By Skylar Nicholson

An internship provides students with invaluable experience that not only looks good on a resume, but also allows for a glimpse into the work life of your field. The reality is that most entry-level jobs are increasingly requiring applicants to have some degree of experience above and beyond the standard bachelor’s degree. But how do you find the right internship and land the position?

I’ve been fortunate to intern in my chosen field of journalism at CNN and Newsy (part of Scripps) and was asked to identify and write about what I’ve found to be the keys to getting hired as an intern.

Identify Your Career Interests
Before you even start looking for a position, consider what your interests and passions are. You may be looking to land an internship relevant to your major, but you probably have certain areas within your field that you would like to focus on and explore in more detail. Having an internship is a great first step towards your future, but you need to make sure it aligns with where you are taking your career, or it will have been of little value to you or your employer.

Research
Complete thorough research of any organization before applying. This ensures you understand their values and that their focus aligns with yours. Then, before an interview, review the research that you did prior to the application.

Look over and prepare answers for questions on the likely topics that you will be asked about. At the end of most interviews, employers will ask if you have any questions for them. This is the time when it is useful to deploy the research you completed prior to the interview. Come up with a few questions in advance. This shows that you want to know more and really care about the opportunity.

Network
Networking is one of the most crucial parts of securing any position, and it also applies to internships where alumni networks and career fairs can be vital links to the position you want.  Think of it this way: everyone knows someone, and by knowing more people, you not only learn of more opportunities, but you start your journey to those opportunities with your foot already partially in the door. Research conducted by LinkedIn shows that in 2016, 70% of people were hired at an organization where they already had a personal connection in place.

Personal Branding
Whether you realize it or not, your identity is now a part of a personal brand. This is done through your everyday actions, communication and the content you produce. An article published by LiveCareer reminds us that employer will search for you on Google. What will an internship coordinator find about you? As you answer that question, take steps to ensure that you are crafting and refining your brand all the time. When you put things online, bear in mind that they are permanent reflections of you. When you make new connections remember that those first impressions will last a very long time.

Be Bold
Lastly, dream big and be bold. Take the time to work on passion projects outside of normal course work. What is the worst thing that could happen from the process of applying for a dream position? You hear the word “no?” Now a senior, looking back over my college years, I have probably filled out over one hundred applications and heard “no” far more times than yes. Sometimes, it can simply seem like a numbers game. But without dreaming big and entering the game, you cannot win.

An internship is an investment into your future, your education, and in yourself as a person. Devote the appropriate time and energy to it and you will be rewarded in more ways than you can imagine.

Skylar Nicholson is a journalism student at the University of Georgia. She completed the reporting for this essay prior to campus closing for the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicholson also was selected as a Robert L. Bartley Fellow with the Wall Street Journal in New York this summer, but the status of that internship was uncertain at the time of publication due to the pandemic.