You are between the age of 18 and 20 years old. You’re a college student who works hard and looking forward to a business career one day. You have this thing called a resume, and it is pretty much blank. How do you fill it? Oh, of course, a summer internship! However, the real question is how do you land one?
To help undergraduate students answer that and other career questions, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School hosted its 34th annual Undergraduate Business Symposium on Sept. 7. At a panel about internships, UNC Kenan-Flagler students shared their experiences finding and securing summer internships after their freshman and sophomore years. Here are their top tips for landing an internship.
1. Don’t be afraid to use your connections. Finding an internship after your freshman or sophomore year is hard, often due to lack of experience. You are competing with many applicants who are older and have more job and in-class experiences. So, don’t be afraid to use your familial connections. If your mom’s best friend is the senior VP at a local company you’re interested in, reach out to her. Maybe it will lead to a job and the experience that will help you land the next job you apply to.
2. Get connected on campus. UNC has many different avenues to get involved and UNC Kenan-Flagler also has many clubs you can be a part of. Clubs have a listserv you can sign up for, and they send out job or networking opportunities. This is a great way to find jobs and ask older students questions about their experiences.
3. Be authentic. Don’t go into interviews and fill out applications pretending to be someone you are not. The panelists emphasized being yourself and allowing future employers to get to know you for who you are and not who you are trying to be. Employers are people, too, and want to get to know you on an individual level. They understand that you have concerns or do not know everything and they appreciate vulnerability and honesty.
4. Think of interviews as valuable practice. One of the panelists spoke about his internship quest as a source for interview practice. He applied to everything and took each interview as a practice opportunity. Interviews are a great way to develop confidence in your abilities and improve your quick-thinking skills. The more you do, the better you will be.
5. Try new things. You might not know what you want to do. That is okay! Reach out to companies even if you haven’t heard of them and apply for positions you might not have considered. This will increase your chance of finding a position. And who knows, you might end up loving something you’ve never heard of. There is no harm in trying.
6. Meet as many people as you can. This applies in all situations. Whether you are at a networking event, club meeting or even in class. You never know what kind of connection you will make. One panelist shared her story of how waiting tables for someone lead to an internship the next summer so, you never know who you will meet can lead to an opportunity!
7. Prepare for interviews. Although every interview is different, many of the same questions are asked. Employers want to know who you are and how you handle different situations. Think about yourself and do some self-reflection. Prepare yourself for questions like, “Tell me about yourself?” and practice your answers and delivery to those questions. You will feel more comfortable when the time comes for an actual interview.
8. Have fun. All of the panelists agreed that an undergraduate summer internship is not going to make or break your entire career. They encouraged students to go off the beaten path and find something fun to do for a summer internship. Whether it is working at a restaurant in a fun city or spending a summer at camp, those experiences can be valuable in your job search.
By Caroline Alessandro (BA ’20)