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As the end of the winter semester is approaching, and summer is nearing closer, many of us are on the lookout for internships. Whether it’s for school credit or extra work experience to spruce up your resume, internships can be hard to nail down, and the task of finding the perfect one can be daunting.

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Especially with the current COVID situation, most internships will be pivoting to an online work-from-home format. Although this can make your search more challenging, and it might not be exactly what you hoped for, look on the bright side: any internship opportunity makes for a great experience! Think of all the key skills you’ll be gaining by working remotely – they’re sure to benefit you in any future job.

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Now, you might be wondering exactly how to snag your dream internship, well, we’ve got the answers! We reached out to Jennifer Rich, University of Guelph-Humber Business and Media Field Placement Coordinator, for all her tips and recommendations on how students can find a great internship.

Here’s what she had to say:

How can students stand out from other applicants when applying to limited internship positions?

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“I think the number one way for a student to stand out from other applicants is to tailor your application with your relevant skills and qualifications that will benefit the employer. When students submit generalized applications or don’t tailor each application to the job/internship posting, it makes it much more difficult for an employer to differentiate the candidates. 

“I love when a cover letter tells me a story, I feel more connected to the candidate and I’m much more intrigued to meet and learn more about them. Another way to stand out is to follow-up on your application to ensure it has arrived (if possible), this may prompt the company to take a closer look at your application. 

“Finally, if you are offered an interview, follow that up with a Thank You note. This shows you’re professional and gives the employer a better idea of how you may represent their company if hired. Sending a Thank You note may enable the employer to differentiate a good candidate from a great candidate.”  

What are some important questions students should ask their internship employer before picking an internship?  

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“Before accepting an internship, I always recommend ensuring the employer can accommodate the number of hours you are required to accumulate for your internship/placement course. You don’t want to run into any problems mid-internship and should ensure that the employer can meet all the course requirements prior to accepting a role. 

“I also recommend asking ahead of time about your schedule. Is there a set schedule or is there some flexibility for reasonable commitments such as classes? You want to make sure you have all the information ahead of accepting an offer. 

“Lastly, there is also no harm in inquiring about previous intern experiences: have interns been hired part-time/full-time afterward? Are there any opportunities for a reference letter or referral after the internship is complete? Do they offer their interns any professional development or training opportunities? Asking these questions can ensure you choose the internship that is best suited to your end goals.”  

What challenges do you find interns most frequently face? 

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“For many students, time-management can pose a problem. Learning how to juggle your courses and internship at the same time can pose issues for some students. 

“My recommendation is to set yourself up for success by mapping out your deadlines and responsibilities in a calendar so that you have the bigger picture. You don’t want to over-commit or miss an important deadline. This way you have a map of all your course assignments and internship tasks sorted out and it will help you stay on track.” 

What are some benefits that students might realize come with doing your internship remotely/online? 

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“One of the major benefits, in my opinion, is the time and money saved on commuting. In previous years some students weren’t able to apply to internships of interest because the commute was too long, or for some, there wasn’t direct access on public transit. I think working remotely has opened doors that students traditionally might not have been able to access.

“Another benefit I’ve noticed is that many students are able to find international internships. Previously when students wanted to work abroad there were more requirements such as work visas or additional costs incurred such as accommodations, airfare, medical insurance etc. Now, with much of the world operating remotely, the parameters have expanded for students.” 

How can students adapt/prepare for the new “work from home” format of their internships? 

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“Organize yourself and get into a routine is the best advice I can give any student. Working from home can blur the lines of when the day starts and finishes. Be sure to have some work-life balance, take your lunches and breaks religiously. End your day at the appropriate time and avoid distractions such as social media, television etc. that may hamper your productivity at home. Find a system that works for you and stick to it.” 

What are the best ways for students to shine in their internship roles?   

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“The two qualities for interns to shine in my opinion would be ones who take initiative and those who are adaptable in their internship. 

“Often times you may be required to wear multiple hats, although you may be interested in a particular department/area of the company, your willingness to help out in different areas of an organization will be deemed an asset. Not only does it increase your exposure within the company, but it enables you to meet new people and develop additional skills and knowledge. 

“Taking initiative at your internship will also put you in a positive light. Employers don’t want to micro-manage and provide direction for every project/task you are assigned. Your employer will appreciate your ability to be proactive and seek out new tasks/projects that need completing.”

What are the top tips you’d give students to assist them in their search?  

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“Explore various job boards, don’t limit yourself to only one website. I’m a huge supporter of cold calling/emailing companies to source an internship. Just because the company doesn’t have an internship posting, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be open to hiring one.

“Sometimes the best opportunities are the ones we create. By looking for internships in the hidden market (meaning they are not advertised), you won’t be competing among hundreds or thousands of applicants. By cold calling/emailing, the turnaround is often much quicker, either the employer is interested in an intern and opens the door to a conversation, or they are not, and the door closes, but you move forward.”  

What are some resources interns can look into to help them succeed in their search for internships? 

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“At UofGH, we have many resources available to students on our website, such as sample cover letters and resumes, job search tips, and interviewing help. We also have where we post videos on the Job Search, Etiquette, Interviewing, Social Media Presence etc.”

“Alternatively, Humber students can reach out to their respective placement advisors and check out CareerConnect for regular internship and job postings.

“In addition to these resources, attending on and off-campus career fairs, networking events or visiting your school’s Career Centre can help you succeed during the internship search. Also, reaching out to your Field Placement Coordinator early on in your search is always encouraged.”  

If you’re looking for more great resources to help you succeed in your internship position, IGNITE is excited to announce a FREE virtual LinkedIn for Students event all about how you can turn your internship into your dream job!

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On Thursday, April 1, 2021, at 3 p.m., join us and guest speaker Michaela Alexis to gain wisdom to help you shine as an intern candidate!

Find out why the first impression matters and how to make it a good one, learn how to seek out and accept feedback and constructive criticism, discover how appreciation and gratitude can increase your chances of being hired, learn how to network before, during, and after your internship AND learn how to communicate confidently and ask for what you want.

Register now!

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If you’re looking for more ways to improve your personal and professional life, volunteering might be your solution. Read why you should start volunteering today!

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