and interview to the organization of choice through strategic research and planning, a student will be fully prepped and ahead of the curve when it comes to landing an internship.