What to Know About Summer Internships

By Brittany Hawes on May 16, 2018

Here’s a strange but true simile about summer internships for you, dearest readers and fellow college students: summer internships are a little like finding awe-inspiring, absolutely perfect (for you) true love. Like dating, you know that the person who will meet most of your expectations, if not all of them, exists and is somewhere out there, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and weeding through a ton of unsuitable people to find it. Sometimes, you’re going to get rejected by the person you thought was “the one”. Other times, you’re accepted but the person ends up not being the right fit for you. Or you might decide that you’re not going to find anything better so you wind up settling for something that doesn’t match what you initially wanted. Then, you hate every moment together and you waste both your time and theirs.

Sounds like a rough time, huh? Just like finding true love, finding a summer internship can be difficult. It can even be disastrous, if you rush into things without making the necessary preparations. The key to a successful summer internship is all about knowing what you want to gain from it, understanding what you’re going to need to bring to the table, and leaving the internship with a positive experience and plenty of connections in your future career field. It may be difficult, but having a great summer internship could lead to a world of opportunities.

summer internships

Image via Pixabay.com

So, what’s the very first thing you need to know about summer internships if you want to have a successful one?

Start Early

Do not, I repeat, do not wait until a week before May starts to actually begin your hunt for the ultimate summer internship experience. Preparation for a summer internship should start months in advance.

When I transferred to Florida State University in the fall of 2016, I began to meet with students who were on their A-game when it came time to prepare for and landing internships. They started preparing almost a year in advance to make sure that they were ready to apply for the summer internship of their dreams. They knew that acceptance weighs heavily on how prepared candidates are for the internship.

While starting preparation a year before a summer internship might sound silly or even too ambitious, it’s actually a really smart move. If the internship program you’re thinking of applying to is in a competitive field, it’s best to apply as soon as possible. Applying quickly could make the difference when it comes time to start hiring interns into the company. It also helps to start saving money months (or years) in advance if you know that acceptance as an intern with a certain company means that you’ll have to live in another part of the world for a few months. You’ll need money for rent, time to figure out housing arrangements, and other financial plans.

summer internships

Infographic by Brittany Hawes

We now see that starting early is essential. But what does “starting early” entail for summer internship hopefuls? For one, it means that you should…

  • Begin searching for internship opportunities as soon as possible

Ready to embark on your search for the perfect summer internship? There are so many online resources out there that will make your search a little easier.

One website that you can use to find an internship is called Internships.com. Small businesses and large companies alike post listings specifying what they are looking for in an intern, and will list duties that must be completed by interns, if hired. Internships.com allows you to apply to listings directly from the website. You can also build an appealing profile for hiring managers to look over.

If you want an internship that offers payment for your services, check out WayUp.com. When signing up, you’re asked questions like your favorite hobbies and jobs that interest you, all of which will help employers decide if you’re the right fit for the job. After signing up and verifying your email address, you’ll be taken directly to job listings that match your interests. All of the jobs offer pay, too!

Searching online may provide a wider variety of internships, but you can also try asking your classmates for internship opportunities. Chances are that the upperclassmen will know of or will have heard of internship opportunities that are seeking out students in your major. They might also be able to provide you with tips that will make the hiring process a bit simpler.

Asking your professor or school advisor can also lead to finding summer internships. Some professors might even have internships opportunities available during the summer that you can participate in. This is ideal, especially for those students who are unable to travel far from home during summer break.  But what are some But Also, beginning your preparation to apply earlier means that you’re giving yourself plenty of time

  • Start building your internship portfolio

Starting early also means that you should begin working on your portfolio as soon as you can. The sooner, the better because a portfolio is something every student should be working on throughout college. Internship portfolios should contain any kind of documentation that will show potential employers your education, extracurricular activities, training, skills, abilities, and strengths. For example, if you are certified in CPR? That should go in there. Have an outstanding resume? Put it in there. You happen to be the treasurer of the SGA and vice-president of the Black Student Union? Put both positions into your internship portfolio, along with a list of your duties and the accomplishments you were able to achieve while in your position. Anything that makes you look good should be in your internship portfolio.

Portfolios can be physical or digital. You can compile physical documentation and arrange it nicely in a professional-looking binder. You can also create an ePortfolio. ePortfolios are electronic portfolios that can be viewed on an electronic device. ePortfolios can be created using free website building software like Weebly.com or Wix.com. Both are very simple to use but still allow for creativity, so you can make sure you stand out to employers!

Don’t have a lot of experience just yet or don’t have the documents to prove it? Don’t worry! This is why starting as early as you can is the way to go. Use the time leading into the application window to work on gaining new skills and training. If you’re in class, put as much effort as possible into projects and list them in your portfolio. Video projects and images are especially good for internships, as they easily show your creativity, passion, and skill.

Keep in mind what kind of internship it is that you want to land. If you know that the employer you wish to work with places a high value on candidates who have experience working with children, you can try working as a volunteer at the public schools in your area or becoming an afterschool tutor for students in grade school. If one of your duties as an intern will be to edit film, try completing a few film projects of your own that will showcase your talent in Adobe Premiere or other video editing software.

Remember, passion alone isn’t always going to be enough for employers. For example, a video game company wants its interns to have a deep love for video games, but just being a video game enthusiast won’t be enough to land you the internship, especially if it’s with a major company that might have hundreds of interested people applying for the same position. You’ll need to possess the skills that the company is looking for, be it game development experience or overall knowledge of the gaming industry. Standing out is how you are going to get yourself hired!

Once you land a summer internship, make sure you take the time to celebrate–as hard as you worked to get the internship, you’re going to need to work even harder while you’re at the internship. After all, this is your dream! You shouldn’t half-do it now that you managed to get it!

Some things to know about the actual internship experience…

  • Working hard will pay off

This is your chance to shine at a company you’re crazy about or you want to work with someday. Now’s not the time to get lazy and search for ways to check your Instagram feed while on the job!

No matter how tempting it may be to spend all your internship hours surfing the Internet for hilarious memes, you need to make the most of your experience here. And to do that, you’re going to have to work. Even if you’re tasked with a job as simple as grabbing Starbucks for your boss, do your absolute best at it! This is the time to make yourself known at the company, and you do want to be known as someone with a great work ethic, right? Not the person who plays Internet Checkers when they think there’s nobody looking!

summer internships

Image via Pixabay.com

  • Connections must be made

You might be there to work, but you’re also there to network! Take the time to get to know all that you can about the people who work for the company. Make friends with as many people as possible and learn from them. Having these kinds of friends and connections in the business will help you out later down the road when it’s time to start on your career path.

One of the best things you can do at your job is simply to smile. If you’re frowned up and look unapproachable, you won’t attract any good attention. A worker with a friendly, genuine smile and positive attitude will attract other people. After all, people like to be around someone who makes them feel good and seems like they’re enjoying life. Be that someone!

  • A positive attitude helps

There are going to be days when you think that you made a mistake or that you’re not being utilized as much as you could be. If this is just a once-in-a-while feeling, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you made it: you’re an intern at [Insert Your Dream Company Here]. The work may not always be as exciting as you hoped it would be, but you’re there and you’re actually learning things that are going to come in handy later in the future.

However, if you feel as though the internship truly is a waste of time, speak with your supervisor and ask them if there’s something more challenging you could be working on. Offer to help with a certain project or to help plan a certain event. Show them how much you can do!

  • Chances can be (and should be!) taken

Interns might feel like they get pushed to the side when it comes to doing real work, but you don’t have to sit there and take that treatment. Go and take risks! If you have an idea that you have thoroughly researched and think will benefit the company or a certain project, take a chance and put that idea out there. The worst your higher-ups can do is shoot it down. But there’s always the chance that they’ll love it and they’ll use it and that you’ll have helped out in a very big way.

The final thing you should know about internships is that it’s not always going to be easy. An internship is essentially a job and you’re going to be held to those high standards. When an employer hires you on, they expect you to give them your best. Never go into an internship with the idea that you won’t be expected to do much. Be prepared to give it your all, no matter what the task is. After all, your summer internship experience is only as good as you make it!

Thanks for reading! Have a good story about a summer internship experience? Share with others by leaving it in the comment section below! Have a great summer!

Hi there! My name's Britt and I'm a senior majoring in English major at Florida State University. I have these crazy, big dreams of traveling the entire world and writing novels in my spare time. I love music, food, and the Japanese culture. I plan on teaching English in Japan upon graduation from Florida State. My first YA novel, Twisted, was published by Deep Sea Publishing Company in 2014. It won a Readers' Favorite Book Award that same year. Alongside schoolwork, I'm working hard on the second book in the Twisted series as well as a number of other novels.

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