It’s hard to think about the dog days of summer when parts of the U.S. are buried by historic records of snow, but believe it or not, now’s the time to start working on your summer internship.

Recruiting for internships at many large firms has already begun, and even if your target company hasn’t started recruiting yet, it’s important to prepare yourself, and get a sense of your options.

Finding an internship between your academic years is crucial for a number of reasons:

  1. It helps you figure out what you want to do after graduation (or at least helps you figure out what you like and what you don’t).
  2. It strengthens your resume so that your experience stands out.
  3. It builds your network of professional contacts, offering the potential for mentorship, recommendations, and future job leads.

So what does it take to get the internship you want? MPOWER offers four key steps to help increase your chances of landing the experience you want.

Step #1: Create a solid resume.

Your resume should tell your story and focus on why the business should hire you. While resume styles and approaches vary, your number one goal is to sell your skills in a direct, honest way.

Need a little support in what to put in your resume and how to structure it?

  • Check out these useful resume tips.
  • Stop by your school’s career center. They can provide resources and advice to get you started. Once you have a draft, career center professionals will review it and share their feedback.
  • If you’re an MPOWER borrower, we can share our expertise to help you grab the interest of the hiring manager. Just ask.

Step #2: Know your focus.

Hone in on what field you want to explore, and if possible, the specific organization that would be your ideal target.

Not sure yet of where you want to be? That’s ok, too. Start by determining the field you want to explore (finance, healthcare, international development, etc.). Then, focus on what kind of organization you’re interested in (small or large, for-profit or non-profit, etc.).

Don’t forget to ask others who’ve gone through this already and leverage their expertise. The professionals at your career center help students find internships and jobs on a daily basis; ask for their input. You also can talk to professors whose classes interest you, professionals you admire, and more experienced students to get their insights.

MPOWER Pro Tip 1

Reach out to people you know or find on LinkedIn for informational interviews. Most people are willing to give 15 to 30 minutes of advice and guidance.

Step #3: Go for it. Apply.

Once you have a prepared resume and know where you’d like to intern, it’s time to take the steps to make it happen.

  • Visit the websites of companies where you know you’d love to intern. See what they are hiring for and create a cover letter for your resume that references the qualities you possess that speak to those positions.
  • Monitor your school’s job boards and databases for new opportunities with companies you may not have considered.
  • Take a look at outside databases, including Idealist, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and GlobalJobs, for new ideas and specific internship postings.
  • Explore on-campus recruiting options at your career center. (Check out Northwestern’s page as an example.)

Make sure that once you are ready to press send and apply, that you’re doing so skillfully and thoughtfully. Tailor your cover letter for each position. Avoid these common mistakes. And, proofread, proofread, proofread: Have someone review it before you send it out.

MPOWER Pro Tips 2 & 3

If you know someone who works at the organization where you want to apply, reach out to them in case they can offer guidance or recommend you to the hiring managers.

Apply for a number of internships. Some internships are very competitive and receive thousands of applications; so have a few backup plans (and don’t take it personally if you don’t get called for an interview).

Step #4: Be patient… but proactive.

Once you’ve applied to an internship, be patient and wait to hear if you have been invited to interview. Response rates can vary so don’t get discouraged.

While you’re waiting, explore creative ways to draw some attention to your application and prepare for a possible interview. Seek out people who have had the internship before and get their advice (see MPOWER Pro Tip 1 for how). Send a handwritten note to the hiring manager/organization, thanking them for considering your application. Brush up on the company, its mission, philosophy and latest news in preparation for the interview.

Follow these tips, and with any luck, you will be well on your way to securing the internship of your dreams.

© MPOWER Financing, Public Benefit Corporation

DISCLAIMER - Subject to credit approval, loans are made by Bank of Lake Mills. Bank of Lake Mills does not have an ownership interest in MPOWER Financing. Neither MPOWER Financing nor Bank of Lake Mills is affiliated with the school you attended or are attending. Bank of Lake Mills is Member FDIC. None of the information contained in this website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by MPOWER Financing or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.