Ultimate Guide to Landing the Perfect Internship

Real Advice from 98 HR Professionals

You have the good grades and the teacher recommendations. But how do you actually land that dream internship? And once you get it, how do you turn it into a full-time job?

Good news: The people who interview and hire interns have come clean with insider tips that every college student should read.

Firms still hiring interns

Leaping into the “real world” – even if it’s only temporarily for an internship – might seem daunting.

But it’s clear that employers still see a lot of value in bringing on college students to learn the ropes and contribute to their companies. And even though the economy is still recovering, the opportunities appear to be vast for qualified students.

Proof: Nearly 80% of companies will be hiring interns this summer, according to an exclusive survey of 98 HR pros conducted by Progressive Business Publications.

How to land that stellar internship

Now, we know what you’re thinking: Landing an internship is easier said than done.

There’s no question competition for internships has increased in recent years.

Plus, finding, applying and interviewing for internships that wouldn’t start for months can seem a little less important than studying for next week’s test.

But taking a few, key steps while you’re still in classes can help secure an internship that might set you up for a successful post-college career.

Here’s the best advice HR professionals have for college students who are just starting to look for internships, courtesy of our exclusive survey:

  • Don’t wait until the end of the semester to start looking.
  • Write a letter of introduction that sets you apart from others.
  • Be persistent in your search.
  • Be proactive – research the companies you’re talking to.
  • Don’t be so specific in what you want to do. Be flexible – you’ll have to be in “the real world job.”
  • Learn to prepare a professional resume and dress professionally.
  • Know what you want to achieve in your internship.
  • Do something besides going to class. Get involved on campus and build some leadership experience. If every story you tell in an interview is a classroom-based story, you are missing a huge opportunity for what you can learn in college.
  • Connect with potential employers at job fairs and look online for local companies who hire those with your major.
  • Especially in this job market, students should be aware of what the Department of Labor says about unpaid internships. If you’re expected to do work that benefits a company in any way, you should be paid at least minimum wage. Don’t be taken advantage of!
  • Ask questions of the potential employer about assignments and which department you’ll be assigned to. And ask about the evaluation process of your work.
  • Network with people you know to see if there are internships at their companies.
  • Be sincere in your application and do what you say you will do. Show up for work and learn all you can.
  • If you put an objective on your resume, make it specialized to what you’re applying for. Cover letters explaining why you want to get an internship are very valuable.
  • Make good choices! We were very disappointed to have to eliminate an intern candidate for failing his drug screen.
  • Look for the culture that fits you.

How to make that internship count

Landing that stellar internship may seem like the end goal, and there’s no doubt it’s hard work.

But put in great work during your internship, and you just may end up with a job come graduation.

In fact, nearly 60% of 2012 college graduates who had a paid internship received at least one job offer.

That’s according to the 2012 Student Survey conducted by The National Association of Colleges and Employers.

But what should you do during your internship to ensure you get that offer?

HR pros were forthcoming with on-the-job tips for future professionals who are getting their glimpse of the “real world” via an internship.

  • Listen, watch and learn.
  • Treat the internship as if it were your “job” – an internship is a long-working interview.
  • Be on time and take your job assignments seriously.
  • Take advantage of the shared knowledge and business atmosphere and see if you feel [a potential job] could be right for you.
  • Draft proposal ideas of your own that relate to a potential employer’s mission or goals.
  • Come in with an attitude of wanting to learn and challenge your mentor to share with you as much as possible.
  • Be adept at catching on quickly.

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