5 Tips To Scoring Your Dream Internship

by Chelsea Hirsch

Back-to-school season is still in the rearview mirror, it seems, but in actuality, it's time to start thinking ahead. But I'm not talking your plans for going home for the semester, or figuring out where you're heading for Spring Break — I'm talking about updating your résumé and figuring out how to get an internship. And you should know by now that it's not as easy as just walking into your dream office and saying, "Hey, when do we get started?"

No matter the semester, internships help you figure out what you really want to do in a less-stressful way — and they help you gain a taste of the real world with connections that may help you in the future. A National Association of Colleges and Employers study found that 56.5 percent of students in the Class of 2015 who had an internship received at least one job offer after college, and only 36.5 percent of their non-internship holding counterparts could say the same.

In The Coffee Run And Other Internship Need-To-Knows, Sydney Fulkerson, a self-proclaimed internship expert, gives the internship advice she wishes someone told her. She was inspired to share her experiences after her friends kept asking her for tips and tricks.

Here are five ways you can snag your dream internship, based from The Coffee Run and Fulkerson’s first-hand stories:

Start Planning For The Summer Now

It’s never too early to start planning ahead. Fulkerson recommends mapping out a plan 10 months ahead of time to give yourself room to brainstorm where you see yourself, fix your résumé, and write company-specific cover letters. However, it’s important to realize that prospective employers may not also be thinking 10 months in advance, and are probably focused on more immediate hires. Regardless, staying ahead of the game will save you aggravation later on.

Do Your Research

Before you send out cover letters to every company known to man, Fulkerson suggests compiling a list of what you want to do and what companies you could see yourself working for. Then list the contact information for those companies, and make sure you’ll be reaching out to the right person. It’ll be pretty embarrassing to reach out to someone in the wrong department — and the CEO of a big company will probably hit “delete” if she gets your résumé.

Use Your Network

“It’s a small world after all” has never been more true. Once you can picture yourself in a certain role, reach out to everyone you know that can help you. Someone in your family may have a job that's similar in type or industry, and can put you in touch with his or her boss. Even if you don’t secure an internship, you’ve begun to foster a relationship that can help you later on. People already working in the industry may also be able to refer you to job-searching networks and sites. And they may seem like they're for old people, but don't write off LinkedIn or your alumni network.

Always Follow Up

Find an awesome position, write an amazing cover letter, and didn’t hear back? Things may get lost in cyberspace. It’s OK to reach out again after some time has passed, as long as it isn’t frequent (and the job posting didn’t specifically say not to). Send a friendly reminder of who you are, and that you’re still interested in the position. You could receive a “Sorry, we’re not interested email,” but you could also nail an interview for your efforts.

If You’re Unsure About Something, Ask

Sometimes you’ll think a position is your dream internship, but it’s not. After you get an offer, it’s OK to ask if an internship is paid or unpaid, what the dress code is, how many days a week it is, etc. You can only be the best intern you can be if you understand what’s expected of you.

Images: Juhan Sonin/flickr; Giphy (5)