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It’s November 2016, and while winter is just around the corner, summer feels so far away. But if you’re a college student thinking you have all the time in the world to apply for a summer 2017 internship, you’re completely mistaken.
The truth of the matter is that it’s never too early to start thinking about your career, and an internship is one of the most critical steps in that journey. Right now, the most prestigious and competitive internship programs are already beginning their search for summer interns. In some cases, the application process began in October and is ending December… or January at the latest.
If you want an idea of how quickly these programs come and go, I can tell you that while researching internships for this particular blog post, I ran across an opportunity at Fitbit that was open and then closed before I finished writing. In the blink of an eye, the perfect opportunity can become your biggest regret, so it’s time to get as excited about your career as you are about Thanksgiving dinner.
Think of Your Options: There is no reason to panic. Take a deep breath and think about your future. If you have an idea of what type of industry you want to work in, chances are you have a short list of companies you would like to work for, which allows you to already begin the process of narrowing down your search. This step takes minimal work, yet it allows you to make difficult choices to help alleviate some of the stress you’re experiencing, as anyone would embarking on a job search.
Do the Research: The most important thing you can do right now is to start researching internship programs to see which is right for you. Vault offers profiles on hundreds of internship programs. For example, here is a list of some of the most clicked internship programs offered by the hottest companies around the world:
Match the Requirements to Your Skills: While researching internships, take a look at the requirements necessary to apply for the programs. This will help you narrow your search even further as you discover which programs best match your educational background, knowledge, and skills.
Get Your Résumé Ready: Once you know which programs you would like to apply for, start taking the necessary steps to complete the application process. Get your résumé together, making sure it is geared toward the internship requirements. If a portfolio is necessary as part of the application, make sure you take the time to include some of your best work. You only have seconds to impress, so even if you find yourself behind the 8-ball, there is never a reason to rush through the application process.
Write a Winning Cover Letter: If you want the job, you have to sell yourself in order to even be considered and earn a shot at a job interview. A strong cover letter can help. This is an opportunity to explain why you are the best fit for the internship. Don’t think your résumé speaks for itself. Your résumé can get you noticed, but most jobs require excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, so that cover letter is an important requirement. Think about why you should be hired, what you bring to the table, and what separates you from the rest of the competition; then put it into clear and concise language.
Have Backup Plans: Never just apply to one internship and hope for the best. Make sure you apply for several programs and keep searching for new opportunities as they become available. You are competing against thousands of other people, so the odds of getting your first choice are slim. Don’t lose out because you had your heart set on one career and didn’t even consider that you might not be the first-choice pick of your first-choice program.
Get Help: This blog is filled with highlights on what you should do. An elaboration of each bolded item would require a lot of additional reading. Where do you need help the most? Check out Vault’s Internship portal for links to internship profiles, internship reviews, and advice on writing a résumé and/or cover letter and on preparing for the all-important job interview. The task ahead seems daunting, but you never have to go at it alone.
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