Landing a fall internship takes work – everything you need to know to get started

Whether you're a recent graduate or you are looking to make a career change, landing a solid paid internship is often the first step to embarking on your dream career. But getting the internship you want takes more than just submitting a CV and hoping for a callback.

You may be competing with hundreds, even thousands, of other applicants for the position. That means you have to stand out from the crowd and make yourself look like the perfect candidate.

Step 1: What does the employer want?

Before you even begin writing your CV or sending out applications, you need to ask yourself one simple but very important question: What is it that the employer is looking for? The biggest mistake jobseekers make, especially students and recent graduates, is sending out the same CV or resume to different employers without considering the fact that each employer will want something different. Take the time to look though the company’s website to get an idea of how you should build your application to suit their needs. For example, if you’re applying to a tech start-up then a more informal application that shows off your creative side will be appreciated, whereas if you are applying to a law firm you will want to keep things serious and formal.

Step 2: Work on your resume

Once you know what the employer wants you can edit your resume to show off why you are a great fit for the internship. Don’t just provide a list of adjectives to describe your previous experience. Employers read dozens of resumes each day from graduates and jobseekers describing themselves as “analytical,” “creative,” “organized,” “dedicated,” and so on. Those aren’t words that will help you stand out. What will help you stand out is creating a story about what you achieved at your previous positions. For example, maybe you volunteered at your school’s accounting club. Don’t just tell your potential employer how you improved your accounting skills while at the club, instead, describe the state of the club when you first joined, what you did to make it better, and how that experience will translate to the internship.

You may also want to prepare a cover letter. While there is some debate about whether or not cover letters are required on applications anymore, you should probably still include one just to be safe–unless, of course, the employer specifically asks you not to!

Step 3: Prepare for the interview

Just because this is an internship you’re applying for doesn’t mean you should treat the interview any less seriously than a job. After all, a paid internship (or even an unpaid internship) is usually the first step towards getting an entry-level job and embarking on a rewarding career in your chosen industry. Make sure you dress appropriately and prepare answers for some questions you can expect the interviewer to ask. Also, prove to the interviewer that you are interested by bringing copies of your work and asking them questions about the company and the internship.

Finally, make the internship a success

Once you have landed that paid internship, you need to make it a success. Even if you feel like all you’re doing is getting people coffees and trying to fix the photocopier, you can still make yourself stand out. Show up on time each and every day, offer to take on additional work, and show an interest in what your co-workers are doing. That sort of aspirational, can-do attitude is what will put you on the path to career success.