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5 Secrets to Land Your Dream Internship

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For a college student, securing a great internship can be a game changer. It can be the difference between getting a job after graduation, or being unemployed.

As founder of The Hired Group, Ryan Kahn has helped more than 2,000 college students secure internships with top companies including Google, MTV, Apple, Sony Entertainment, Morgan Stanley, the Cleveland Indians and more.

A nationally recognized career coach, TV personality and author, Ryan knows first-hand how students can stand out in their internship search and land the job of their dreams. He joined us to share some tips and advice.

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1. When should students begin their search for a summer internships?

The majority of students start looking for summer internships in March. But here’s the deal; the coveted internships will get snatched up early, so you don’t want to be searching in March while everyone is scrambling to get what’s leftover. I’d recommend starting today. In most cases you’ll have to wait for the employer’s hiring timeline (which varies significantly from one company to the next), but by planning ahead you’ll have all options in front of you.

2. What can students do to stand out when applying to internships?

It’s simple; tell an interesting story. There are a lot of students out there from top tier Universities with a strong GPA in a major similar to yours, making the competition fierce. So think about what makes you, you and unique beyond all the other applicants.  Maybe you’ve studied abroad, volunteered for a great cause, interned at a cool company, been active with a club or group on campus, etc. Think about what your story is and that will help separate you from everyone else.

3. What do most students get wrong when applying for internships?

Have you ever noticed a lot of your friends and fellow students apply to internships for the summer? Well, that makes sense right, most students have a break for the summer. But during the summer coveted companies get overloaded with applications. Here’s the trick; think about what happens when it’s not summer?  Fall, Winter, and Spring have far less applications and will make for far less competition for you to land a coveted internship then. A strategy I’d suggest is taking classes during the summer and land your dream internship in the Fall, Winter, or Spring.

4. Some internships are paid and others aren’t. Should students consider accepting an unpaid internship?

I’m a big advocate of internships whether they are paid or unpaid, as internships build experience and industry relationships. For some competitive companies / industries unpaid internships are the way to getting a foot in the door, so you’ll need to look at the opportunity as an investment. Map out the pros and cons of your situation to go after the opportunity that will bring you closest to your career goals.

5. Why should students submit their about.me page along with their internship application?

The great thing about using your about.me page is it shows a full picture of who you are.  Employers love to see candidates who are active beyond their classes. As mentioned earlier, “tell an interesting story,” so having a link to your blog, social media, personal website, etc can help the employer get to know you and all that you’ve accomplished.

Bonus Question: Where are best places to look for internships?

There’s an overwhelming amount of places to look for internships including job boards, your career center, social media, company’s websites, etc. I’d recommend you start by creating what I call a “Hit List.”

Write down the 20 companies that you’d love to work for some day. The next step is to make it a point to meet one person from each of these companies on the list before you graduate. Be creative by asking friends, family, professors or counselors whether they know someone who works at these companies. Also utilize social media and your career center to help with finding and meeting people on your list.

In the short term these contacts you develop can help to getting a foot in the door for a great internship this summer. But think of this as a long term strategy, by the time you graduate you’ll know 20 people at the 20 companies you’re most interested in working for.

Ryan Kahn is founder of The Hired Group, star of the former MTV series ‘Hired’ and the top career coach to college students. 

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Bonus: Here’s a list to Ryan’s secrets to landing a job upon graduation. These same tips can be applied to helping you land your dream internship this summer.

Do you have a great internship success story? We’d love to hear it! Give us a shout on Twitter or in the comments below.

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Campus Contributors are a select group of recognized leaders and experts in topics relating to college students.