This guest post was written by Scarlett Ho, a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy.
Securing your dream internship- that is the highlight of your college career- can be daunting. It takes years of planning and preparation as well as numerous rejections. Regardless of what stage of the search process you are at, a couple words of advice to heed throughout your search are to be aggressive and to think strategically. With that in mind, below are my tips for being an efficient internship seeker.
1. Plan early
It is never a bad thing to plan early. If you know what your ultimate end goal is, or even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after graduation, you should at least have a rough idea of the parameters of the areas you want to explore. Thus, it is crucial you create a bold action plan to make the most out of your time here.
As an International Affairs and Political Science major, I might not know precisely what I want to do after I graduate (e.g. lobbyists, diplomat, Hill staffers, think tank analysts, etc.), but I know that these are roughly the options I have, and the goal of an internship is to try out all these areas during my undergraduate years to test the waters and explore my passion. You should have a list of organizations and companies that you are interested in organize it well and create a timeline. Try jotting down your dream organizations just off the top of your head and see how many you can come up with, then do some internet research to find more organizations that may have internship opportunities and add them to your list. Set deadlines for yourself and hold yourself accountable for meeting them.
2. Create a Comprehensive Internship Database
Although Northeastern has a sophisticated myNEU Cool database that offers numerous co-op jobs, if you are bit more ambitious and are interested in more internship opportunities, sometimes you have to look outward and create your own personalized database. The reason you should do that is being 1. some jobs are not listed on the system/you are not authorized to view them because of certain settings; 2. the school has not yet developed a relationship with the organization (but you should not limit your options because of that). Take note of outside internship search engines like InternMatch.com, HuskyCareerLink and broader search engines like SimplyHired and Indeed to aid your search and build up your database. Also, check out the Internship Guide on the Career Development website for more ideas.
3. Stay Organized
Once you find a list of internships and organizations you are interested in, how do you organize them in an effective and easy-to-read manner that would serve as a roadmap for applying? For me, I create a Google Doc spreadsheet because it is easily accessible everywhere, and I can share the file to multiple accounts. Moreover, I can also make changes easily and invite people to contribute to my list.
Within the document, I categorize the different job natures and put as much information as possible. Using my career interest as an example, in the excel document, I created tabs for government jobs, campaigns, NGOs, think tanks, etc and provided other details such as time of internship, application period, deadline, compensation, location, materials needed (such as recommendation letters, transcript). I would also put a column where I gauge my chances (just like college applications) – safety, match, or dream; and note what year of students the organizations are looking for. And so, even if you were a sophomore, you would be aware of the dream internship that only takes rising seniors, and you can strategize accordingly.
4. Connect with People and Ask Questions
I’ve found that from the objective internship description that organizations usually offer on their websites, it is hard to get a sense of what the job entails and envisage whether or not it aligns with your interests. To save time from applying and interviewing for a job that you might not like, the best way is to ask former interns and alumni who worked there before. Through searching on LinkedIn or Facebook (if you are friends with them), you can target those people and send them a message to meet up for coffee or for general questions. In my experience, it is likely that people would offer help or a piece of advice. The informational interview will help you understand the following things: tips on application process, a day-to-day work schedule, and whether he/she can introduce you to people you should know. Be sure to write a thank you message to the person as a professional gesture afterwards.
Creating an internship database in the form of a timeline goes a long way in helping you navigate the tedious internship seeking process. Be sure to connect with alumni and existing connections on the way to find out about more opportunities and whether or not the job would be a good fit for you! Good luck.
Scarlett Ho is a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy. She is a former Capitol Hill intern and will be interning at the European Parliament this fall with NU’s study abroad program. As a trilingual, she is interested in foreign affairs and diplomacy, and is an avid globetrotter. Connect with Scarlett on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.