Internship season is here, and The Houstonian has compiled several tips, tricks and pieces of advice for students preparing their applications.
Internships bridge the gap between the classroom and the workplace. Employers who participate in internship programs know that their interns are ready to enter the workplace, yet still need the benefit of limited hours, regular feedback and helpful oversight on projects. Internships are about practicing and communicating.
Practice excellent communication skills. Employers are eager to help students transition into the work place, but they expect their interns to have excellent communication skills.
“Companies want interns who can communicate effectively,” Associate Professor of Technical Communication Brian Blackburne said. “No matter how knowledgeable a person is in their field, the ability to communicate this knowledge is key. When a student is truly comfortable communicating, the job-search process is much less intimidating.”
“SHSU students who minor in Technical and Professional Writing enter their internships with ample experience in communicating with audiences, and they are well positioned for any workplace situation—from applying for internships to generating complex documents on the job. Just this week, one of our Tech-Writing minors was applying for an internship,” Blackburne added. “Rather than stressing about documents, application requirements, and interviews, this student was able to enjoy the process and focus on which positions sounded most interesting.
Start applying early. Deadlines are extremely important when applying to internships. Many deadlines are months before the start date so that there is enough time to review application and start interviews.
“There are so many internships that go unnoticed,” said Javana Hosein, senior Mass Communications major and recipient of the Dan Rather Communications Internship last summer. “Spending a significant amount of time researching the right one for you will pay off.”
Get a head start.
“Even if you’re not eligible yet for the internship because of classification or experience, there’s no harm in introducing yourself to the person that is handling the internship application in the company where you’re most interested” Hosein said. “Once your time comes, they can see that you already made a name for yourself and all the other requirements will shine through.”
Consider your goals and your audience’s needs. Research the organization to which you are applying, review any job materials that have been provided and write excellent materials for your application that adhere to the requirements of the position. All employers expect a résumé and cover letter, and many will ask for writing samples, such as those from previous projects and courses.
“The documents that you submit for an application are your key to getting an interview,” Blackburne said. “Once in the interview, communication is still paramount, but at least you are then a person in the room, rather than one of many pieces of paper in a pile.”
Take your time when building your resume.
“From experience, creating the perfect resume is quite difficult,” Hosein said. “You don’t want to put too little and you don’t want to put too much. Focus on your objective and always keep in mind the ideal job you want.”
Adding an expected graduation date and education information is a must, along with work experience, honors, activities/organizations/clubs/fraternities or sororities and professional skills. Employers only look at a résumé for an average of eight seconds. You must have something that will set you apart from the other candidates.
“I wouldn’t include anything from high school or something that doesn’t pertain to your degree unless it shows your diversity,” Hosein said.
A well-built résumé is what will most likely land an interview.
“SHSU’s Career Services offers amazing résumé and cover letter help,” Hosein said. “I’ve gone to them countless times to perfect my résumé. Never be afraid to ask for help.”
One cover letter does not fit all.
“A cover letter should be tailored for the opportunity being sought, and it should contain a discussion about oneself that goes beyond the résumé,” Blackburne said. “The cover letter is a student’s first opportunity to introduce them self and impress an employer. The letter must be well organized, informative, and free of grammatical errors, but it must also demonstrate interest in the position and care for the reader’s time.” Students should also resist the temptation to simply summarize the information in their résumés. You want to give the readers am understanding of who you are, why you are interested, and why you would be a good fit for the position being advertised.
Create original documents. Students should not simply pull templates and samples of resumes and cover letters from the internet. “Job materials should be 100 percent original and the product of careful thought and iterative writing.” Employers will not want to hire people who cannot even put forth the thought and effort to write their own application materials.
Utilize campus resources. SHSU has several resources for students that help prepare them for the job market and internships. Career Services offers career assessments, career counseling and advising, career-related workshops and seminars, up-to-date career information and career-related resources. They also provide the means to pursue student employment, internship, and full-time employment opportunities through JOBS for KATS online. Several events also take place on-campus where students can take part in interviews, job fairs and networking with employers with whom also serve and develop collaborative partnerships. Also, students are encouraged to enroll in Technical Writing courses in which writing flawless résumés and cover letters is part of the curriculum.
“From learning to design documents to working on real-world projects that impress employers, you will gain knowledge and skills that help you stand apart from the competition,” Blackburne said. “In the end, the person who stands apart is the one who gets job”
JOBS for KATS is an easy-to-use database connecting SHSU students and alumni with employers both on and off campus. Students and alumni can find full-time, part-time, work-study jobs and internships on and off campus.
Internships are all about experience, self-growth and confidence to prepare for taking on the real world. At the end of an internship, you will have something substantial to include on your resume, and the knowledge and experience you take away from an internship is what will set you apart from the competition. Internships are also a great way to network. By gaining a list of personal contacts and recommendation letters from colleagues during your time interning you give yourself a head start. Graduating college with esteemed contacts in the field is a great way to start your career. These people can give you career advice or even connect you to potential employers
“A very important thing is to be truthful in the application and if you get an interview or even the internship, always stay true to yourself and to remember that this is all about experience and to just enjoy it,”Hosein said.