Illustration by Tammy Gu

Securing Your First Internship As A Student (With Ease)

Internships are an interesting thing. For one of the parties involved — the intern — internships are a necessary evil: free labor (generally).

For the other party involved — the employer — internships are a wonderful gift: free labor (also, generally).

The employer will answer back: “the labor isn’t really free since managing interns can be time-consuming and demanding!” Well, such is true of managing paid employees as well.

It’s undeniable that employers are getting the sweet end of this deal the majority of the time.

Nevertheless, internships still play an integral role in the development of one’s professional life, especially that of the student. Students simply need ways to come by experience they don’t have and, for better or for worse, internships make this happen.

So, controversies about paying interns aside, we want to offer some tips to students for securing an internship.

We’ll start with age-old wisdom, and then move to some “new-age” techniques.

The Age-Old Wisdom For Securing An Internship

Different academic programs have different demands and expectations of the internships they imagine for their students.

But while the demands and expectations differ, the means by which you land an internship remain pretty stable. Three key elements usually appear in the process.

Your Resume

This aspect of the process often feels the most daunting.

Why? Because students generally have close to zero experience, an incomplete degree, and few achievements relevant to their prospective employer.

The beautiful part is that if you’re applying for an internship, the organization doing the hiring should be prepared for this. (“Should” in italics because of the unfortunate cases where employers still expect interns to have previous experience.)

Here’s how you should proceed: record whatever experience you do have (even if it was several months working at your parent’s business during your summers), however much school you have completed, and any achievements that demonstrate your character and/or competency.

Make your resume well-organized, easy to read, free of spelling/grammar errors, concise, and true to who you are. When recording your experience, note what you did that was valuable to your employer and could be valuable to a future employer. Also, don’t exceed a single page.

Your Network

Focusing on the development of your network is core to landing an internship and requires much less than a full resume.

Why? Because networking doesn’t require any professional experience, a completed degree or any achievements (though having all these things can obviously improve your networking experience).

Networking, contrary to resume-building, simply requires a bit of confidence to put yourself out there and meet people. Here’s how to move.

Take an interest in what others care about as you express what you care about.

Doing only the latter will negatively impact your networking outcomes. Most people aren’t looking to add more narcissists to their networks.

Your Communication

There are the obvious points: be clear, be direct, be balanced in the conversation (i.e. tossing the “conversational ball” back and forth, if you will).

Then there’s the less obvious yet often challenging part for young, developing professionals: be communicative.

Being communicative is an aspect of good communication.

What does it mean to be communicative? In short, it means having a regularity and consistency to your communication. People on the other end of it aren’t left wondering where you are or what has happened to you.

When pursuing an internship, err on the side of being annoying in your communication.

Recruiters and hiring professionals will tell you that as important as hiring can be, maintaining communication with potential recruits isn’t always a top priority for them. Instead, they enjoy being reached out to and followed up with. It can actually add value for them because it reduces their work load.

So, reach out, follow up, send emails or messages; heck, even give a phone call and leave a message if you’ve got a number.

As someone seeking an internship, you have virtually nothing to lose by being communicative.

“New-Age” Techniques For Securing Your Internship

We’re calling what follows in this section “new-age” techniques, but in all honesty, they’re hardly “new-age” at all. Rather, they’re more like the norm.

The “old” way of coming by an internship was to attend an in-person job fair. While these are genuinely useful to the degree that they promote human-to-human interaction, their presence is dwindling.

If not because of the tech revolution, then because of the world-wide pandemic blocking such social gatherings.

Other internship-securing methods are required. We want to focus your attention on our favorite method. It also so happens to be the one we developed. Oops.

Univa or Your University-Specific Platform

We’re platform creators, innovation-ecosystem nurturers.

This means we’re passionate about the success of students. They’re the world’s future, after all.

Out of this passion, we created Univa — our platform for any student, staff, faculty or alumni whose university hasn’t yet partnered with us to create their own specific platform.

For students of UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, or Miami University (to just name a few), they have their own university-specific platform.

Central to each platform is a system designed to connect internship-seekers to their perfect internship.

Above is a screenshot of the Univa interface. While this image does much of the explanatory work, let us highlight a few special features.

1. Industry Diversity

It can be incredibly difficult to find the exact internship you’re looking for and it seems like internship preferences are only getting more and more niche.

Having a diverse range of options, then, is crucial to making a platform worthwhile — both to the user and to the administrator.

As you can tell from the above photo, we seek this diversity. From product design, to user research, to marketing, we try to meet the actual needs of students.

2. Compensation Diversity

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get paid for the work you’re doing for your employer, even if you’re an intern?

“Yes, it would be very nice,” we can hear the students saying.

So, we house and showcase both opportunities—the paid and the unpaid. Look closely at the above image and you’ll notice for yourself. We try our best here.

3. Easy Applying

Have you discovered internship opportunities before only to find their application process convoluted?

Or maybe applying was easy, but getting in touch with the individual behind the job listing proved impossible?

We’ve experienced first hand (and heard many testimonies of) exactly this kind of feedback. We admit that we don’t have control of all the variables; we do, however, have control over some of them.

Our application process, then, is straightforward, simple and intuitive; we also try to make access to the hiring professionals behind the job posting an actual possibility by having the representative’s profile listed on the job page.

We mean it: we’re genuinely crazy about the flourishing of innovators and entrepreneurs, and you can’t be genuinely crazy about the flourishing of these folks without caring about students.

It’d be sort of like caring about the health of one’s body without caring about the health of one’s heart. The one requires the other.

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