Written by: Alexia Stamate, Conference Coordinator
Securing your first internship can be scary! Trust me, I’ve been there. Sometimes it feels like everyone knows what they’re doing and you have no idea where to begin. Don’t worry, this blog post will serve as a step by step guide, walking you through everything you need to know!
Where to apply:
The first step is knowing where to apply. Thanks to technology, students have access to more internship opportunities than ever before, but all those options can make it a little overwhelming to know where to start.
Find relevant positions quickly by using the advanced search filter to narrow down listings by industry, location, experience level and specific key words. Once you’ve found some positions that interest you, tailor your application to highlight the skills, experiences and keywords relevant to each position you’re seeking. Let’s face it, no one has time to redo their resume for each application, so what I like to do is create a skills section at the bottom with five or six skills and tailor those to each position. Another thing I recommend is making a resume-style list of all your past positions and swapping out which ones you include on your resume depending on the position. It’s an easy way to make sure your most relevant experiences are showcased and it takes under two minutes to swap them if you make the list ahead of time! If you have the time to research the company, tailor your application to reflect how you align with their mission – it’ll really set you apart from other candidates and show your dedication as a candidate. It’s worth doing for the positions you really want! Indeed is a popular platform for finding positions, but regardless of which platform you use, set job alerts based on your preferences! This allows you to discover new job postings that match your criteria, without having to constantly search. Don’t limit yourself to just one platform either, use multiple to widen your scope and explore a variety of opportunities. If you haven’t heard back after submitting an application, you might consider sending a follow-up message, but keep it short & sweet: be polite, simply expressing your continued interest in the position.
LinkedIn functions as both a job board and a networking platform. Companies often post job openings there, so keep an eye out! In the meantime, you can network with professionals and recruiters in your industry. A great way to do this is to set up a coffee chat, which I’ll walk you through below :)
Another great resource for finding internships, especially faculty specific ones is Western’s USRI program. You get to learn new research methods alongside faculty mentors and you get to share your research with the broader campus community during a virtual exhibition event afterwards! This is a particularly good opportunity for students that are looking to pursue research-based careers in the future as it gives you solid research experience (& you get to dip your toes in the process to see if it’s something you really see yourself doing before committing to it).
If at any point you’re feeling stuck with your resume or don’t know what your next step should be, Western’s Employment Resource Center (WERC) is another amazing opportunity. Career Profile Advisors (CPAs) staff the WERC Drop-In service Monday through Friday from 9:30am to 12:30pm & 1:30pm to 2:30pm in UCC Room 210. I’m currently volunteering as a CPA and there’s a whole team of us ready to help you perfect your resume, cover letter or LinkedIn profile. You can even book a mock interview to practice your interview skills! It’s a great way to make sure you're presenting yourself as optimally as possible in your applications.
Networking & How to Secure an Internship:
So you’ve found a couple of positions you’re really interested in and want to increase your chances of securing them. A great way to do this is through networking! The more relationships you build with professionals in the industry, the more exposure you get to opportunities. Even if you don’t get the position you want, your connections might point you towards other related opportunities (it’s happened to me before & I ended up being referred to a position that was a better fit for me than the one I applied to in the first place!) It’s easy to enter networking with a transactional mindset, seeking immediate benefits. Instead, focus on building genuine relationships with people you truly admire. If you invest time in nurturing these, they could yield really strong long-term opportunities – your dedication and passion will really shine through, making your networking connection more likely to recommend you!
A great way to begin a relationship with someone you admire is by organizing a coffee chat. Start by setting clear goals: are you looking for career advice, insight into a specific industry, aiming to learn more about their personal experience in the field? Once you know what you’re looking for, craft a personalized message. Explain why the conversation would be valuable to you or what you admire about their work – be concise but genuine. Suggest a specific timeframe (e.g. 20 minutes) and offer to accommodate their schedule as much as possible. Choose a location that’s convenient for them, you could even offer to speak virtually! Have some meaningful open-ended questions prepared to guide the conversion. You could ask about their career journey, challenges they faced, advice for someone starting in the industry, etc. DO NOT go past the timeframe you suggested (if they have extra time or want to spend more time talking, let them initiate this!), it shows you value their time and stick to your word. At the end of the chat, thank them for their time & insights. Afterwards, stay in touch periodically by sharing updates or articles related to both your interests.
I’ve included a sample template for setting up a coffee chat below:
Hi [Their Name],
I hope this message finds you well. My name is [Your Name], and I’ve been following your work in [specific field or industry]. Your experiences and insights are truly inspiring to me, especially [mention something specific you admire].
I’m currently exploring opportunities in [mention your interests or career aspirations], and I would greatly appreciate the chance to learn from your experiences and expertise. I would love to schedule a 20-minute coffee chat at your convenience, either in person or virtually. I’m flexible with the timing and location.
Would it be possible to connect sometime next week? I’m eager to hear your thoughts on [specific topic or aspect you’re interested in].
Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to the opportunity to chat with you.
REMEMBER: sincerity & genuine interest go a long way when trying to set up a coffee chat! Don’t limit yourself to the template, try to tailor your message to each individual & let your passion for the subject shine through.
At the end of the day, your first internship is a starting chapter in your career story. Embrace the experience, make the most of every opportunity to grow, and build connections! If you approach it with enthusiasm, curiosity and a willingness to learn, you’ll have so many valuable things to take away from it. Good luck!!!