How to Get an Internship
Real world experience.
A look inside your dream industry.
These are just some of the great benefits of an internship. For both high school and college students, working as an intern can jump-start your career. Or at the very least, help you get closer to what you want to do. Here are some tips for how to get your foot in the door.
Write down your career interests and qualifications
Start with what interests you and what comes naturally to you. Do you enjoy writing, speaking with people, organizing, or solving problems? Make a list for yourself.
If you’re a college student, it’s a good idea to research the career fields and job roles related to your major. If you’re in high school, look for jobs related to the majors you’re interested in.
Then make a list of your general qualifications. Do you have previous work experience? Are you involved in clubs or extracurricular activities? What soft skills are you exceptionally good at? What technologies or programs do you know? Do you speak more than one language?
Knowing these things helps you understand what you can bring to an internship. And it helps you search for intern roles that suit your strengths.
Organize your internship search
It’s important to know where to look and what resources are available to you. Common places to search include:
- Job sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Internships.com, and LinkedIn
- A company’s career page
- Your college or school’s career center
Timing might also be a factor. Some companies have summer internship programs with special application windows. So research in advance and keep note of key dates during your search.
Prepare your application
Nearly every company will ask for a resume, so make sure yours is recent. Don’t have any work experience? That’s OK! Include your education, skills, hobbies, volunteer experience, and teams or clubs you’re a part of.
Some companies will also ask for a cover letter. While we recommend that each cover letter is unique for each company, there are some sections that you can repurpose, such as your description of who you were and your skills. (See, that list from above is coming in handy!)
Let’s not forget about references. This is a list of 3–5 people that you trust to give you a glowing recommendation. Think of asking old bosses, coworkers, teachers, professors, or professional mentors. Check with them first to be sure they’re willing to serve as a reference.
In some cases, employers might ask for work samples. This is usually the case in the fields of writing, journalism, design, and web development, to name a few.
Review your social media presence
When you’re applying for an internship, some hiring managers or recruiters might look you up. If there’s content you don’t want seen, consider turning your accounts to private or deleting things that you wouldn’t want employers to see.
Remember to use social media to your advantage. LinkedIn is specifically designed for the professional environment. So keep your profile current there, too. Fun tip: Your phone’s portrait mode and an uncluttered background can help you take a professional-looking headshot.
Learn best practices for interviewing and following up
Interviewing is an important skill. Here’s some advice:
- Research the company and the staff members who will interview you. The more you know, the more prepared you’ll feel.
- Look up some common interview questions and practice your answers. You’ll likely be asked, “Can you tell me a little about yourself?”
- Write down questions in advance. Expect your interviewer to ask if you have any questions for them. It makes a great impression when you’re curious.
- If possible, find someone to practice with.
- After the interview, remember to send a thank-you email and reiterate your interest in the internship. It’s a good idea to mention something you discussed. You can also use your thank-you email to address any topics you wanted to clarify or revisit.
Make the most of the internship experience
Once you land the internship, the real work begins. Take advantage of your time as an intern:
- Create goals and share them with your manager so you can plan how to achieve them.
- Be proactive and keep busy. If your manager has no work for you, then offer to help another team. You’re there to learn and you’ll learn by doing.
- Carry yourself with a helpful and enthusiastic attitude. Bring your best self to the job.
- Talk to as many people as possible. This is your time to make connections, learn about different roles, and ask questions. Plus, people love giving advice to interns over a coffee break!
- Ask your manager or HR about opportunities within the company. Maybe this could land you an extended internship, an internship for the next summer, or even a full-time job.
For more college planning resources, visit bigfuture.org.