Looking for internship opportunities to expand your experience? I understand the difficulty of navigating the ambiguity of this process. Where do you start? How do you make yourself stand out? Honestly, there is no right answer to these questions. Every industry is different. Every company looks for different skills. However, I have picked up on a few tips from professionals, professors, and my own trial and error. The process can often be long and difficult, but hopefully I can help you get started.
Establish the basics. Build a personal brand, resume, cover letter and portfolio.
Take into consideration that this process may be different for every industry. Talk to professionals and professors within the industry. Look at industry examples to understand what is expected from you. You don’t have to be a designer to showcase your work professionally. Use templates from Canva, or ask a friend for help. Make sure your pieces are consistent, cohesive, clean, professional, and easy to understand.
Start with a cover letter and resume that gear toward the position you are looking to obtain
- Before writing your resume and cover letter, write out position types that fit your interest. Then, list the skills needed for each position. This can include soft skills (qualities that help you in the workplace such as social skills, communication skills, attitudes, etc.) or hard skills (skills you need to perform specific job-related tasks, such as experience with Microsoft Excel or the Adobe Creative Suite).
- Based on the list you created, write your relevant skills and experiences as a position description on your resume. If you are new to the industry, you may not have direct experience in the position you are looking for, but that doesn’t mean your past experiences are irrelevant. For example, the job you had in high school as a kitchen-aid may have taught you communication and collaboration skills. Your free-lance gigs may have taught you how to work with clients, how to manage deadlines etc. Dig deep. You probably have more experience than you think.
- Use your cover letter to explain or expand upon any additional skill sets or industry knowledge you cannot effectively communicate in your resume.
- Start a spreadsheet to keep track of your progress. This is one of the best pieces of advice I received during the job search process. Create a spreadsheet and include categories such as application status, name of company, location, name of position, date posted, date applied, date to follow-up, link to the job description/application. Update it often as this will help you keep track of the companies you want to reach out to, apply to, etc. Click here for a template.
- Prioritize the internships by your qualifications and interest levels.
Keep your portfolio simple: Only include the most important information
- Keep your portfolio clean and simple. You don’t need to include photos of yourself, a blog about your life, or personality tests. List your work examples, your contact information, and your resume. Let your work speak for itself. Your work does not need to be design work. Your portfolio should be examples of your skill sets. This includes project examples or writing pieces. Briefly explain your process, role and/or what skills you used throughout the process.
- Include 3-6 of your best portfolio pieces. Employers are not going to look through a large stack of all your creative endeavors. Limit your portfolio to include your best work.
- Make your purpose clear. When employers go to your website, do they immediately know what you do and what you are looking for? During a portfolio review, I had an industry professional tell me my website looked like it belonged to a small-town business, instead of a portfolio website. I had a lot of decorative elements and descriptions I did not need. My goals and my work examples were buried. Her advice was to get rid of anything that was irrelevant. I recommend considering a purpose statement at the top of your page.
Do research on the company you are applying for and tailor your resume and cover letter
- Look at the company’s mission and culture. Make sure you will fit in well before applying, then explain why you want to work there in your cover letter. Talk about the skills you have that are relevant to their position. Link to specific examples if you can.
- Pick out keywords from the job description, and list them directly in your resume if you have the skill or experience. This will make it easier for employers to scan your resume.
Reach out to your connections or professionals with positions you are striving for
- Many professionals are more than willing to tell you about their positions and what they did to get there, provide advice or lead you to potential opportunities. It never hurts to reach out, but be mindful of their time and expertise.
The job search process is a learning process. You may be proud of what you present to employers today, but you may want to completely redo everything next year. That is okay. Take this time to learn about yourself and the path you want to travel. You can adjust as you go. Talk to people, job shadow employers, pay attention to what environment and what work makes you the happiest. Tailor your work and your job search toward that goal.