Throughout my entire freshman year, I was constantly told to "not get my hopes up" about landing a summer internship.
Well, I got my hopes up. And I landed an internship. Sorry.
Only after continuous stress and effort for nine months, however. It didn't come easy. Anything worth having never will, but here are five tips to hopefully make it easier for you incoming freshman hopefuls.
1.) Fit your resume to the job posting
For large companies that receive hundreds of resumes for a single posting, they will often send resumes through a computer algorithm for the first cut. Key words from the job posting will be specifically searched for. Thus, to make that first cut and have real human eyes look at your resume, include key phases from the job posting. If they're looking for "interpersonal skills, problem-solving abilities and organization" and you have that, include that word-for-word. Don't tailor to the point of lying or repeating the entire scripting, but if you can offer what they're looking for, put it in a statement they're asking for. Comb through job postings and highlight what you offer. This will help structure your resume.
2.) Connect on your own
Walking into my freshman year I thought I could easily land an internship at my school's fall career fair. When that didn't work out, I was banking on spring career fair. In March, when neither of those produced a single lead, I realized I had to make my own network. Thus, I made personal appointments with professionals at my career center to get additional help. I started talking to people about connections they had, to upperclassmen about their internships, to my scholarship foundation about possible opportunities, to professors about their industry leads. I realized I could not simply rely on the school or on any single connection. I had to make a network of different people I could talk to.
3.) Be assertive
My father often tells me the story of landing his first job at a construction site. For nearly two weeks he would walk into the construction manager's office during lunchtime and ask if there were any available jobs. Finally, he landed the job simply so the manger could have his lunch back. There is certainly a difference between being rude and assertive, but people will have an easy time ignoring you if you're not in their face. Walk into company offices and ask about any opportunities. Go up to professors after class and discuss the industries they perform research with. Look up connects on LinkedIn that have other connections and give them a call to introduce you. Don't hide behind emails. Turn the tides on this technical age.
4.) Apply to the jobs at the bottom of your list (with enthusiasm)
As they say, bad experience is better than no experience. If you're rejected from top intern programs, don't feel disappointed and rejected. You're young -- you have time to get to your dream job. Continue to be ambitious and motivated. Apply to companies you may not have initially thought of, and apply to them with the same enthusiasm and grit as the others. You never know: you could really love working for that company. How will you know until you've experienced the work and culture? And even if you don't, it's probably better than working at Noodles & Company.
5.) Work on those soft skills
If you are finally selected from the masses and move onto the interview phase, remember one thing: in most cases, you are not competing to see if you are more qualified. Obviously you are already qualified or you would not have been selected for an interview. Now it comes down to what can't be seen on paper: if you're presentable and if they like you. When I first walked into college I thought that I needed to get as many hard skills on my resume as I could to have any shot at getting an internship. While those are important, companies often need to retrain you for your new job anyway. Those skills simply show you can perform once you've learned. What I've found for internships is they are looking for someone with the right attitude and if they would like working with you. So, if your personable skills aren't up to speed, start talking to strangers in elevators, with people you meet in lines, or reaching out to old friends. It's a skill many people don't have, especially at a young age, and it will set you apart.