BlogJob SearchHow to Get an Internship 101: A Complete Guide with Pro Tips

How to Get an Internship 101: A Complete Guide with Pro Tips

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In the grand scheme of your career, an internship is just one brief moment. However, it’s akin to the first move in a long game of chess. It can flawlessly jump-start your professional journey or leave you struggling to get back on your feet. That’s why it’s essential to know how to get an internship.

If you don’t know where to start, you’ve found the right place. This article will give you step-by-step instructions on everything, from how to craft a resume to how to behave during an interview. Without further ado, let’s jump right in!

Key Takeaways

  • Internships are vital to boosting a young professional’s career as they give them invaluable practical experience in the field.

  • While paid internships offer monetary compensation, unpaid ones can still be worth it because of the experience and networking opportunities that they provide.

  • The first step toward getting an internship is to write a strong resume.

  • A tailored cover letter submitted with your resume can vastly improve your chances.

  • You can find internship opportunities on dedicated websites, job fairs, internship boards, LinkedIn, or by emailing the companies directly.

  • It’s vital to prepare for an internship interview by researching the company and practicing with a friend or mentor.

Why Should You Find an Internship?

job seekers with disabilities

You should find an internship because it represents a stepping stone to a professional career. Internships allow entry-level candidates and recent graduates to use the theoretical knowledge gained during their scholarly endeavors in real-life situations to gain invaluable practical experience.

The hands-on experience that interns get represents a bridge that connects their academic and professional journeys. It’s a unique blend of learning, training, and working that gives participants an insight into what their career is all about.

Internships can vary greatly in type, duration, difficulty, and many other parameters. Still, they typically have the goal of equipping candidates with enough understanding and experience that they can apply for the real job.

The usefulness of internships can’t be overstated. Research shows that 58% of employers prefer work experience over education. That makes internships one of the best ways for fresh job seekers to improve their employability.

Moreover, the value of internships extends beyond the initial work experience that they offer. Young professionals can spot areas where they might need to learn more and improve. Additionally, internships allow them to meet field veterans, create connections through networking, find mentors, and more.

Simply put, an internship isn’t just a job; it’s a glimpse into the complex professional world, an opportunity to learn by doing, and a strong foundation for a successful career.

Paid Vs. Unpaid Internship

management skills

The main difference between paid and unpaid internships is monetary compensation. While both are designed to train entry-level job-seekers and give them first-hand experience, paid internships also give interns salaries for their work.

Due to this additional benefit, paid internships can also be more demanding on the candidates. They can be challenging, requiring a certain level of skill, knowledge, and responsibility. Moreover, the competition for paid internships can be much higher than with unpaid internships.

However, unpaid internships aren’t without their merits. They allow new professionals to get their foot in the door. While they don’t provide monetary compensation, they offer all the other benefits, like real-world experience, industry insight, potential for learning, and so on.

Ultimately, the choice between paid and unpaid internships depends on the individual’s needs and circumstances. Paid internships help candidates start earning faster and can even lead to more job offers than unpaid ones. Still, unpaid internships are much easier to get or even the norm in some industries.

Step 1: Create a Professional Resume

education resume

The first step toward getting an internship is to create a professional resume. A well-written resume can singlehandedly set you apart from the competition and secure you an interview with the hiring manager or potential employer.

This concise document represents a summary of your academic and professional careers. You can think of it as an entry ticket into the job world. That’s why it should be clean, professional, brief, and easy to read.

As an entry-level candidate, your resume should be one page long, feature a visually appealing business letter layout, and follow the established structure.

Here’s the order in which you should arrange the mandatory sections:

Resume Mandatory Sections

After that, you can include optional sections like volunteer work, personal projects, relevant coursework, certifications, and more. As long as they offer information pertinent to the role that you’re after, these can improve your odds with recruiters.

If all of this looks daunting and you don’t know how to approach crafting this document, you can use our resume builder. It’s a robust tool that comes with ready-made templates and presets that you can modify and adjust to your liking. After that, just fill in the blanks with your information and download a finished internship resume in minutes.

Resume with No Experience

Writing a resume with no experience means you should focus on other sections that make up for that shortcoming.

For instance, you can emphasize your volunteer work. Through that, you can highlight some of your hard and soft skills, point out that you have strong teamwork prowess, display passion and diligence, and more. You can also leverage personal projects or freelancing. Both of those demonstrate a certain level of knowledge, initiative, and dedication to the profession.

Another tip on how to get an internship with no experience is to use the functional resume format. This format puts your skills as the main section instead of your work history. That way, you can play to your strengths without trying to find substitutes for professional work.

Lastly, you can always use your academic accomplishments to make the education section of your resume stand out. While they might not be as impressive as job-related achievements, they can be more than enough to land you an internship.

Resume for a Student

Speaking of academic accomplishments, they are the cornerstone of a student’s resume. If you’re trying to figure out how to get an internship while in college, your best bet is to focus on the education section and make it as detailed as possible.

First off, the necessary details for the education section of your resume include your major, college’s name and location, and years of attendance (you can include an expected graduation date if you have one). After that, you can add a bullet point list with any relevant achievements and notable results.

This list can contain details like a high GPA (but only if it's 3.5 or higher), relevant courses, extracurricular activities, abroad studies, and more. You can also consider honors and awards, club memberships, scholarships, and other activities through which you’ll be able to demonstrate various technical and interpersonal skills.

All of these tips are also helpful if you’re trying to figure out how to get an internship in high school. Sure, you might not have a list of accomplishments as extensive as a college graduate, but a potential employer won’t expect that much from a high school student.

Step 2: Write a Compelling Cover Letter

After creating a strong resume, you can further improve your chances with recruiters by writing a compelling internship cover letter. This is generally an optional document, but submitting it is imperative for multiple reasons.

Firstly, the mere act of going the extra mile to craft an additional document that matches and supplements your resume demonstrates diligence and commitment. It shows that you go above and beyond the minimum requirement.

Furthermore, a cover letter gives you more space to talk about your skills, qualities, and motivation. It’s a brief 250–400 word copy that you can use to expand on the information in your resume.

Here’s the format to follow when writing it:

Cover Letter Format

  • Contact information

  • Cordial salutation

  • Body of text

  • Formal closing

  • Sign-off

The main body of your cover letter should feature three distinct parts, which are:

Cover Letter Body Key Parts

  1. An introductory paragraph that acts as an elevator pitch and is meant to grab the reader’s attention with your most prominent qualities

  2. Between one and three middle paragraphs, where you should talk about your motivation, qualifications, skills, and accomplishments relevant to the role

  3. A closing paragraph with a thank-you note and a strong call to action

Apart from that, the key to getting the most from your cover letter is to make it personal. To achieve that, you should try to find out who is going to read it and address them by their name.

Moreover, you should write a new cover letter for every new internship, as that’s the best way to tailor it to the specific role.

Now let’s put all that into practice and see an example of an internship cover letter:


Step 3: Search For Internship Opportunities

job search websites

Now that we know how to create the main documents used to apply for a position, let’s find out where we can find internship opportunities.

#1. Internship Websites

Internship websites are some of the best places to find these positions quickly and effortlessly. A lot of these specialized platforms work by accumulating internship ads and listings from various places and companies.

Some of the most prominent examples include Glassdoor, Indeed, and Monster. Apart from these expansive, global websites, there are many other smaller platforms that cater to specific individuals. They can be relevant to a career, education level, country, and so on.

Candidates can use the various features that these websites offer to find internships that best suit them. For instance, a user can filter opportunities based on the industry, location, and duration; they can select paid or unpaid internships and more.

#2. Job Fairs

Job fairs are specialized networking events designed to connect employers with job seekers. These are some of the best places for recent graduates and entry-level candidates to find internships.

While there are many job fairs that you can attend in person, there’s an increasing number of virtual events that you can attend online. Websites like vFairs and Eventbrite can help you find these in-person, hybrid, and virtual events.

One of the biggest advantages of job fairs is that participants can meet representatives from multiple companies in a short period of time. That allows them to efficiently broaden their professional network and find plenty of internship opportunities.

Another perk of job fairs is their instantaneity. Job seekers can quickly build rapport with recruiters and hiring managers by leaving a strong first impression. On the other hand, they can receive immediate feedback regarding their approach or chance at getting an internship.

#3. Internship Boards

Apart from general job boards and internship sites, there are specialized internship boards on the websites of universities or professional organizations and associations. These boards are typically highly curated, and their offers are tailored to the members of the organizations in question.

Moreover, internship opportunities listed on these boards can be exclusive and not available on global browsing platforms. For example, a university may regularly post internship opportunities on its website, and the offers would be reserved for its students and recent graduates.

Their exclusivity, unique nature, and tailored characteristics make these internship opportunities highly valuable to eligible participants. As a result, it’s generally recommended to keep an eye on these internship boards and regularly check them for updates.

#4. Emailing the Company

Emailing the company regarding an internship is a proactive approach that can be remarkably effective. It shows initiative on your end and can result in a positive response from the company, even if they don’t have an open position for an intern or an internship program.

One of the best ways to leverage this method is to have a specific organization in mind. You can research the company to find out all you can about its work and members. That will allow you to write and email them tailored resumes and cover letters that show how your skills, experiences, and goals align with theirs.

#5. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the go-to social platform for professional connections and networking. That makes it one of the best places to find internships. Moreover, it’s a place where recruiters can find you.

Like with many other social networks, you need to have an optimized profile to get the most out of LinkedIn. This includes having a concise but descriptive headline, using keywords when talking about your skills and experiences, building connections and expanding your network, and so on.

If you’re still a student, you can leverage student-specific sections to additionally improve your odds of getting an internship. Ultimately, due to LinkedIn’s popularity and the overall prevalence of social networks, this is one of the best solutions if you’re wondering how to apply for an internship online.

Step 4: Prepare For Your Internship Interview

future of work

The last step before your internship interview should be preparing for it. This is a critical step, as you want to leave a good first impression while demonstrating that you are a good fit for the company.

For starters, you should research the company to get as much information as possible that could be useful during an interview. Try to learn everything about their history, team, values, goals, and recent endeavors. This understanding will allow you to tailor your responses so that they best emphasize that you’re the best candidate for the role.

Doing thorough research also allows you to show genuine interest in the company. By expressing honest enthusiasm for the role that you’re applying for, you’ll demonstrate drive and motivation, which can set you apart from the competition.

Furthermore, by displaying in-depth knowledge about their organization, you’ll show that you’re already invested in their ventures. This signals to recruiters and potential employers that you’ll be much quicker to adjust to their culture and harmonize with coworkers than the average candidate.

Lastly, you want to practice your internship interview before the real deal. Try to create an atmosphere and prepare the environment so that it best mimics what the actual interview is going to be like. You can ask a mentor, a friend, or a family member to help you conduct a proper simulation.

The practice is one of the best ways to reduce interview anxiety. It’ll also give you the opportunity to find out whether there are any areas where you can improve. Finally, you’ll find out if you remember all the relevant information obtained during research or if you should brush up on your knowledge.

5 Common Internship Interview Questions

There are many typical interview questions and answers. Through them, potential employers want to find out everything from your career goals to your work ethic. Let’s find out what the most common ones are during internship interviews.

#1. Why are you interested in this internship?

Answer Example

I am passionate about automation and efficiency in social media marketing. This internship perfectly aligns with my academic background in software engineering and my interest in social media. I am excited to contribute to your efforts in creating robust campaigns with meaningful content.

#2. Can you tell me which of your skills you believe are most relevant to this internship?

Answer Example

Throughout my academic career and by working on personal projects, I have developed an in-depth knowledge of Python and Java. I’ve also participated in several team projects where I utilized SQL for database management. On top of that, I honed my leadership, management, and problem-solving abilities through teamwork.

#3. Tell me about a time you faced and overcame a challenge.

Answer Example

During a particularly long project, we were met with an unexpected deadline. I initiated a brief meeting where we quickly addressed all the potential concerns and evaluated our current progress. That allowed us to redistribute tasks based on each of the team members’ strengths, implement regular check-ins, and complete the project ahead of schedule.

#4. What are your career goals?

Answer Example

My long-term career goal is to become a senior artificial intelligence developer. I have always been looking into ways in which AI can improve our lives, and recent advancements in the field that your company has made prove that we are on a good track to achieve these objectives.

#5. How do you manage multiple tasks during tight schedules?

Answer Example

I first assess the tasks based on their importance and priority. Then, I create a schedule to follow and set time-bound goals that allow me to stay on track. I am adept at using digital organization tools and various time management methods, such as the Pomodoro technique, to maximize my efficiency without compromising the quality of work.

4 Pro Tips on How to Get an Internship

Let’s wrap up this comprehensive guide with several expert tips on how to get an internship that will put you ahead of the competition:

Tips to Get an Internship

  1. Apply early. Many companies publish their internship programs months in advance. Being there early and applying immediately can set you apart from the candidates who wait until the last minute.

  2. Don’t give up. Internships can be challenging to obtain, especially when there are many candidates in the field. Employers sometimes get so many applications that they don’t respond to everyone. Don’t let that discourage you from trying until you succeed.

  3. Be flexible. Apply for a variety of internships. Even if you don’t get the specific role that you’re after, you’ll gain invaluable real-life experience and insight into the field.

  4. Follow up. Don’t be afraid to follow up after making contact. You can send a networking follow-up email to a company representative, a thank-you email even if you get rejected, a follow-up email after submitting a resume and not getting a response, and more.

Final Thoughts

In today’s competitive business landscape, knowing how to get an internship is a skill on its own. The process may seem daunting, but it’s worth the effort and invaluable in launching your professional career.

Whether you opt for a paid or unpaid internship, keep in mind that you’re not merely looking for a job. Your goal should be to train and learn, connect with other professionals, and gain hands-on experience.

So keep your eyes on the prize, and don’t let one unsuccessful application discourage you from following your dreams. Remember, even people like Bill Gates, Tom Ford, and Elon Musk started their careers as interns. Best of luck!

Isabelle Dupont
Isabelle Dupont
Content Writer & Editor
Isabelle Dupont is from Portland, but she now lives and works in sunny San Diego. She is a content writer and editor for She loves casual Fridays and carefree days spent on the beach and has been writing for several years now. Whether it’s creating content or fixing it up, she’s always on point and makes sure no stone is left unturned. In her free time, Isa loves to immerse herself in fantasy novels, go on long hikes, and spend time with her friends and family.

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