How to land your dream internship

career advice internships

Internships help college students gain experience and try out different fields before graduation. You can think of internships as a 10-12 week job interview with a company. Many companies look to hire a certain percentage of their internship class back as full time employees. But not all internships are created equal, so use the following tips to help you navigate your next steps:

Tip #1: Choose the Right Internship

The right internship will be one that provides skills and experience that align with your long-term goals. If you are unsure of your long-term goals, an internship can also help you try out a field and figure out what you like (or don’t like). Sometimes figuring out what you don’t like can be as important as the reverse. An internship at a big company can be valuable, but working at a smaller company and gaining relevant skills can be just as valuable as a big-name company. Your first internship may not be exactly in the role you want in the future, and that's okay. Gaining work experience and transferable skills can still help you achieve your long term goal. I currently work as a molecular biologist, and my first internship was actually in a technology role. My technology role was at a pharmaceutical company, so I highlighted the relevant pharmaceutical experience when applying to full-time laboratory roles at Pharmaceutical company. 

Tip #2: Build your Resume 

Applying to internships many students find themselves at an infinite loop of needing experience to get hired, and not being able to get experience because they struggle to get hired. 

The hardest internship to land is your first one. Once you have work experience, it's easier to stand out from the pool of applicants. When you do not have previous internship experience, think of how your classwork, personal projects, volunteering, or work experience align with the requirements of the job.

Companies typically do not expect interns to come in with a huge array of skills, so if you can show passion and interest for the field, you can increase your chances of getting hired. A student I know earned a Technology Internship at Johnson & Johnson by showing an algorithm he made in his free time to predict fantasy football rankings. You can also highlight related projects from your coursework, or any volunteer experience.  Tailoring your resume to each specific job posting is also important. Many companies use an automated Applicant Tracking System to screen candidates, so be sure to include keywords from the job description in your resume. 

Tip #3: Network

Another important way to stand out is through networking. If your school hosts a career fair, or networking events, make sure to visit the booth and attend as many events as possible hosted by companies you're interested in. Even if they are not hiring for your specific area of interest, networking with individuals who work at the company may help earn an introduction that lands you a job. For smaller companies, contacting hiring managers on LinkedIn may help you stand out. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to data, because interviewers will often  search you ahead of time. Reaching out to school alumni on LinkedIn, or asking professors if they have any connections can help as well. Building your network is one of the most important ways to land internships.

Erin graduated magna cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a Bachelor's degree in Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology. She also earned a Masters of Science in Biochemistry & Biophysics from RPI.


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