By Leah Reyes, SDSU Public Relations Senior
As a student who has never had an internship, you tend to convince yourself that there’s no way you’ll get an internship because you have “no experience,” right? Wrong!
With the help of my mentors at school and spending hours on my resume and cover letter, I was able to land a summer internship with (W)right On Communications. And guess what? It’s my first internship. It is possible, ladies and gentlemen! Here are a few tips on how to survive – and hopefully conquer – your interviews when searching for your first internship:
1. Educate yourself about the organizations you apply for.
Before you start perfecting your resume and cover letter, make sure you know what the organization is about, what they’re looking for and what they value. Check out their website, blog and social media accounts. This is really important because you might learn that although you’ve heard awesome things about an organization, it’s not exactly for you.
It will also make you stand out from everyone else when you get to the interview and you reference what you already know about the organization. When Elyse Charlesworth, (W)right On’s account coordinator, interviewed me, she was happy to know that I took the time to look at the agency’s website and blog.
2. Cater your resume and cover letter to a specific organization.
No generic cover letters or resumes! This is one of the most important things I have learned. You should have multiple applications for multiple organizations. After I researched (W)right On Communications, I learned their values and made sure to incorporate them in my cover letter and resume.
Be sure to study the internship description so that your cover letter and resume reflects what the organization is looking for. Employers don’t like generic cover letters because it doesn’t show that you want to work with them, specifically. It looks like you’ll take any internship just to have an internship, which is not good.
Also, don’t forget that when you email employers with your attached application, the actual email message has a lot of power! Employers might not open your attachment if your email message doesn’t impress them. Cater the email to them, too!
3. Writing samples set your application apart from the rest.
When Elyse contacted me to schedule an interview, she said that my writing samples impressed her. I used my writing samples from school and attached it to my resume and cover letter. Before I attached my samples, I had multiple people look them over, and I made sure the samples were appropriate for (W)right On Communications. I’ve never had an internship, but my samples from school were enough to get me an interview. If you don’t have anything from school you’d want to share, you can write something yourself, like a blog or a mock news release.
4. Practice interviewing with friends and family.
Whether you have someone pretend to interview you or you practice alone, it really helps to talk out loud! I had a list of interview questions that I practiced with my friends. This helped me master how to answer questions. The first time you answer a question isn’t always perfect, which is why you should practice to make your answers sound awesome. The way you answer a question is more powerful than what your answer is. By practicing, you will become more confident and less nervous.
I had a couple interviews prior to my interview at (W)right On. Both times, I was asked about my strengths and weaknesses. This is an important question to prepare for. It is probably one of the most asked questions in any interview because it wraps up who you are in a few sentences. Practice, and before you know it, doing interviews will be one of your strengths!
Don’t forget to tell the interviewer what you can contribute to the organization’s success. The purpose of an interview is to prove that if you get the position, you can contribute your creativity and talents. Highlight your strengths and don’t be generic!
5. Ask questions at the end of the interview.
I have heard from many professionals that their biggest “turn-off” is when they finish an interview and ask the applicant, “Do you have any questions for me?” and the applicant says, “no.”
Ask questions that show your interest in the organization and in the person who is interviewing you. I made a list of questions to ask Elyse when she asked that final question. Here are a few questions I asked:
- What is a typical day at (W)right On Communications?
- What is your favorite part about working at (W)right On Communications?
- What is your least favorite part about working at (W)right On Communications?
- How did you end up at (W)right On Communications?
- What got you interested in public relations?
These tips won’t guarantee that you will get an internship, but I can guarantee that they will make you a stronger applicant. I can also guarantee that by following these five tips, you will become more confident in applying to organizations and doing interviews. Interviewing for your first internship is definitely intimidating, but if you do everything you can to highlight your skills, you will land that first internship before you know it! Trust me, it’s not as bad as you think!