Land the Right Internship in 5 Simple Steps – The BRAIN Method

How to get an internship

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What used to be a helpful enhancement to one's resume can now be considered an essential professional experience—that's right, we're talking about internships. Before you dive head-first into your search for the perfect internship, it's important to understand why interning can be crucial to the development of your career.

An internship can serve as an excellent stepping stone toward a career you love. Working as an intern allows you to explore a new industry, helps to expand your skill set, and often provides valuable opportunities to network.

Additionally, having internship experience on your resume will set you apart from other applicants when the time comes to apply for a full-time position. It's important to note that while many internship positions are unpaid, the benefits derived from working as an intern are priceless. Consider taking on a part-time, unpaid position (even if you are working full-time) to revamp your resume for future career opportunities.

Now that you have an idea of the value of an internship, let's begin your search for the right internship opportunity using the BRAIN method which stands for Brainstorm, Research, Apply, Interview, and Now What?

1. Brainstorm

An essential component of any internship experience (or any professional position, for that matter) is that you find the work engaging, exciting, and relevant to your long-term interests. Many people forget that the recipe for success calls for a hefty amount of an ingredient called passion.

With this notion in mind, begin your search for an internship by constructing a comprehensive list of your interests, strengths, passions, and goals. Now is an excellent time to check in with yourself and ponder the various career paths you could pursue. What are your academic strengths? What extracurricular activities make you happiest? What global causes or missions are most important to you? What brands and companies do you enjoy, utilize, or admire? 

2. Research

From your answers to these questions, you can form a list of companies that are relevant to your interests. Visit these businesses' career pages, and you’re likely to find information regarding an internship program. Don't be discouraged if none are available, as many openings are posted only a few months before the program start date. With that said, many companies do begin their applicant search a full season beforehand, so check back frequently to see if new opportunities are available.

If you’re feeling exceptionally enthused, propose an internship program where one may not yet exist. Check out Andrea Tiutan’s experience that resulted in an internship with Spotify.

Furthermore, it helps to be open to opportunities outside of your comfort zone. Browse job boards for openings in companies with which you aren’t familiar, or consider an unpaid position to gain valuable resume experience.

If you're still unsure where to start, don’t worry. There are many resources available to help you pinpoint openings relevant to your interests. A great place to start is none other than Internships.com, where you can utilize their Internship Predictor to discover suitable industries and internships based on your work style and interests.

3. Apply

After pinpointing opportunities that interest you, it’s go time.

The application process isn’t the most exciting step in securing an internship, but it is undoubtedly one of the most important ones. Your application is the very first impression a potential employer will have of you and your qualifications, so make it count.

Focus your application efforts on both quality and quantity. Quality is a no brainer; carefully consider and review the information you include on each application you submit. While core information about yourself will remain constant no matter where you apply, tailor the work experience and qualifications included on your resume to be specific for each position and company to which you are applying. Regarding quantity, we recommend targeting multiple job openings that interest you. The process of landing an internship has become increasingly competitive, so casting a wide net is always beneficial to ensure that you have more options.

Furthermore, your application is an opportunity to stand out appropriately. If you can demonstrate your qualifications--graphic design skills, a second language, unique traits or abilities, through elements of your resume, cover letter, or other suitable application materials, consider doing so here to stand out from other applicants.

4. Interview

Hopefully, you’ll make it to this next stage: an internship interview! When it comes time to formally interview for an opportunity, there is one piece of advice to rule them all: prepare, prepare, prepare.

Invest time to learn about the company's background and the essential functions of the position. Having an elementary yet substantial knowledge of the company, such as its values, mission, locations, and history, demonstrates your genuine interest in working for the business and helps you to craft questions for your interviewers.

Additionally, be prepared to talk about and market yourself and your expertise. Knowing how to articulate why your experiences are relevant to the position (not solely that you have experience) is an essential element of a successful interview.

A common mistake that many interviewees make is the omission of questions for your interviewers. Ask a minimum of two questions to demonstrate your desire to know more about the opportunity and that you’ve done your research. Additionally, your questions will assist you in determining whether the company is the right fit for you. For inspiration on questions to ask in your internship interview, you can access many online guides, such as this great list of potential questions from Monster

When in doubt, smile, relax, and be confidently yourself.

5. Now What?

After an interview, candidates may feel they are in limbo waiting to hear back. While an employer does have the final say as to whether or not they will move forward with your application, it is crucial to take matters into your own hands with an appropriate follow-up message. Consider sending a thank you note shortly after the interview as a polite gesture and to demonstrate your continued interest in the opportunity. If you don't hear back within a week or so, it is appropriate to call or email to check in on the status of your application. Beyond a preliminary follow-up, be patient and address other potential opportunities.

To address the elephant in the room, dealing with rejection is never fun. We've all experienced a roadblock or two in a job search, and it is fair to say that you emerge stronger in the face of rejection. Reflect on your application and interview experience with the company, taking care to address any bumps that need to be smoothed out. Here is where casting a wide net of applications comes in handy -- on to the next one.

All of this information can be understandably overwhelming. But remember, you’re not in it alone. Be sure to utilize Ashford’s Career Services, where you can work one-on-one with a specialist to secure the right internship for you. With that said, we hope that this guide has led you to your dream internship. Remember to take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow in your internship position. You never know just where the experience will take you.

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Written by Elizabeth Howard, Communications Intern for Bridgepoint Education.

References

“Internship” Def. 1. Oxford Dictionaries Online, Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 21 June. 2017

Conlan, C. (n.d.). 8 Questions to Ask in an Interview for an Internship. Retrieved from https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/8-questions-ask-internship-interview

Hering, B. B. (2010, April 14). Why are internships so important? Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/worklife/04/14/cb.why.internships.important/index.html

LiveCareer. (n.d.). How Soon You Should Follow Up After a Job Interview | Interview. Retrieved from https://www.livecareer.com/interview-tips/follow-up/timing

Tiutan, A. (2016, June 15). "Landing My Dream Internship at Spotify: How I applied for an internship that didn't exist!" Retrieved from http://www.letsintern.com/blog/landing-my-dream-internship-at-spotify-how-i-applied-for-an-internship-that-didnt-exist-by-andrea-tiutan/

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