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iSchool student Hairol Ma is interning at Slack in San Francisco, CA.

How to Navigate the Internship Hunt

The start of the school year means a couple more weeks of the muggy summer, catching the last legs of the New York State Fair, and starting your internship hunt!

Internships are a great way to either further your experience in a field, or realize that you have no interest in the industry at all. Good thing college has few summers in store for trial and error — as long as you plan ahead. Here’s some tips to keep you on track.

Editor’s note: always remember to check in with your school’s career services and see what’s available to you. At the iSchool, you’ll find resume workshops, mock interviews, LinkedIn workshops, and cover letter review sessions.

Starting Early

Though all industries recruit at different times, getting a head start on the internship hunt is always essential. As school sets in and obligations increase, it’s easy to put the internship hunt on the back-burner.

Set aside weekly time to apply to different positions in the beginning of the semester when workload is lighter and time is more flexible. A tentative schedule might look something like this:

  • Spending the first week researching specific companies and evaluating which positions might be a good fit
  • The second week refining your resume, portfolio, and cover letter
  • The third week looking for connections and sending out applications

Make a spreadsheet to keep track of each of the internships you’re applying to — it’ll help you stick to deadlines.

Making connections

Networking can be intimidating and frightening — but it can also feel disingenuous. I’ve stood at many a career fair forcing a smile onto my face, shaking hands with people I remember only by business cards.

While taking advantage of career fairs and making connections with recruiters at each booth certainly leads to opportunities, it’s also valuable to make meaningful connections and invest in those relationship. Invest time in forming relationships with industry professionals you admire and can see yourself learning from.

Rather than viewing them as stepping stones to a possible job or internship, take time to truly understand their past experiences and how that has shaped them to where they are now.

Get eyes on your work

Whether you’ve got a portfolio or resume, it’s important to get extra sets of eyes to evaluate your work. It’s easy to pigeonhole yourself once you’ve spent hours glazing over a cover letter or portfolio.

A fresh look from peers, professors, or industry professionals will point out things overlooked and offer a new perspective. Not only might they catch a few typos, but they can offer advice on how to frame your resume, which experiences to focus on, or how to improve your portfolio.

Tailor your resume

We often find ourselves applying to a variety of different jobs and positions at different companies. Though most qualifications may look very similar, it’s important to tailor your resume individually according to what kinds of roles and companies you are applying to.

For example, when applying to a nonprofit, place more emphasis on the nonprofit work you’ve done in the past, perhaps moving that up to the first experience on your resume. If you’re applying to a social media management position, be sure to emphasize social media roles you have taken on in the past, perhaps quantifying engagement or giving more context to the impact you made.

Keep a good attitude

Even with the most incredible resume and the most relevant experience, no internship is guaranteed. Companies don’t owe students internships, and it’s often easy to waltz into an internship with an entitled attitude. Stay humble and remember that while you may be deserving of an internship, it’s not something that’s owed to you.

Know your worth

Conversely, while it’s important to keep yourself from a feeling of entitlement, it’s important to know your own worth. If possible, avoid taking an unpaid internship. Though sometimes it may be inevitable, this may set a precedent for the valuation of your work in the eyes of the company. You deserve compensation for your work, and companies should recognize that.


Internship hunting can be daunting and exhausting, but many of your peers and professors have all been in the same shoes. Though these suggestions are by no means a rigid framework, they’re good places to start and hopefully provide some food for thought.

Hairol Ma

Hairol Ma

Hello from foggy San Francisco! My name is Hairol and I’m a rising senior studying Advertising and Information Management & Technology. This summer I’ll be back home in the Bay Area  working as a brand copywriting intern at Slack. Over the next twelve weeks I’ll be contributing to select campaigns, honing my understanding of the Slack voice, and trying every La Croix flavor in the company fridges.

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