As the end of the year creeps up, it seems at least twice a day you get asked the dreaded question: “So, what are you doing after school ends?” The job search world can seem like a scary place.  However, with a little help and a lot of ambition, nothing can stop you from landing the internship of your dreams.

I began sophomore year of college unsure of the direction I wanted to go.  I began work at a local web development company in Syracuse and continued on to intern with them during the following summer. Junior year I knew I wanted to try something new and began the application process. Through a series of career fairs, interviews, and networking opportunities, I landed my dream internship, which eventually led to a full time position post-graduation.

Although the idea of laying on the beach all summer sounds like a great idea, every summer matters if you want to graduate college with an awesome job. I will walk you through the steps I took to get my job. Hopefully I can shed a little light on what you can do, too.

Step 1: Get Involved

Getting involved is also an awesome way to make connections and find new opportunities. Potential employers love to hear about all the activities on campus you are involved in.

Take advantage of every opportunity that happens on campus. This means signing up for the iSchool trip, finding a student organization that suits you, or attending WIT’s next meeting.  Hold as many leadership roles as possible or take initiative in your team project — anything you can brag about during your interviews!

Step 2: Research

Before you start searching you need to figure out what you’re looking for. Often, this can be one of the hardest steps for students who haven’t been exposed to all areas of the technology world.

The iSchool offers so many resources for students to learn about different opportunities.  I highly recommend stopping by the career services office to have a chat with one of the lovely advisors whose primary goal is making sure you graduate with a job.

Otherwise, I found so many great opportunities on OrangeLink. Syracuse University students can either login through MySlice, or access the OrangeLink homepage.

Step 3: Network

Network! Network! Network!  I can’t stress this step enough. Go to the career fair. Reach out to employers on LinkedIn. Shoot an email to that neighbor who used to babysit you but now works at Google.

(And if you need help with how to make a networking connection this way, career services can help you!)

When you’re reaching out to potential connections, picture the conversation from their point of view.  You want to make sure you don’t come off as only contacting them in the hopes of landing a job. Start by asking them questions.  People are more likely to help you if they know you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Ask questions about the company and what their role within the firm is, and then lead into asking about what positions the organization has. If handled correctly, your connection will present you with opportunities and may even help you towards achieving a position.

Step 4: Practice Your Resume, Cover Letter, and Interviews

Resumes are key to gaining the interest of employers. You should not skimp out on your resume. Take the time to make your resumes appealing, and ensure there is not a single spelling or grammatical error.

It’s always a great idea to have someone else look over your resume. Swing by the career office and have one of the great advisors look over your document. My friends and I have all edited each other’s resumes. The more eyes proofreading your resume, the better!

Need more convincing? Read Devon’s post on why you should get your resume checked!

This goes for cover letters too. Even if a job posting says that cover letters are optional, DO IT.

One of the biggest things you need to keep in mind when writing a cover letter is that it needs to be specific to the job listing. If you check my computer hard drive, I have about 20+ cover letters saved. Each one is a little different. Talk about your different strengths and past experiences that would directly benefit the company if they hired you.

Finally – interviews! This is by far the scariest part of finding a job, although there’s no reason to freak out. A company wants to meet the real you. If they don’t love you, then that’s not the company you want to work for.

When in the interview, keep in mind the airport test. Would you want to be stuck in an airport with you? Employers are looking to see if you’re someone the other employees would enjoy hanging out with at work or even after hours.

In addition to being your awesome self, make sure to talk about all the different activities and clubs you’re involved in. Your experience and leadership roles will set you apart from all the other students. If you’re a leader on campus, it means you could be a leader for the company, and those are the students they want to hire.

Step 5: Attend Career Fairs and Employer Visits

If you haven’t attended a career fair or employer visit, I highly suggest it.

Print out a few of your finalized resumes to hand out. Make sure you have plenty of questions planned out. Research the organization and ask specific questions about the available role. For example:

  • How does your company’s culture differentiate from [name competitor] or other competitors?
  • What were some of the key strengths of prior successful interns?
  • How does this position impact the company as a whole?

Need more tips on how to speak to employers who come to campus? Meredith Tornabene, iSchool Associate Director of Career Counseling, has practical preparation tips to help your meeting with an on-campus recruiter go smoothly.

In addition to career fairs, attend the next iSchool Roadtrip! The trips are arranged for employers to seek out new interns and for the students to get a feel for the company’s culture and work life.

Step 6: Relax!

Take a breath! The summer is the time to better yourself. And if having an internship doesn’t fall into your plan this break, use the time to add to your resume. Find a project that you can get involved in. Design the website for a local non for profit. Volunteer to help maintain the network at the church downtown. Or teach yourself a few new computer languages! Do whatever you can to prepare to find an internship or job next summer.