If you think it is too early to look for an internship, you might want to think again. If you wait much longer, your best opportunities will have been snapped up by another. Are you saying that you are only a junior and you don’t think companies will consider you seriously?

Smart companies nail down their internships early in order to get the best candidates. They recognize this as the best way to source new employees. What’s more, even if they have a strict policy about interning only seniors, your enthusiasm and look-to-the-future attitude will put you on the list for the next crop of interns.

Internships represent the most practical way for you to gain experience in the workplace and should be regarded as one of the more essential aspects of your education. The more skills you acquire, the more corporate-world exposure you experience, the more desirable you will be as a real job candidate when the time comes.

Companies don’t hire an intern to run errands or make copies any more. They hire interns to help them with the work that needs to be done. It gives them extra hands for the heavy lifting, while providing you with skills and more project-relatable experience you can talk about during your interview.

Here are tips to help you prepare for that interning opportunity:

Be Proactive

Is there a company that you’ve had your eye on? Think you would learn more about the real-world job experience if you could see more of the internal workings? Start there with your inquiry into a potential internship.

Just remember, the more popular the company, the more competitive the internship landscape will be. To put yourself in good stead, definitely reach out early. Got turned down from your dream internship at Google? Find a smaller tech company to intern with before going back to offer your time to the Big Guy.

 Don’t think twice about broadening your search to other areas and verticals. If you get locked out of the engineering internship, considering looking for a marketing internship or a finance internship. Your future employer will be interested to hear what you learned and how you were able to translate the experience into soft skills that will help make you a part of their team without the new-grad lag time of indoctrination.

Treat it as a Real Job

So what if it is “only” an internship. You are competing for the internship just like you will for the job opportunity. Give it your best shot. Feel like you have limited experience for the internship or the job? Highlight your best attributes, skills and experiences from your educational career on your resume and cover letter. School activities, summer jobs all count as resume-building experiences to help you obtain real-life skills that make the person to choose.

Gathering intel about the target company goes a long way in helping you understand their needs and their culture. Be prepared to tell them why you are a good fit and how you will contribute.

First and foremost, be professional. Ask the company contact how you should dress for the interview, be it for the internship or the real job. Ask relevant questions to let them know you have done your research, but also listen to the answers.

Thank the interviewers for their time and follow up with a thank you note.

Think Outside the Box

Finding the internships to apply for could happen in a multitude of ways. Check the companies’ website, check out listings in your school’s career office and campus career fairs. And it is not out of line to call the company human resources office directly to inquire about internships.  And be ready to tell them the type of experiences for which you search; it may give them ideas about departments or people they could connect you with.

Another great strategy is to ask around. Professors, friends, parents and family friends are all great resources for ideas and introductions.

Be Open-Minded

Consider non-profits and volunteer organizations to get hands-on experience with working on a company team. First stop: a volunteer organization that serves in the vertical in which you study.

Feel like you need more ideas or need to know what to say when you approach a company about an internship?  Reach out and book a complimentary 30-minute conversation with Cindy so you can prepare for the call for that Dream Internship.