How do you stand out on your internship application?
The standard application process for internships is not generally very difficult; most simply require a cover letter explaining your interest in the position and your resume, possibly along with your transcript and one or two letters of recommendation. What makes it difficult to land the internship is that almost everyone’s application will be as strong as yours. So, how do you stand out?
1. Choose your recommendation letters wisely
Just like any sort of application, you want to make sure that the persons you choose to recommend you know you well enough to be able to write a strong and unique letter. However, internship applications often have specific items that they want to make sure your recommenders speak about, such as work experience or leadership ability. You need to make sure that you ask people who can speak directly about these items, preferably through experience. For example, a professor with whom you worked extensively on a research project might be a better source for a recommendation describing your “professional competence in your area of study” than your boss at work or your academic advisor, as the first will be able to provide detailed information on your behalf.
2. Think of strong, unique reasons for your interest in that position
Employers want to know that you are applying to be their intern for a better reason than just needing a summer position, and they can tell when you give a generic or half–hearted answer in this part of your application. You need to think carefully about your reasons for applying—what can this position offer you that another could not? How will it help you in your future career? Have a few strong, personal answers ready for these questions so that you can show you are committed to working in this specific position, and you will greatly increase your chances of landing the spot.
3. Use your connections
Your professors and other connections (former employers, relatives, etc.) are indispensable resources when you are applying for internships. While letters of recommendation are important, having a source who can personally vouch for you due to their personal or professional connections significantly increases your likelihood of landing a spot. These people may also know about positions that you may not be able to find in your own searches, so go to them early in the application cycle and see if they can offer you any leads; you may land a position even better than the ones you found on the internet. That being said, remember…
5. Bigger is not always better
While it may look good on your resume to say that you were an intern for your U.S. Senator in D.C., you may not get as much tangible work experience in such a large setting as you would working in one of that senator’s local offices. Since the “smaller” positions are often less competitive and have fewer paid staff members, it is both more likely for you to land one of these positions and more likely that you will be given real, important work to do during your stay. If you can find a big–name internship that gives you lots of solid work experience, that’s fantastic; if not, remember that internships are important due to the experience you gain, not the apparent prestige of your office. Make sure you will be able to talk about what you gained from your internship when it is over!
6. Make sure you can afford a non-paid position
While it may sound simple in theory, working as a non-paid intern can often lead to some sticky money situations. If you are like many college students and don’t have extra money to use for three months’ worth of rent, food, and gas, then make sure you check out all your options before settling on an internship. Maybe you can find a position close to home or your school to remove some of these extra costs. Maybe you can negotiate a part-time position on top of your internship to earn some money (just make sure you leave time to rest!). There are also scholarships and loans you can apply for to help cover these costs. Emory & Henry Honors Scholars are able to use their Personal Academic Stipend to cover some (or all, if you’re lucky) of these costs.
Photo Description: Rachael Sharp in front of the Capitol building, where she is working as a summer Governor's Fellow in the Office of the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs.