When I graduated from Emerson, way back in the Stone Age (also known as 1985), applying for an internship was easy: you filled in an application and you attached your resume with a paper clip and dropped it off in person or mailed it with a stamp. Clearly times have changed! Not only are all applications virtual, but the competition for top internships has become much fiercer.

Don’t be intimidated! You can rise above the crowd with a targeted search, a great resume, and a thoughtful cover letter. Here’s how…

Where are the opportunities?

Begin by developing a list of target companies you’d like to intern for—and from there, you can call in (you guessed it!) your Board of Directors for help getting a foot in the door. I may sound like a broken record with regard to your BoD (see my post from December 5th), but that’s because a warm contact always yields a better result than a cold online submission.

This doesn’t mean you should call everyone you’ve ever met, pleading for favors. Networking is an ongoing process. Make sure you’re consistently developing—and maintaining—your connections with professors, former work colleagues, family friends and, community leaders. It’s important to let them know exactly what you are looking for—in an appropriate manner—so that they can help you when an opportunity arises.

Have you tapped your Emerson resources?

The Career Development Office is an invaluable resource—take advantage of it, early and often! Employers come to directly to Emerson looking for focused, hard-working, and well-rounded students who have the skills that drive success. In addition to great relationships with world-class employers, Emerson boasts an engaged and active alumni community—many of whom work in fields that may interest you. The professionals in the Emerson Career Development Office are here to help, so be sure you’re tapping this incredible resource.

Is this “Just a Job,” or is it a “Great Fit”?

Think carefully about the kind of opportunity you want and how it will help you to learn and grow before you begin the application process. Is the position you’re applying for a good fit?

Do you have the right skills and background to excel in this opportunity? What specific experience has prepared you for this position? How does this internship fit into your overall career goals, and what do you hope to learn from it? If you have a solid idea of how you’ll provide value to the company—and vice versa—you’re bound to impress in person and on paper. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the company and its culture before you apply. Start by reading the About page on the company’s website, and then do a Google News search to figure out ways you might fit into the office culture. Visit the Career Development Office to see if there’s an Emerson alum who works at that company and would be willing to share their insider’s POV. Research is also critical to acing your interview, so be sure to do your homework.

Rock your resume

While nothing beats a warm contact or personal introduction, this advice bears repeating: your resume is perhaps the most important fiscal document you will ever own, and it needs to be perfect.

Why? Resumes and cover letters are the marketing tools you’ll use to represent yourself to employers. You may have a shining personality and a perfect skill set for a job, but you need to convey that on paper. When you’re just getting started, employers won’t expect you to have a ton of professional experience yet. That doesn’t mean you’re not qualified—your resume at this stage should detail leadership activities, volunteer work, and any relevant coursework. This shows employers that you’re an organized, energetic leader who’s thinking ahead.

Your resume adds depth and dimension to the conversations you’re having with employers. The summary section, which many will look to first, gives the reader a broad idea of your background. Carefully consider the employer’s needs as you craft this piece of your resume.

Cover Letter 101

If you have the opportunity to create a cover letter to accompany a resume, take it. This is your introduction to a prospective employer! Your letter should demonstrate your ability to think clearly and write persuasively—and a truly great one can make you stand out from other candidates.

First and foremost, your cover letter should create a link between an organization’s needs and your skills and experience. Show how your qualifications align with a company’s objectives. Then demonstrate your drive by highlighting your knowledge of the organization. Rather than restating your resume, use your cover letter to enhance your qualifications by describing how your background has prepared you to benefit the employer.It needs to be tweaked for each application; a generic ‘cut and paste’ re-work, doesn’t work.

In straightforward terms, expand on how your experience—whether in a classroom, at a job, or during a research project—has directly prepared you for something specific that is outlined in the job description.

The Bottom Line

These tips are part of a process that will help make finding an internship more productive and less stressful. Focus on where you’d like to work, create some strong marketing for yourself and your skills, and be consistent in your efforts. And don’t be bashful about using your resources! Here’s an important one: the Spring Internship Fair on March 13th, 12:30pm to 3:30pm.

Before you go to the Internship Fair, round out your target list with a search online: LinkedIn, indeed.com and Internship.com for a start. If you’re targeting a specific industry, organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation (womenssportsfoundation.org) or the Council of Fashion Designers of America (cfda.com) are also good bets- there are associations for most targeted industries.

You can also see which employers will be attending this semester’s fair by clicking here.

P.S.

My very first internship was at TBWA/Chiat Day advertising, the agency responsible for some of the most compelling, memorable, and creative marketing then and now. I worked in the media department, but what I really wanted to do—account management—wasn’t available to me at Chiat/Day (or anywhere else). Still, my time in the media department gave me a crash course in the business of advertising, and I made some great contacts. The most important thing I learned: my skills and strengths were not a great match for the data-driven world of media planning and buying, so my manager wisely suggested I try sales. That experience launched my career, even though that internship wasn’t ideal.

It helped me learn what was, so I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


Written by Fran Berrick

Check out Fran’s career coaching company, Spearmint, for more tips and resources!