How to apply for internships

Internships are great opportunities to reaffirm your career aspirations or to explore a new career field you had never heard of before… that is… if you secure one.

Not that I have already secured one as I am writing this post. I have already sent a few applications out and just had a Skype interview a few days back so let’s just hope my effort comes through. Nonetheless, I thought I would share my thoughts on the things you should take note of and improve on when applying for internships.

Read the job description(s)

Thumb rule for writing an assignment – before you write, you read.

This applies to internship applications as well. Job descriptions, obtainable from organisations’ websites and job sites (e.g. Monster) provide a list of skills and expectations employers want their potential employees (you!) to have. Depending on the job, these can range from being highly technical (e.g. AUTOCAD competency) to soft skills (e.g. communication skills, team work, leadership).

By understanding what employers want from you, you know what skills you should highlight in your application forms (e.g. CV). For example, when applying for a research internship it would be useful to highlight any prior data-analysis/ research experiences that you have obtained throughout your degree. Even if you have none, it would be beneficial if you can include a profile highlighting your motivation for applying for this job. Employers do value motivation of the applicants (sometimes over their skill sets).

Tailor your applications – CVs

I know it’s tempting to just have one good CV and submit it to every job that you are applying for. But don’t. Expectation varies across employers. They value certain qualities over others and hence your CVs should follow the same pattern.

Tailoring means your CV content might vary depending on the job you are applying for. While certain criteria (e.g. education) can be retained, some other parts should be customised to fit the job description.

A way to do this is to write a master list containing all the skills and experiences you have. Having this list and the job description side by side can give you a clear idea of what skills and experiences you should put in your CV. Showing the employers that you have what it takes and what they want for this job will increase your prospects of being hired.

Check your dates

Most organisations ask you to work as an intern for at least 8 weeks. This is to ensure you get the most out of the experience. It is useful to check your calendars to make sure which times during the summer you are available. I remember when I first started applying for my internships a few weeks back, I was too gung-ho about it I ended up giving the wrong date for my internship availability. Although I did send a follow-up email afterwards clarifying my mistake, it is unsurprising that I heard nothing from them since.

Apart from availability, consider the gap between the end of your term and start of your internship. Do you wish to have a few days (or week) of break and settling down before starting your internship? Or do you prefer to get the ball rolling right away? It would be good to think about this too.

Note that not all employers will be able to cater to your date but it’s always nice, as well as being easier if you tell them your availability in advance.

Extra points

As much as you want to be an intern, consider your own motivation when selecting what organisations do you want to apply to and work with. Do you relate and value their culture? Have you heard any feedback from other parties regarding internships offered by this organisation? Are their internships structured and do previous interns had good experiences in working with them?

I know, we can’t be picky when we are young university students with minimal work experience. But these factors are important when you are actually starting your internship with them. You wouldn’t want to make coffee and just print out documents for the rest of your summer do you? Hence, give these some thoughts during the application stage.

Available resources

You won’t be alone in this application process. The Careers Service is here to guide you throughout this stage. Make full use of the resources made available to you!  Help comes in the form of:

  • Online courses
  • One to one appointment
  • Talks
  • Employers’ presentation
  • eMentoring schemes

 All the best everyone!

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