The right internship can get you valuable experience in your chosen field and set you on the right path for a successful career. The best internships are competitive, but with some smart preparation, you can position yourself to land your dream gig. Here are eight tips for getting an awesome internship.

1. TALK TO SOMEONE IN THE FIELD.

The first step in landing the perfect internship is identifying the right opportunity for you. To get a feel for what kind of internship you should be applying for, it’s important to talk to someone who’s worked in the field you would like to make your career. This can include a professor, academic advisor, a family friend, or someone in your personal network.

Talking to someone who’s currently working in the profession would be ideal, since they will know about industry trends and will have plenty of insight on where to best focus your energy. Tell them what you see yourself doing and what types of openings you’d be interested in to start a discussion. By networking, you won’t just get informed advice, but you might wind up with a new contact that can put you in touch with a potential lead.

2. GET YOUR SCHOOL’S HELP.

Schools often establish relationships with local companies in order to get students internships they can trust. Since schools will grant college credit for internships, they want to make sure these positions are actually learning experiences and not just busy work for students. Applying for an internship that’s university-approved can help take some of the stress and uncertainty out of the whole process.

Just because an internship isn’t facilitated through your school doesn’t mean that it’s not a great opportunity! It pays to be independent and do additional internship research on your own. If the position is in your field and promises a great learning experience, your school will likely be open to giving you credit for it.

3. ATTEND A JOB FAIR.

It’s easy to get lost in the flurry of activities and events that take place on campus, but don’t miss out on career fairs. These events are filled with companies looking for their next intern, and they’re a great way to network. Preparation is key: Choose a professional outfit and print out a stack of resumes. Bring along a portfolio or briefcase to collect pamphlets and business cards, and keep an eye out for companies in your chosen field. Starting a conversation with a recruiter can be intimidating if you haven’t spoken to one before, but don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. With a firm handshake, tell them what you’re majoring in and when you’ll graduate, then drop some knowledge about their company—you’ll be on your way to chatting in no time.

4. SEEK OUT VALUABLE EXPERIENCE.

Chances are there’s an internship available at one of your favorite companies, whether that’s a startup, TV network, retail chain, or food brand. But before you get star struck, determine if these positions are actually going to further your career. Sure, working for a big name can be alluring, but what happens once the internship is over? Will it get you closer to your career goals? These are important questions to ask. When it comes to choosing the right internship for you, make sure you look at the actual responsibilities of the position. You may find that a smaller or less familiar company offers better opportunities for you to grow and get useful experience.

5. KEEP ON TOP OF DEADLINES.

Companies don’t always interview for internship openings year-round—if you’re looking for a spring position, for example, you should keep your eyes open for postings as the fall semester begins. Recruiting times vary, so it’s important to know when the recruiting period is for your industry. Some companies start looking up to a year in advance; do your research so you don’t risk missing a deadline.

You’ll want any advantage you can get, and having your resume in before companies get flooded closer to the submission deadline could be the difference between landing that dream role and having your application get lost in the shuffle.

6. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ON-CAMPUS RESUME HELP.

Your resume will probably be one of the first things your desired company reviews with your application, so a little work polishing yours could really pay off. Be sure to get in touch with your campus’s career center for help with your resume. The university employees who staff these centers will gladly review your resume to make sure it’s readable and contains all of the relevant experience needed to impress potential employers. Aside from a career center, be sure to run your resume by an advisor or professor as well. Even having your friends read over your resume may help you catch typos or unclear writing that you may have missed.

7. KNOW THE COMPANY.

Congratulations! You landed an interview for a potential internship—but before you go, make sure you do research on the company itself. Go to its website and read everything you can to educate yourself. Find out who’s in charge and what they do. If you know or can find out the names of the people who will be interviewing you, make sure to research their career paths and what they do now. It’s also helpful to read through any “About Us” or “History” sections a company might have on its site to get a sense of the company culture and how they became the company they are today. And it’s important to show that you’re up to date on the company’s current initiatives, so read through news articles online to find out even more about the company, its direction, and what its strengths are.

One of the easiest ways to find out more about a place is to follow the company and any key employees on social media. This will give even more insight into the company’s current developments, which you can weave naturally into any related interview questions.

8. ASK QUESTIONS AT THE INTERVIEW.

Remember, an internship interview isn’t just for a supervisor to see if they’re interested in you—you have to make sure you’re interested in them as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you’ll be doing and whether or not you’ll be getting a true learning experience at the end of the term. A company that is willing to really teach its interns will have a list of responsibilities ready when you ask.

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