How To Score Your First Internship (or Job)

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If you are a) a college sophomore or junior looking for an internship, b) a college senior looking for a job or c) a recent (or not so recent) college grad still looking for a job, then this was written for you. You’ll learn a few key things you can do to score your first internship (or job).

Getting a great job or valuable internship is a) unfortunately a LOT harder than you think it will be (trust me) and b) likely will take two to three times longer than your worst case estimation. A recent Gallup Poll confirmed that graduates who had an internship that leveraged what they studied in college greatly felt much more prepared to enter the working world. If you ask any college graduate one thing that they wish that they had done differently in their job search, nearly everyone you ask will say that they wish that they had started looking earlier. Understanding this, and adjusting your game plan accordingly, are critical to how successful your job or internship search will be.

One of the most effective things you can do to increase your odds of landing a great internship or job when you graduate is to understand when employers are hiring for internships, training programs and entry-level positions.

If you are looking for a spring semester internship, you’ll need to have it nailed down by the end of November. That means that you should have started looking the day you arrived on campus this fall, and realistically earlier. Summer is when you want to have your resume and cover letter writing skills perfected, not now. If you don’t have a resume, it’s like starting the marathon 2 hours after the first racers left the start line. That said, it’s better to get a late start than no start if you want to cross the finish line.

If you are a senior and looking for a job after graduation, the best time for focusing on your job search will depend upon your field of interest. If you are interested in consulting, finance or business, fall is the time when most employers start their recruiting. Typically, they will conduct on campus information sessions, post their on-line job applications and conduct first interviews prior to your winter break. Most major companies make their summer hiring decisions for full time jobs or their training programs between February and April. Miss out on this schedule and you’ve effectively lost a full year. For companies with training programs, this is often the only door in for a high quality entry-level position. Check out Forbes for their recently published information on the industries hiring the most college graduates in 2015.

Employer recruiting efforts start with on campus college visits. Not taking advantage of on campus recruiting is like saying no thanks to a free concert ticket. You get to learn a bit about the company and their hiring process with absolutely no commitment on your part. Campus recruiting events generally are run by alumni from your college who now work for the company. What this means is that instantly you have a positive connection in common: your college. Make a great impression with the campus recruiter and you’ll have an insider in your corner, which can dramatically improve your odds of getting an interview. Definitely do not pass on attending these events even if it means getting permission from your coach to skip practice or rescheduling a study group. Waiting until after you have graduated is too late as this important networking opportunity evaporates the day you graduate.

The good news is you still have time to line up your summer internship or post graduation job. The tips above will help you dramatically improve your odds of landing that coveted position and landing it faster.

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About Lisa

Chief Career Catalyst @C2C, former Fortune 500 businesswoman, dog lover, avid skier, mediocre tennis player, golfer, new SUPer, aspiring surfer, cyclist, yoga & exercise enthusiast, happy wife & home chef. I am a regular contributor to the Bangor Daily News, and have appeared on WCSH6 where I offer career advice for college students, recent graduates and young professionals.
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