Which Comes First… the Internship or the Experience?

It can be a real bummer to stumble upon that PERFECT internship, only to find that the company is looking for a candidate with ‘X’ schooling and ‘X’ years of experience. It’s the age-old conundrum…how in the world do you land an internship when you have absolutely no experience? Lucky you…you have wise, old Coach Ned!

Hiring managers aren’t stupid. They realize that most college students aren’t going to be sending in resumes teeming with job experience. So what exactly are they looking for? For starters, they’re going to want to see that you’re involved. In ANYTHING. Sure, you haven’t had a big-kid job, but do you participate in any school clubs? Do you volunteer your time at (insert any worthwhile cause here)? Even listing extracurricular activities shows that you’re filling your time with anything other than frat parties and video games. Find things that interest you, sign up and get it all listed on your resume.

Another great way to get noticed is to have an amazing cover letter. Many job listings will say that this part is optional…don’t fall for it. Especially when your resume is lacking, a cover letter is a terrific way to let a hiring manager know exactly what you have to offer. And don’t think you can just slap one together and call it a day. Do company research. See what they most value. Study the job description and use key words from it to describe your talents and work ethic. Make them think, “This applicant was MADE for our company!” The cover letter is your very first impression…make it a good one.

Career Fairs!!! Coach Ned cannot stress enough how valuable it is to attend career fairs. Where else are you going to find SO MANY recruiters from SO MANY companies ALL IN ONE PLACE? It’s like a college student gold mine! However, don’t expect to just roll out of bed, grab a stack of resumes and hand them out all willy-nilly. Take some time to prepare…

Make yourself look presentable.

  • Gentlemen: wear a suit and tie, a belt and shine up your dress shoes. Bonus points for a nice watch.
  • Ladies: find a business-appropriate dress (not the one you wore to the bar last Saturday), or nice slacks, a blouse and a blazer. Plan on being there for awhile, so unless you have the world’s comfiest 4-inch heels, opt for something a little less painful.

Prepare for conversation. Coach Ned also stresses career fairs because they give you the opportunity for face time. I’m sure you’ve heard that skills can be taught, but attitude (i.e. your AWESOME personality) cannot. When looking for optimal candidates, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for people who will be a good fit within their company. If you show up with a smile, a firm handshake and a personable demeanor, they are going to remember you. Practice small talk with your roommate or a friend before attending, so you’ll be less nervous and more comfortable letting your real personality shine through. After meeting with each recruiter, be sure to end the conversation just as you began it…smile, shake his or her hand and ALWAYS thank them for their time. If you play your cards right, your resume will go in the “keep” pile without ever being read.

Preparing for and landing that first internship can be daunting, but just remember that you aren’t the first un- or under-experienced college student to obtain one. Follow Coach Ned’s advice and you’ll be gainfully employed in no time.

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