The 2018 summer internship application season is upon us, and students everywhere are wondering how they can snag a coveted spot at the coolest companies in their industry.
But truth be told, even if you’re not looking for an internship at a big name, prestigious employer, the best way to learn how to land this kind of role is to speak to people who have done it themselves. LiveCareer interviewed four young women who have earned coveted internships in a variety of industries to see how they got their foot in the door.
Here, they’ve shared their experiences and advice on how to search for a desirable 2018 summer internship. They explain how to find the best fit and how to leverage your skills and experience to be the most appealing candidate for the job.
1. Target Your 2018 Summer Internships Wisely
Searching for an internship should be an organized process that starts with an examination of your interests and goals. Jumping in without thoughtful consideration likely won’t land you a 2018 summer internship role that suits you.
To get the most out of an internship – and to be a standout candidate – you must match your talents, experience, and career goals to the internships you choose to apply for.
“When I started searching for internships I knew I wanted one that had to do with producing video,” explains former Wired Video Fellow Nicole Duong. “I’ve always been into short-form video as a means of storytelling, and I knew that Wired had a really strong video journalism presence, especially on YouTube.”
But Nicole also knew that her suitability for interning at Wired ran even deeper than just her interest in video, and she leveraged it.
“I graduated with a double major in biology and art,” she said. “It was an unconventional combination but… Wired does a lot of science coverage. Because of my background, I have a real enthusiasm for science, so I was able to talk about it at length, which I think made me stand out from other applicants.”
For Fassa Sar, a current Sony Pictures intern who knew she wanted to work at a movie studio, several factors were up for consideration when she was deciding where to apply. She began by creating a list of the top 10 most prestigious entertainment companies and then narrowed it down to the studios that were conveniently located in Los Angeles.
“Since I am still a student, it was a big deal to me that my internship be located somewhere that allowed me to get to and from school without being late,” she said.
But Fassa didn’t stop there. She further pared down her list by looking at the prestige factor of each studio and the content that each was releasing to see if it matched her interests.
“With Sony, I thought that the movies they were releasing were great and that the content they were acquiring was terrific, so that became a place where I really wanted to work,” she said.
2. Awesome Digital Portfolios = Awesome 2018 Summer Internships
How are you planning to find your 2018 summer internship? What if your internship could find you?
While most people who seek internships go directly to the website of the companies they are targeting, or used LinkedIn and Indeed to search and apply for their internships, former G by Guess? Intern Cecilia Barcenas was actually recruited for hers.
After attending her school’s annual internship fair where she interviewed with eight different companies, Barcenas was disappointed not to receive any offers. She decided to step up her game for the following application cycle by preparing a stand-out online portfolio to broaden her exposure.
She connected the finished portfolio to her LinkedIn account and also uploaded school projects and other artwork on websites that showcase creative work, like Behance, to improve the chances that a recruiter would see her work.
They did. Recruiters from G by Guess? and Halston contacted her and ultimately offered her internships.
“I chose the Guess? internship because it was a paid internship and it was [full-time]. I knew Guess? would offer me more experience and opportunities to learn about the industry.”
For those seeking internships in creative fields, like fashion or journalism, it’s critical that your portfolio packs a punch. Using websites like Contently, Squarespace, and Wix make it easy, even if you have no web design experience.
3. Have an Internship Plan B
Once you’ve made a list of you top choices for a 2018 summer internship, all you have to do is apply, right? Not so fast.
Fassa, who so painstakingly researched film studios, offers this bit of wisdom: aim high but have a backup plan.
“Applying for internships is sort of like applying for colleges. You have Yale and Harvard, and then you have the schools that you would still love to go to, but that just might not be your top, top choice,” she said. “We can’t all work for Google and Facebook, so you have to have those second-choice companies on your list, too.”
All of the women we spoke to for this piece applied to many opportunities, usually between 15-30 per summer. Liwen Xu, however, took the application process to the next level.
“For last year’s internship process, I definitely wanted an internship that combined my interest in business and my passion for writing,” the BOLD intern said. “I searched extensively for a Content Marketing internship, and I probably submitted application materials to 100-150 openings through online job postings.”
4. Network, Network, Network for the Best 2018 Summer Internships
Liwen can’t emphasize this bit of advice enough for those seeking 2018 summer internships:
“Network, network, network! Definitely look for friends, family, or alumni from your school at companies or lines of work you want to enter and work on those relationships,” she said.
“Someone from your network may be able to refer you, which will be much more effective than just submitting an online application.”
Fassa, too, utilized her network in her hunt for the perfect internship, but she did so for other reasons.
“I wanted to hear their perceptions of the studios and what they thought of the culture of the companies,” she said. “I didn’t really network for a referral. Since I am about to graduate, I wanted to know which studios might be places that I’d like to work once I graduate.”
Nicole used her networking skills to connect directly with the recruiters handling the internships she was interested in applying for. She used the exchanges to reiterate her interest in the positions and to ask additional questions about the opportunity.
5. Build Great Application Documents
When Fassa was learning how to write a resume that would appeal to recruiters, she used a pro tip: personalize your resume to every job ad.
“For each job, I looked at the job ads to create a list of skills that I wanted to illuminate on my resume,” she said.
Fassa also delved deep into each company’s website to unearth clues about what each held up as important. She said that the “About Us” pages that most company websites post contain valuable clues into the company’s culture and tenets, which she leveraged when preparing both her application materials.
“It’s a trick I’ve learned over time, and it’s helped me a lot, even in my interviews. For example, a talent agency that I interned at before Sony is known for being really entrepreneurial. So, for that application, I made sure that my resume and cover letter reflected that I have an entrepreneurial spirit,” she said.
Nicole spent time researching resume writing tips before she created her own. To know what recruiters are looking for when filling 2018 summer internship spots, do your homework.
“I made sure my resume was one-page and that my skills and experiences were stated clearly. I also reworked it to make it less cluttered,” she said.
She also learned to simplify the language in her resume by using free online resume writing tools.
“I initially thought flowery language made me sound fancier, but I learned that making the writing more straightforward was better,” she said.
Cecilia faced a problem that is common to many students: how to write a resume with little to no work experience. With her past jobs limited to summer roles that were unrelated to fashion, she decided to use the skills and experience she gained in school to flesh out her resume and highlight her transferable skills.
Her goal was to emphasize the ingenuity of the work and the skill that went into the projects rather than the fact that these were school assignments.
“I wrote the main highlights of my school projects in a way that made my thought process feel unique and valuable,” she said.
If you are struggling to find the right language, a resume builder that provides pre-written phrases that you can add to your resume will help.
Also, choosing the appropriate resume format is critical. For students applying for 2018 summer internships, often a functional or combination resume format, which emphasize skills and experiences rather than work history, are the best choices.
6. Prepare for Interviews at All Costs
You may think the hard part is over once you’ve created your killer application materials. But how do you prepare once you start getting interviews?
Liwen took a pragmatic approach. She reviewed her experience to determine some talking points that she could use during her interviews and then wrote out her responses so that she could practice talking about them with ease during the interview.
“Make sure that you can carry a conversation,” she said. “Conversation is just as important to making a good impression as demonstrating a competency because a lot of companies look for culture fit.”
Part of Fassa’s preparation involved training herself to present well during a video interview. Since often college students are interviewing remotely, she took the time to educate herself on how Skype worked and practiced using it to make sure all of the details were perfect.
“I made sure ahead of time to find a spot to do the interview that was clean and that didn’t have a busy background,” she said. “I also chose a shirt that didn’t have a busy pattern so that it wouldn’t be distracting during the interview.”
She said she also did a practice run with her mother to be sure her equipment worked and that the lighting was adequate in the spot she had chosen.
“Something I learned that I hadn’t thought about before was that I should look into the webcam and not at the screen while I was speaking,” she said. “That way you look like you’re looking the person interviewing you in the eye.”
Final Bits of Advice from All-star Interns
Ask Fassa about her parting advice to those seeking a coveted 2018 summer internship, and she has a few key insights:
“Make sure to follow up after every single interview. Send thank-you cards. But also, stay persistent and be sure to remain confident in the process. It can be very disheartening getting rejection letters or not getting responses back, so staying confident is really important.”
For Nicole, her bit of wisdom is to learn from your mistakes.
“If you don’t nail an interview for an internship, instead of getting upset, think of it as a practice run. I made some mistakes in interviews, but they helped me learn what not to do when I interviewed with Wired.
Cecilia, too, used rejection to propel her forward and recommends those seeking a 2018 summer internship do the same.
“After my first round of interviews, I was so disappointed in myself for not receiving any callbacks from companies as I watched my fellow classmates receive theirs,” she said. “Although I was disheartened, I used that feeling to [motivate] myself… I spent hours at night working on my online portfolio and found new ways to improve myself. Recognize that you are your best asset and use that to your advantage. Don’t do only what is asked of you. Companies love seeing you’re willing to do more.”
For Liwen, learning to play the long game is her most valuable bit of advice.
“Don’t fret if you don’t get the internship you want,” she said. “Just keep working on your skills and experiences, and you’ll have chances in the future.”