Internships are a great way to gain experience in your desired career field, which will be invaluable when you’re applying for jobs around graduation time. Sometimes, internships can help you earn college credit or may even come with a financial stipend. In short, they’re one of the most worthwhile resume-building opportunities you’ll have as a student.
But to reap all these benefits, you first have to get an internship.
Here’s everything you need to know to write a resume that will help you land your first internship; setting you up for future success in the real world.
What to focus on
Your educational path
As a student, your primary focus is your education. Use your resume to demonstrate interest in your chosen field and help hiring managers understand where you’re at in your educational timeline by listing relevant classes and projects.
Did you work on a semester-long group project creating a mock advertising campaign? Take part in a competition to build the best catapult? Maybe you spent time out in the field as part of one of your labs? These are just a few examples of educational activities that would serve as good experience on an internship resume (provided, of course, that they’re relevant to the internship you’re applying for!).
Even though hiring managers for internships are sympathetic to the fact that you don’t have a lot of work experience, they’re still looking for certain skills that will make you a successful intern. Look at the application materials to find out what those desired skills are–strong communication skills, attention to detail or creative thinking, for example–and work them into your resume.
Why do you need a resume?
Secure a chance to build your skills
Honing your skills in a lecture hall or science lab is one thing. Putting those skills to work in a real-world environment is another, and it’s an experience that can help you edge out other candidates when you’re entering the workforce in a year or two. A resume can help you land an internship where you’ll be able to get hands-on experience with the activities you’d be doing in an actual job in your field.
Build your network
The people you know will be one of the most valuable assets when you’re looking for a job, both right out of college and later on down the road. Think of your resume like an expanded business card (yes, people still use them!) that a friend, relative, classmate or professor can reference to learn about your qualifications. It’s great to start building your resume early so you can use it as a networking tool any time the opportunity arises.
When should you use a resume?
Use your resume when:
- Applying for internships
- Staying in touch with contacts after your internship
- General networking
- Preparing to look for your first job
Common challenges and how to overcome them
Lacking work experience
The upside of applying for internships is that hiring managers know you’re a college student. They understand your position and the fact that you probably don’t have a lot of work experience. Thus, don’t worry if you don’t have previous jobs to list on your resume. In fact, even if you have had jobs in the past, you may choose to leave them off your internship resume in favor of experiences that are more relevant, like classes and club memberships.
Looking for an internship in another city
Can you get an internship in a different city than the one your college is in? Definitely! It’s more common than you might think. Some companies even offer dorm-style housing specifically for interns. If you’re looking for a position in a specific city, use your objective statement to explain that.
Not knowing where to apply
Out of all the companies in the world, which one needs an intern like you? Make a list of dream companies you’d want to work for–this is a good place to start. Then, branch out by brainstorming their competitors and researching smaller firms that do similar work to broaden your pool of options. Your school’s guidance counselor, career resource center and job fairs can also be useful outlets for learning about internship opportunities.
Internship resume format and key components
A simple or chronological format is a good choice for students seeking an internship. Their basic structure serves as an easy template and the uncomplicated layouts are quick for hiring managers to scan.
Here are the key components to include in your resume when looking for an internship:
- Contact information
Include your name, phone number, and email address. If you include a mailing address, use the one where you’ll be when you expect the company to respond (like if you’re heading home once classes end).
- Objective Statement
Write a clear, one- to two-sentence objective statement that’s tailored for the position you want. It should share a little information about you and state the time frame you’re looking for an internship, as well as any other important details about your search. Here’s an example:
‘Well-rounded marketing student working toward a B.S. at UNC. Seeking to leverage skills in market research, analytics, and digital media during a fall internship in the Charlotte metro area.’
Since you’re still in school, the education section is a primary focus of your resume. Zero in on highlights that are most relevant to the internship and cite any notable achievements like membership on the dean’s list.
List experience in reverse-chronological order, with the most recent activities first. If some of the activities are ongoing, like clubs you’re a part of, begin with the item that’s most impressive/related to the position you’re seeking.
If you’re listing part-time jobs in your experience section, call out the responsibilities that will serve you in the internship. For example, if you worked the reception desk at an office building, don’t just say that you answered phones or buzzed people in the door. Highlight how you ‘created a welcoming experience for customers’ or ‘maintained a thorough and organized guest log.’
Finally, include a bulleted list of the skills you have that hiring managers will be looking for. These are usually named directly in the internship posting. You can include technical skills, like knowledge of social media platforms or software applications, as well as soft skills like leadership.