Gain experience with an internship.
The right timing is very important when looking for an internship. — Getty Images/kate_sept2004

If you’re a college student or recent graduate, an internship is a great way to gain experience. Here are six ways you can land an internship at the company of your choice.

Start planning early

Many college students miss out on an internship because they simply wait too long. So, if you’re hoping to get an internship, the best thing you can do is start preparing early.

Regardless of what else you have going on in your life, spend some time every day looking for potential internships. Preparing early ensures that you have time to go on interviews and find the right opportunity.

Get your materials ready

If you were applying for a new job, you’d spend some time making sure that your resume is up to date and appears professional. You should put this same type of effort into looking for an internship.

Look over your resume and see if there are any opportunities for you to improve it. You should also have a cover letter and list of references to go along with it. You’ll likely need to tweak these materials slightly for each internship you apply for.

And if you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, take some time to set that up. According to one survey, over 70% of employers will check out a job candidate’s social media profiles before hiring them.

[Read more: Best Resume Formatting Tips for Recent College Graduates]

Know where to look

Now that you’re ready to start applying for internships, the question is: Where do you find these opportunities? After all, it can be hard to know where to look.

If you’re still in college, you should take advantage of your school’s career planning center. This is one of the best resources at your disposal. A career counselor can help you find internship opportunities and may even help you begin the application process.

It’s a good idea to ask your friends and family if they know of any internship opportunities you may be a good fit for. Make sure to be specific about the types of opportunities you’re interested in.

You can also try out local career fairs and networking events. Of course, many in-person events are limited right now, but there may be virtual opportunities you can take advantage of. And you can always check out the job listings on sites like Indeed or Glassdoor.

A career counselor can help you find internship opportunities and may even help you begin the application process.

Reach out directly to these companies

Once you have a list of companies that you think may be a good fit, it’s time to reach out to them directly. This can be nerve-wracking at first, but it’s the best way to get on a potential employer’s radar.

Once you find a contact, you can email that individual asking about internship opportunities. However, it’s important to make your case for why they should take a chance on you. Let them know what you admire about their company and how you think you can help.

You can find an email template to help you get started, but make sure you modify it to fit the company you’re contacting. People can tell when you’re just using a generic template and it could turn potential employers off.

Prepare for interviews

At this point, you should start getting invited to a few different interviews. In all likelihood, these interviews will be conducted over the phone or on Zoom.

If you’ll be attending a video meeting, make sure you dress the part and look professional. Don’t interrupt and make sure to maintain eye contact with the person who’s interviewing you.

Be sure to answer all of their questions as succinctly as possible. And a good way to stand out during all of your interviews is to have a few questions prepared to ask your interviewer. Come up with at least two questions you can ask ahead of time.

Follow up on all opportunities

Finally, it’s important to follow up on all of your internship opportunities. If you haven’t heard anything about two weeks after your interview, follow up with that individual. Mention your name, your application and thank them for the opportunity.

And most importantly, don’t give up. You may get rejected a few times before finding the internship opportunity that’s right for you. It’s important to stay persistent and recognize that even rejections are learning opportunities.

[Read more: 7 Steps to Creating an Internship Program]

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