Getting An Internship Part 3: Preparing For Your Interview

This post has been a long time coming, but I wanted to release it mid-semester, since it can apply to job seekers as well. As I know many college seniors are readying themselves for graduation, I thought this would be a great post for everyone to read, no matter where they are in their career path.

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You’ve sent in your resume and cover letter, and after waiting anxiously for what seemed like weeks, the hiring manager for the position you applied to has contacted you, asking to schedule an interview. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your interview and that will allow you to leave the meeting feeling confident that you aced it:

Research the position.

Go back to the position description that you read when you applied for the internship. Jot down all the responsibilities required from the position as well as the required skills. Highlight the responsibilities that you are familiar with and have had success with– these points will help you convey to the hiring manager what you have to bring to the table. With the ones that are not highlighted, think of the characteristics that you possess that are relevant to those responsibilities. That way, when the question, “Are you familiar with _____?” comes up, you can respond confidently with, “I haven’t had much experience with _____, but I have strong _____ skills that I feel will allow me to successfully accomplish this responsibility.” As you did with the list of responsibilities, highlight the skills that you possess. The ones that are not highlighted will allow you to convey what you wish to learn from the internship, for example: “I would love to learn more about event coordination and improve my research skills when it comes to finding vendors for the event.”

Know the company.

Do your research on the company that you’re applying to work at. What awards has it won? Who are its clients? What kind of work environment does it appear to have? Knowing these details will allow you to not only familiarize yourself with the company, but also feel comfortable when you step foot into the door, because you have an idea of what to expect and also how to dress for the interview.

Assemble a folder.

Ready a folder that contains a print copy of your current resume and cover letter for the hiring manager to reference back to. Include portfolio items such as writing samples, graphic design work, social media content calendars, etc.– include items that relate to the position you’re applying for and its corresponding responsibilities. Will you be interviewing with a group of people? Bring duplicates of the folder so that each person can have his/her own copy.

Create a folder for yourself as well. This will be helpful if someone asks, “It says here on your resume that you created content for social media. Can you elaborate?” Easy. Pull out the content calendar you placed into your folder and respond, “Absolutely. In your folder you’ll find this mock content calendar that I created for a social media course. I kept the posts limited to 15-20 per month and drafted copy that would encourage engagement from the client’s audience.” Be sure to keep copies of references on you, don’t include them in the folders. Only provide a list of references when it’s requested.

Prepare a couple of questions.

Asking questions of your own during an interview shows your desire to obtain the position and also your drive to excel in it. Questions such as, “How do you define success in this position?” or “What do you enjoy most about the company culture?” will allow your interviewer to realize that you really want to do a good job as an intern. Not only that, but it will help you become an awesome intern and grow your skill set, ultimately widening and benefiting your career path.

I hope these tips prove useful to you during your interview preparation. Don’t be nervous– you’ve done your research. Just go in with a sense of confidence and knock his/her/their socks off. Good luck!

Have any additional pieces of advice to add? Leave me a comment, or start a conversation with me on Twitter at @thisjenngirl!

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Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

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Whether you’re a student in college applying for internships, a recent graduate searching for an entry-level position or already a professional in the working world, chances are, you’ve got a LinkedIn page with your name on it. No matter where you are in your career path, it’s important to optimize and maintain your LinkedIn profile. Doing so will allow you to become more visible to other students/colleagues in your industry and will also help you increase your connections to the industry. Here are some key areas of your LinkedIn page to pay extra attention to:

Profile Photo

If your profile photo on LinkedIn is currently a white shadow of a bald person, I recommend that you upload a photo of yourself as soon as possible! Without a profile photo, if your profile comes up in a search, it’s unlikely that someone will choose to view it, under the assumption that you probably haven’t logged on to your LinkedIn in awhile.

What makes a good profile photo? Your picture should be a professional headshot– it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just remember to smile, because everyone loves an approachable face. Stay away from selfies and modeling photos, as well as photos with a limb cut off because you had to crop out the person standing next to you.

Headline

Make sure that your headline is not only search-friendly, but also says who you are and what you specialize in and speaks to your audience. Maybe you’re a ‘Detail-oriented public relations student eager to learn from a corporate PR internship‘ or a ‘Seasoned public relations professional specializing in managing crises.‘ Whoever you are, make sure that stands out in your headline– leverage those 120 characters!

Summary

Write your summary in first person– LinkedIn, after all, is a social media platform– let some personality shine through! Who are you? What experience (and how much) do you have? What are you passionate about? What are you hoping to gain from a connection? Answer these questions here, but try not to get too lengthy; two to three short paragraphs is perfect.

Experience

Similar to your resume, current experiences should be bulleted in present tense, while past experiences should be bulleted in past tense. Don’t resort to ‘fluff’ in this portion of your profile– highlight responsibilities (clear, concise & straight to the point) that will make a recruiter or potential connection go, ‘Wow, he/she accomplished that?!

Advice For Contacting

How can someone contact you outside of LinkedIn? In what instances would you like he/she to contact you? Type it out in this section. Think of something along the lines of ‘Interested in working with me? You can contact me directly at _____.’

Which section do you think is most vital when it comes to leveraging your LinkedIn profile? Let me know by leaving a comment, or by tweeting me at @thisjenngirl!

Getting An Internship Part 2: Preparing Your Cover Letter

In this second part of the “Getting An Internship” series, I’m going to go over how to compile information within paragraphs to create a basic cover letter. Your cover letter will help the reader (hopefully your future internship supervisor!) get to know more about you, your passions and your skills.

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Traditionally, cover letters are used as an attachment, sent along with your resume for review by the recruiter. While others may recommend that you continue distributing your cover letter as so, I actually recommend that you use your cover letter as the body of your email to the recruiter. One of the big things that we learn as public relations students is when pitching to an outlet to gain coverage of your client, you want to capture the reader’s attention– and then get to the point. I look at reaching out to a recruiter the same way. Whichever method you choose is up to you, but this tip sheet will help you either way. Make a rough draft that answers the following questions, and then form them into sentences (with transitions!) to create smooth paragraphs that flow together.

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I’ve also attached a sample cover letter below that will help you get the gist of how to put it all together. This cover letter is one I actually used to secure an interview, and ultimately an offer, from my current job. I hope that you find this useful, and if you have any questions at all, don’t be afraid to ask!

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Jennifer Thai and I am a public relations student at the
University of South Florida, expected to graduate in December of this
year. I came across your listing for the social media associate
position on the Ad 2 Tampa Bay job bank, while searching for career
opportunities that are a match with my area of interest. This particular position
caught my eye as it entails creating & maintaining social media
strategies as well as other public relations & marketing initiatives
for clients, which is where my expertise lies.

I have three years of public relations and communications internship
experience in both agency and in-house settings, as detailed in my
resume. I also bring four years of internship experience in digital
marketing—because these particular digital positions required me to
work remotely, I am proud to say that I have gained the ability to
successfully manage multiple projects in a fast-paced environment
while never missing a deadline.

I am a creative and socially-driven individual, and I believe that my
abilities in interpersonal communication, taking initiative and
remaining level-headed through any situation are qualities that would
best suit a position of this nature. I would love to be given the
opportunity to fill this position, and to be able to show that the
qualities that I possess will establish me as an ideal social media
associate. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I hope to
hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Thai

Getting An Internship Part 1: Preparing Your Resume

In this “Getting An Internship” portion of the series I’ve been preparing for you, there will be three separate parts, each with its own tip sheet– Part 1: Preparing Your Resume, Part 2: Preparing Your Cover Letter and Part 3: Acing Your Interview.

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Before applying to an internship that you’ve found, you should make sure that you have a resume on file. If you haven’t created one already, this sample template should assist you in compiling the information you need for a functional resume:

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If this is your first internship that you’re applying to, chances are, you don’t have a whole lot of substance to put onto your resume. But if you carefully read the description of the internship position, you may find that you have experiences that are relevant. Have you participated in any volunteer opportunities within the past two years? Are you an active member of an organization on campus? Have you had any part-time jobs that taught you about responsibility, organization, multitasking or taking initiative? Any of these experiences can be included in your resume, so long as the skills that you took from them are related to that of the internship you are applying to.

When you begin listing the responsibilities of each experience, be sure to utilize strong action verbs, such as communicated, compiled, organized, produced, assisted with, etc. If the position that you are describing is one you held in the past, be sure to list its responsibilities in the past tense. If you still hold that position currently, list its responsibilities in the present tense.

You’ll want to organize your resume with your most recent experience at the top, with the rest in reverse chronological order. Although a lot of resume samples list the dates numerically (05/2009 – 06/2010), I recommend that you list your dates with the month spelled out, followed by the year (May 2009 – June 2010). Using this method makes it easier for the reader and reduces any unnecessary confusion.

A lot of resume samples that you’ll find online include an ‘objective’ section, where you include (in sentence form) the position that you are seeking, along with any skills you feel are appropriate for that position. Personally, I think that this is unnecessary, as your email subject line will answer the question of what position you are applying for and your cover letter will explain in detail the skills that you encompass that make you a good candidate for the internship.

As far as the ‘skills’ section of your resume goes, ask yourself: What skills do I possess that are relevant to the internship that I am applying for? What software are you familiar with, do you know how to use Microsoft Office, Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop? Are you good at writing, familiar with AP Style? List your skills, in bullet form.

After you complete your resume, check, double check and triple check for any errors. Once you feel confident in the way it sounds and appears, ask a variety of people to look it over for you: an advisor, a friend, a mentor, a professor, etc. Your university’s career center is also a very helpful resource if you’re stuck on how to effectively bring your skills out on paper.

Good luck on your search for an internship, and be sure to check back for part two, which will cover the topic of preparing your cover letter!