With internship searches in full swing and a career fair looming, I seem to be talking a lot about resumes. Writing a resume for internship applications can be tough. On the one hand, it might be your first resume, which is a challenge to write in and of itself. You also likely don’t have a lot of work experience. If you did, you probably wouldn’t be applying for an internship.
How do you craft a resume specifically for internship applications? This is a good question, one I’ve gotten a lot lately and that I hope to answer here.
First and foremost, the overall purpose and strategy behind an internship resume is the same as that for a full-time job:
- Articulate your goal(s). Why do you want to do an internship? What do you want to learn? You might not have a statement of your goals on your resume, but knowing your goals for seeking an internship will come through as you choose what information to include.
- Think from the employer’s perspective. As I often like to say, your resume is about you yet not about you. Consider what the employer needs. What are they looking for in a successful candidate? What academic background or other experience do you have that contribute to those need areas? Do you see this reflected in your resume?
- It’s back to basics for content and organization. The traditional items to include on your resume still apply: education, job experiences, community service work, organizations/activities, academic accomplishments, other awards, etc. Organize the content in such a way that makes it accessible. There should be some defined order to your content – chronological, skill-based, other.
There are, however, a few areas where your internship resume might be crafted a little differently.
- Your academic background might be more in focus. Since you likely don’t have any experience directly related to the profession, specific coursework might act as a substitute. Again, think about the employer’s perspective. Include relevant coursework only.
- Even though career-related experience is most significant, all work experience is valuable. You developed transferable skills when you were working in fast food, babysitting, mowing lawns, etc. You are building them in your classes now. Identify the basic skills needed to do the work of the internship. Identify the skills you possess. Connect the dots. You’re not expected to have professional-level qualifications. Instead, the expectation is that you can transfer the skills built in non-professional roles to your work as an intern. Use your resume as one tool to convince the organization that you can do this.
- “Experience” doesn’t just refer to paid work. I have seen students whose volunteer activities or leadership roles in student organizations provide significant experience. If you are involved in an activity that goes above and beyond mere membership, write about it as you would a bonafide job.
The one thing to remember about your resume, no matter what you are applying for, is to keep your audience in mind and make the content relevant to that audience. When in doubt, talk it over with someone in Career & Leadership Development or a professor within your major.
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Photo by Devo In Regress (http://www.flickr.com/photos/devoinregress/ / CC BY-NC 2.0)
Last week, Ron Buchholz and I spoke with graduate students in UW-Whitewater’s Counselor Education program. We are both graduates of “the program,” and we were visiting these current students to talk about about resumes. Many of those attending are preparing for their capstone experience in the program: internship.
It can a challenge for some students to prepare a resume for internship applications. Some, or many, of you might feel like you don’t have enough experience – that’s what you’re looking for from an internship, right? For others of you, a resume is just one more to-do to fit into an already packed schedule. I’m guessing that you do want to be a marketable candidate in the internship search process though, so a polished resume is important.
The nuts and bolts of formatting a resume are easy to learn, and there are lots of resources out there to help. However, the strategic aspect of developing your resume is a little more challenging. Here are some pointers for developing a solid resume for your internship applications:
- Think like an employer. Part of the internship search process is developing your goals for completing an internship. While you might have a firm idea of what you want out of an internship, have you thought about what an employer wants out of their intern? For any internship you are considering, ask yourself what the employer is looking for in an ideal intern. What qualities or skills would such an intern possess? Keep in mind that while your resume is about you, it’s also not about you. It’s about the employer, too, so approach it from their point of view.
- Reflect on ALL of your experiences. Once you have identified the qualities and skills the employer would seek in an ideal intern, identify situations in which you demonstrated those traits. Consider all of your experiences: jobs, classes, activities, interests, honors, etc. Here are some samples from JobWeb:
- Handling large sums of money as a cashier shows that you are trustworthy.
- Working three summers at the same camp shows that your employer had confidence in your abilities.
- Having a high GPA tells the world that you learn quickly and apply yourself diligently.
- Serving as a lifeguard at the neighborhood pool shows you can react quickly in emergency situations.
- Working for the school paper reveals your writing skills.
- Holding a club office shows your leadership and interpersonal skills.
- Participating in sports can show you are a “good team player.”
- Having taken introductory courses in computers, marketing, or public speaking suggests that you have some basic knowledge on which to build.
- Connect the dots. It’s not enough to think or know that you possess the necessary skills; you must demonstrate that you possess them. Connect the knowledge, skills, and abilities that the employer needs and you possess. Write to the reader (i.e. the employer), using the same words as those in the position description. Be specific. Quantify whenever possible. Describe your accomplishments and what you learned from experiences as well as what you did. Finally, focus on the future – what skills and abilities are you bringing to their organization?
Beyond these strategies, it’s a matter of organizing your resume in a relevant, appealing, and professional way. This is where Career & Leadership can come in. It can be helpful to talk through these strategies with a career counselor and connect the strategies with your specific experiences and career goal. At the very least, have a career counselor review your resume. You will get helpful feedback that is tied to an employer’s perspective.
While I realize that you might be crunched for time as the semester winds down, try your hardest to work in some time to polish your resume (or write it if you don’t have one yet).
What concerns do you have as you prepare your resume for internship applications?
Photo by anomalous4 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/31333486@N00/ / CC BY 2.0)
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