By Kathy Caprino Forbes Contributor
While I focus primarily on helping mid-career women build happier, more rewarding careers, I often hear from college students and recent grads about their career concerns. The two most common challenges shared are: “I can’t figure out what I want to pursue as a career,” and “How do I get great work if I’m just starting out?”
The way out of these two dilemmas is the same. To determine what you want to do for your livelihood, and to land great work in your chosen field you have to:
1. Step Back — for an empowered perspective of what you’ve already accomplished, what you’re capable of, and what you have to offer to the world
2. Let Go – of the thinking, patterns and behaviors that are keeping you stuck
3. Say “Yes!” – to your compelling visions for the future and for the impact you want to make
4. Explore It – physically “try on” new directions that excite you, so you can narrow it down
5. Create It SMART – Build a S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) plan to move you forward, and get someone to help you remain accountable
For college students, the Explore phase is critical.
To help you break this down into more specific steps, and learn how to land a great internship that will move your career forward, I was excited to connect with Ryan Kahn, Career Coach and Founder of The Hired Group, author of Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad and star of MTV’s Hired, a 20-episode documentary series helping recent grads land the job of their dreams.
Here’s the inside scoop from Ryan about how to land a great summer internship:
“Summer is quickly approaching, and if you’re a college student, I’m sure you have a lot on your mind. Between cramming for finals and maintaining a social life, your plate is pretty full. And, while you may be thinking you couldn’t possibly take on any more projects at a time like this, trust me, this is one that will be worth your while: finding an internship.
Of course, nothing in life is free, so if you want to land an internship this summer, you’re going to have to put in a little work first. I know the last thing you want to hear is that you have more studying to do, but I promise, the lessons learned from this cram session are ones you’ll actually use after finals are over. Start studying these lessons on your next study break, and you’ll land yourself an internship in no time.
Embrace Your Inner Rookie
If you’re worried about not having any experience, let me just stop you right there. Lack of experience should in no way intimidate you from seeking an internship—after all, that’s what the internship is for, right?
Instead, embrace your inner rookie, and use that to your advantage. Instead of worrying about the gaps on your resume, start thinking about how you can apply the experience you do have toward landing an internship. Anything and everything you did in college is fair game, so don’t be afraid to talk up your achievements. (Just keep it professional. Your future employer doesn’t need to know you’re the reigning beer pong champion of your school.)
You may think LinkedIn is for seasoned professionals only, but I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not true. In fact, college students can benefit quite a bit by having a solid profile. Why? Well, if everyone you’re trying to impress is already on LinkedIn, doesn’t it make sense you should be, too?
Even if you just have your experience at the college paper, or volunteering in Mexico for the summer, get it in your profile, and start building your presence online. You’ll be glad you did, and potential employers will appreciate your fearless approach to networking.
Let’s face it, you’re on the internet all day anyway, so you might as well make good use of your surfing time. And, by “surfing” I really mean stalking—but not in a creepy way. Start seeking out your favorite companies, and find a contact. Dig up their careers page, read through their current news and look for upcoming events. And, of course, don’t forget social media. Find ways to interact with them on their own turf, and you’ll start building the foundation for a foot in the door for that internship.
Join the Club
Every industry has its own little club. Whether it’s a forum online, an active Instagram feed or copious amounts of Tweets, figure out what’s what with your favorite industries, and get involved. Start a blog and share your favorite articles and ideas involving the industry, and of course, don’t forget to share the love for your favorite companies, too. By creating your own, independent presence online, you give potential employers a place to find you, and do their own stalking. Sometimes, the best way to impress someone is to show, not tell, and there’s no better place to do that than on your very own custom site.
Don’t Be Boring
Repeat after me: “I will not use a template cover letter.” OK, now say it one more time, and mean it. Seriously, any potential employer who’s reviewed more than one resume can spot a template from a mile away. Just don’t do it, period. Put all those creative writing courses and colorful college experiences to good use, and draft a compelling cover letter that will wow even the most seasoned interviewer. Oh, and when you’re in the throes of creativity, don’t forget to sprinkle in some hard facts, too. Talk about your life-changing experience volunteering overseas, but be sure to mention how many houses you built—there’s nothing like solid facts to take a story from just interesting, to tangible, translatable, experience.
Make Yourself Useful
Start making a name for yourself by getting in front of every person that falls in line with your interests. But when I say get in front, what I really mean is, make yourself valuable. People in positions of influence are peppered with “asks” all day, every day. Don’t be that person. Instead, find a way to make yourself useful to them.
Starting out, I guarantee you’ll have plenty of competition. But, don’t let that discourage you—there will always be something you can contribute that no one else can do quite as well. If you’re not the most talented person in the room, be the hardest working. Whether it’s licking envelopes or financial modeling, work harder than everyone else, and someone is bound to take notice. A positive attitude and a track record of dependability will always impress, regardless of how seemingly simple the task may be.”
Ryan leaves us with these words of advice:
“While none of these lessons are necessarily easy, they’re all totally achievable, and something you can get started on pronto. Finals are right around the corner, so get started cramming for your new internship now, and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.”
* * * * * *
Ryan’s tips are sound and actionable and will move you forward. Don’t wait – get moving now to find ways to “try on” new directions and roles that excite you. By the end of the summer, you will have learned so much more about what you love – and hate – to do, and what you want to pursue next in building a career you’ll love.
(To learn about building a happy, successful, rewarding career you love, join Kathy in her free career breakthrough teleclass – Make The Right Career Move Now! on April 9th, and visit The Amazing Career Project).