An internship, paid or unpaid, isn’t exactly a job. But it isn’t exactly volunteer work either. On the one hand, your employers are offering coaching and real-world experience in exchange for currently inexperienced—and therefore inexpensive—labor. But at the same time, unlike many volunteer coordinators, internship managers aren’t inclined to throw open the door and gratefully accept any pair of willing hands. They want a relaxed agreement with minimal binding contracts, but they also need motivated, ambitious workers who are eager to please and possess very specific skill sets.
Here are a few tips that can help you prove that you fit the bill. Convince employers that you’ll work for low pay in exchange for a meaningful educational experience, and that you’re ready to serve as an asset to the organization.
Tip 1: Create a summary that demonstrates an understanding of this complex, mutually beneficial arrangement. Be clear about the eager work you expect to provide, but be equally clear about what you hope to gain in return. Describe your future goals and your long- and short-term career plans, and explain how this internship can take you where you’d like to go. Internship coordinators love to see candidates with enthusiasm, ambition, and potential for future greatness.
Tip 2: Since you don’t yet have much material for the “work history” section of your resume, focus this subheading on your academic projects. List and describe the most impressive and complex projects you’ve completed during your coursework, by yourself or as a member of a team.
Tip 3: Emphasize your leadership experience. In the working world, some people are more comfortable as leaders and some prefer positions as followers and support providers. But when it comes to landing an internship, be a leader. Describe every incident in which you brought a team to victory (in the classroom, in the workplace, or on the sports field).
Tip 4: Demonstrate initiative. Your resume should showcase your skills as a leader of others, but also yourself. Show that you know how to identify problems and do whatever it takes to step in and provide solutions. Employers should know that when you take on a task or mission, you stay with it until the job is done.
Tip 5: Demonstrate flexibility. You aren’t afraid to stay late now and then to handle an emergency. And you aren’t afraid to roll up your sleeves, take on odd tasks, or tackle challenges that fall outside of your “job” description. (Here’s a hint: the best interns are the ones who are fun, spirited, and game. If there’s a centipede in the conference room that needs to be chased down and killed, the president of the organization probably won’t do it. But if you’re ready to take off your shoe, hunt down the unlucky intruder, and laugh about it, you’ll gain infinite points for style.)
Great Interns Don’t Settle
Make sure your potential “boss” knows what she stands to gain from this arrangement, and make sure she can trust you to stand up for yourself and control your own experience. If you need specific forms of education and exposure, state this in your resume, and be clear about the service and cheerful attitude you’re willing to offer in return. Use LiveCareer’s Resume Builder to format these details in a way that’s easy for employers to review, understand, and remember.