Confessions of an RA: How to Land a Summer Internship
Are you in college? Do you like to make coffee and file paper? Do photo IDs make you feel important? Do you want something a little more prestigious on your resume than “sandwich artist at Subway”? If you answered yes to at least two of these questions, then you would make a great intern!
The application season for swanky summer internships has been well underway for the past month. If you’re an organized, punctual student who isn’t drowning under the weight of her own schoolwork, then you’ve probably already submitted an application or two. If you’re like me, you just realized that it’s THE MIDDLE OF MARCH and the year has flown by and you haven’t applied for anything yet and all your friends are getting cool summer jobs all over the country and you are going to be stuck serving salad with dressing on the side to grumpy old women in an Irish-themed restaurant again because you’re an irresponsible failure who can’t get her life together and who is doomed to end up a sad, lonely, cat lady who talks to her garden gnomes and eats soup with a fork.
Yes, all of that can happen if you fail to find a summer internship. To ensure that you don’t fail (or end up a cat lady), consider these internship application tips:
Start early: While most applications don’t take very long to physically fill out, it can take quite a while to secure recommendations. From my own experience, if you are asking a professor or boss to write a recommendation for you, you should give her at least a month’s notice. Remember, this person is speaking on your behalf. While you might be able to bang out a cover letter in a few hours, you'll want your reference to have time to think seriously about what he is going to say. Furthermore, asking a month in advance shows your reference that you are organized, care about his time and schedule, and can plan ahead. Essentially, you’re showing him that you deserve the job you’re applying for.
Use clear syntax: Many high-achieving college students sound like pretentious little turds in cover letters. English majors especially are prone to dropping into the lofty whenever writing something professional, as if sounding like Pindar was actually a good thing. In fact, the best tone for a formal cover letter is conversational. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should slip into slang, insert "like" after every other word, or drop the f-bomb, but the syntax of your sentences also shouldn’t be so convoluted that your reader has trouble following. Do use: Clear, direct sentences, a friendly tone, and bullet points for complex material. Avoid: the passive voice, double negatives, and technical terms/jargon.
Find an editor: I don’t care if grammar is the object to your verb. Always, always get someone to edit your resume and cover letter before you submit them. Not only is an editor likely to catch embarrassing little errors like seen/scene or it’s/its, an extra set of eyes can tell you whether a sentence is awkward to read or needs elaboration. Take advantage of your school’s version of Career Services. The professionals in Career Services were hired to help you get your dream job. They know what employers are looking for in a cover letter and what resume formats are most appealing. They also know who's hiring if you’ve just begun your internship search.
Internships can be a great experience, and I highly recommend you take one while you have the opportunity. You’ll meet great people (most likely a ton of college students like yourself), you’ll make connections that will come in handy when you’re a penniless graduate with a BA in English, and, if all else fails, you’ll learn how to make an excellent pot of coffee.
Has anyone lined up a summer internship yet? Tell us about it!
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