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7 steps to finding your dream internship

A helpful checklist from the ‘@InternQueen’

By Debra Auerbach, CareerBuilder Writer


As the first signs of the coming spring begin to appear, many college students would rather be out enjoying the warming weather than thinking about their future careers. But with spring quickly approaching, so are deadlines for summer internships. If you think that internships aren’t absolutely necessary until after college, think again. Sure, companies may not require  them, but if you’re up against 50 other candidates, all of whom have specific industry experience they’ve acquired through internships, your chances of securing a job greatly decline.

Lauren Berger understood that all too well, and she decided to do something about it. Berger, the self-proclaimed “Intern Queen,” took control of her career destiny early on in college by understanding the importance of internships. In her new book, “All Work, No Pay: Finding an Internship, Building your Resume, Making Connections, and Gaining Job Experience,” Berger shares tips on the world of internships, largely based on her own experience, having completed a whopping 15 internships throughout college.

Often, the hardest part about pursuing an internship is knowing where to start. Berger suggests creating the “Intern Queen Dream List,” which is a “road map for the entire application process.” Here is an outline of what Berger suggests including in the list:

Section 1: Company name

The first section of the list should be filled with places where you’d love to work. Berger suggests asking yourself what you’re passionate about. She also says that you shouldn’t let your major inhibit you. “In many cases, schools force students to declare majors before they are confident in what they want to do,” Berger says in her book.

It’s also important to think about your experience level to help you determine the kinds of businesses to pursue. For instance, Berger notes that if you haven’t had much, or any, experience, look at smaller, local companies. But if you have a long list of relevant experience, she says the sky is the limit. “Make sure that you apply to a variety of employers, both large and small. Students limit themselves if they only apply for big-name opportunities,” Berger notes.

If you don’t know what companies to put on your list, Berger suggests visiting your career resource center, looking at online internship listings or searching online for companies in your field of interest.

Section 2: Company website

This section is all about doing research on the dream companies listed in section one. Berger recommends compiling information on the companies before you apply, to gain a better understanding not only of the internship but of the company culture, values, etc.  

Berger recommends reading the “about us” section, bios and mission statements, looking through their client lists, and reading up on recent news stories. “If you encounter an on-the-spot interview, an instance where an employer, to whom you’ve submitted an application, calls you without notice, you’ll want to be prepared,” Berger says.

Section #3: Contact information

Section three of Berger’s “Intern Queen Dream List,” should include each company’s contact information. Ideally, you’ll want to find the internship coordinator or someone involved in the intern hiring decisions. Berger suggests pulling that information from the company’s website or using a search engine to find recent postings that may have that information. On the list, include the intern coordinator’s name, email address and direct phone number, if available.

Section #4: Materials required

Here is where you should keep track of what each company requires for submission. “Always send a résumé along with a cover letter, even if the employer doesn’t ask for it,” Berger recommends. She also encourages intern seekers to check on the format of the documents the company accepts and whether or not they ask for other items, such as references, writing samples or portfolios.

Section #5: Deadline

One of the most important pieces of information on the list is the deadline. Be sure to check if the company at which you’re applying has a specific or rolling deadline. Berger notes that for spring internships, deadlines are usually around Nov. 1, and for summer programs, March 15 is a popular deadline.  

Section #6: Date sent

After you’ve submitted your application and materials, mark the date sent on your list, so you can keep track of when you sent your information and when you should follow up. “Block out time to send out all of your applications over the period of one week,” Berger says. Allow approximately 45 minutes per application to personalize before sending.

Section #7: Follow-up date

Lastly, it’s time to track your follow up. If you sent your information to a person, Berger recommends following up two weeks after sending your application. She suggests avoiding Mondays, because they’re often the busiest days, and Fridays, because people may be out of the office. What about follow-up frequency? “You can send one follow-up email, and if you still get no response, move on to the other internships on your list. That’s why you research and apply to multiple companies,” Berger says.

While this list may seem straightforward, Berger says the key to landing a dream internship comes down to being organized, taking matters into your own hands and staying on top of the process every step of the way. For more of the “Intern Queen’s” valuable advice, check out her book, “All Work, No Pay: Finding an Internship, Building your Resume, Making Connections, and Gaining Job Experience.


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