It’s time to start thinking about summer internships

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I know it’s January. Hear me out.

One of the things I loved most when I was in Talent Acquisition was Campus Recruitment. Going on campus, talking to students, listening to their aspirations and concerns – I would always come back to the office energized and delighted.

I love seeing people capture opportunities and succeed, which is exactly why I am talking about this now. If you are a university student or your sons or daughters in university, here are three tips to make the most of the upcoming months and possibly line up a summer internship.

Go see Career Services

Career Services is an underutilized resource. Always remember that their main goal is to give you the tools to get hired at a great organization. I would recommend going to see them ASAP for the following:

  • Find out which companies are coming on campus this semester
  • Find out if there are any companies that will be offering tours
  • Find out which companies hired summer interns with your degree last year
  • Find out which companies are the main donors who support your degree
  • Schedule some one-on-one time to discuss your career aspirations and review your résumé
  • Confirm what the best way is for you to stay in-the-know about any activities they will be holding

Basically, you want to know about any upcoming activities involving companies and you want to attend. Even if you think a company would never hire someone with your background, attend to gain exposure.

Consider this example. Let’s say one of the Big 4 accounting firms is coming on campus and you study in Marketing. Unless they explicitly say they only want to speak with accounting students, go see them. Why? Well, first of all, they have a Marketing department, so you may learn more about that. Secondly, you may also gain insights into how similar types of companies approach marketing, such as insurance companies or banks. It will reflect well on you if you then go in an interview and can speak about this exposure or ask questions based on what you learned.

Learn how to research companies

This is a skill that will serve you well throughout your career, so it’s good to start practicing now.

If your school is having a career fair this semester, get a list of companies attending and Google all of them, even the ones you think you already know. This will help you to be most effective with your time and energy at the career fair.

If your school doesn’t have a career fair but will have other types of networking activities or info-sessions, research the companies involved in those activities.

There are many benefits to researching companies. The most obvious is so that when you speak with someone from the company, you can share your insights and ask questions. By the same token, you will also be able to refine your choices and develop discernment for which companies you prefer. Now, I know that you are starting out, and you don’t want to be too picky about which company you intern with. I respect that. At the same time, however, if you have one or two stand-out companies based on your research, this will be evident when you go and speak with them. Your knowledge about them and your enthusiasm will set you apart from the pack. So while having favourites will not necessarily guarantee you interviews at those companies, you will definitely get a few more minutes of conversation with them, which can only work in your favour.

For more information on how to research a company, check out my previous article on the subject.

Learn how to introduce yourself

As you transition from being a full-time student to becoming a member of the workforce, you will refine the skill of speaking thoroughly yet succinctly. Learning how to introduce yourself is a great place to start practicing this skill. The art of introducing yourself is also commonly known as your “elevator speech”.

I cannot say how many times I have been on campus representing my company and have had students walk up to me and say “Uh… so… what kind of jobs do you have?” While this is not a career killer, it is not the best use of your time.

Your introduction or elevator speech does not have to be rehearsed or robotic. You just want to come across as bright and professional and you want to cover the following:

  • Your name
  • Your major
  • What year you are in
  • When you graduate
  • Why you are speaking with them

Here is an example of how it comes across in conversation:

“Hi there, my name is Francesca and I major in Marketing. I am in my second year and I graduate next spring. I wanted to come and talk to you today because I was on your website and I am really impressed about how your company supports ocean wildlife after an oil spill. Can you tell me a bit more about your organization and the opportunities you would have for someone with my background?”

Put yourself in the shoes of a representative from the company: would you make time to speak with this student? Absolutely!

On a final note, always have hard copies of your résumé on hand whenever you attend any event with a company. You never know who you will meet and what kinds of conversations you will have. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

I hope these three tips have been helpful to get you started on the road to a great internship this summer! If you land an interview and need some extra help, check out my articles What to wear for an interview and Interview Dos and Don’ts.