So, you are applying for your first internship. You have no past intern experience and have not yet worked in your field. Another student in your class has already had two internships and is applying for the same internship as you. Sounds nerve-wracking, right? It doesn’t need to be! My golden rule for first-time interns in college: Never underestimate the power of your club/organization involvement.
Here are my tips for using your clubs/organizations to land your first internship:
Plan professional events for your club/organization:
Whether you have a speaker come or you host a networking event at school, many professionals always enjoy coming to universities to speak with students. This is the perfect time for you to network with them and get advice. If the opportunity arises, you might even be able to give them your resume or business card. During these events, you have the opportunity to schmooze and ask the professionals questions one-on-one.
Choose clubs/organizations wisely on your resume:
Your resume is only a page long; therefore, only focus on the clubs and organizations that relate to the internship you are applying for. Many students change their resume around for different types of positions. For example, one resume might focus more on writing experience, while another might focus more on design experience. As many students have been told before, a resume is all about quality over quantity. Listing 10 different clubs on a resume is pointless. Also, there is a good chance that you could be asked about a club during your interview and you want it to be one that you are highly involved with so you don’t embarrass yourself during the interview. If you fake it, an interviewer will see through you.
Show that you are well-rounded:
On the other hand, use your interview to talk about your other interests. Interviewers know that you are avid about your major, but what else can you offer them? What makes you stand out? Enhance your personality and image by mentioning other activities you are passionate about in an interview. This is one way to stand out from everyone else with the same field of study as you.
Use clubs/organizations as a conversation starter in interviews:
Talk about your clubs in interviews when opportunities arise. The main reason that one of my brothers in Alpha Kappa Psi got his internship was that he brought it up during his interview. It just so happened that the person interviewing him was also a member of the same fraternity while he was in college. That was the biggest selling point for the person interviewing my brother because he was aware of our fraternity members’ reputation and work ethic.
Market your skills:
A student looking for his or her first internship might have designed an organization’s entire website from scratch, while another student is an intern at a design agency whose main task is to get everyone’s coffee daily orders. Who has more experience, the first student with no internship or the student who spends more time at Starbucks than at his or her actual internship? While this might seem like an exaggeration, don’t be fooled. There are plenty of internships like this out there. Make sure you are selling yourself and promoting what you are capable of.
Show that you can be both a leader and team player:
There are many great leaders, but not all of them are able to work in a group. You will have to work with other people in almost any job you have, no matter what field you plan to go into after school. Talk about your leadership skills from positions you have held in your clubs or specific times when you stepped up to accomplish something. If given the opportunity, talk about a specific time you worked with others to achieve a goal instead of simply saying, “I work well with others” in an interview. Many interviewers will ask about your strengths and weaknesses. If possible, discuss when you worked with your club and everyone used their personal strengths to obtain an objective.
Think of the bigger picture:
Really sit back and think about how your club involvement has helped prepare you for the professional world. You should consider how club tasks such as fundraising, event planning, community service, or elections have prepared you for the position. At the end of the day, these types of responsibilities don’t go away once you enter the workforce. When asked about what you can bring to the table, you will impress your interviewer if you can relate what you have already done to responsibilities of the position. Also, show this on your resume. When you describe each organization and your involvement, try to write down bullet points that parallel the internship/job, but don’t lie! Not everything will relate, no matter how much you think outside the box.
Stay in close contact with students from your clubs/organizations after they graduate:
Alumni are willing to help students out, especially if they know them on a personal level. Don’t be afraid to shoot former members of your organization an email to see how they are doing and if their companies are looking for any interns. If they know your work ethic and skills, they will go out of their way to help you out, whether they help you get an internship where they work or if they share valuable advice with you. They might even have connections at other places that they could introduce you to.
Not only have studies shown that students who are involved around campus perform better in school, but they are also highly marketable to companies. Use your clubs/organizations to your advantage and never underestimate yourself! Any tips you think I forgot? Please leave a comment below!
Nick Schweers is a social media junkie and graphic designer who aspires to do public relations in NYC after he graduates in 2012. He is currently a junior Public Relations major at Hofstra University (Long Island, NY) with minors in Communication Design and Marketing. Nick currently interns at 360i in NYC. Learn more about him on his new website: nickschweers.com
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