Little did I know about the whole culture of networking before college, but I was very lucky during my freshman year to be surrounded by great mentors, a wide range of extensive programs and empowering teammates whom I learned from every day. Within my work experience, I’ve gotten to talk to plenty of recruiters and hiring managers in Silicon Valley and beyond to practice building connections rather than just “networking.”
Before getting into the effective ways of finding internship opportunities, I think that it’s very important to do these three things beforehand:
- Write an effective resume. If you are a creative person, design your own resume in Adobe InDesign so that it personally resonates with you. If that’s not your thing, just use a template. It must be one page with a clear structure: education, work experience, personal projects and skills. When describing your work experience, it’s important to be consistent in language and have two to three main sentences in the order of why, how, and what (i.e. “Addressing ___, led/managed/designed ____ in order to ____). Keep it simple and concise.
- Create a list of top companies and organizations that you would love to join and research them. Get to learn what types of problems they try to solve, the direction they are going in, what ways they make an impact, and if it is a cultural fit for you. This step will help a lot in the interviewing process. When I asked a design recruiter about the interview process, they said, “When I talk to a designer, I want to feel enlightened. If the candidate really cares about the problems that the company is trying to solve, not just the quality of a product, it’s very easy for them to identify what needs improvement. Oftentimes, designers just have ideas on how to make a product more successful. The prospective candidate will stand out by having a particular point of view on a product.”
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. Experts from the World Economic Forum identified key skills for 2020: comprehensive problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, interaction with teammates, emotional intelligence, the ability to form an opinion and make a decision, client/customer/user orientation, negotiation and a flexible mindset. Know what you are good at and work on the things that you wish to improve!
Let me tell you the truth: Glassdoor and other old-school tools don’t work at all. So, don’t waste your valuable time on those websites. Here is my personal list of ways that I have found my previous internships and jobs (both in the United States and internationally):
- Cold emailing, informational interviews or even messaging. Reaching out to a person is the way to go. If you love an organization’s mission or a company’s product, just reach out to someone you can find on LinkedIn. If they are local, ask them for a coffee chat or informational interview to learn more about their role and experience within an organization or company. Afterward, it’s always good to follow up and ask them if they can help you in connecting with a recruiter or let you know about any open positions. You can also simply write an impressive email to a recruiter — don’t forget to attach your resume and cover letter!
- Referrals. The world is so interconnected that you might not even know that your friend’s acquaintance works at your dream company or position. And if not, always look for opportunities to engage yourself within a company’s community. Attend informal events, workshops, information sessions, et cetera to make friends with people from a company!
- Attending career fairs and a variety of other programs. UC Berkeley has a ton of resources when it comes to this tip. Almost every day, there are information sessions hosted by student organizations (where they collect resumes), career fairs (where you can talk to a recruiter) and other opportunities with special programs, such as the Educational Opportunity Program, or EOP (where they host workshops hosted by companies or personal informational interviews with recruiters).
- Last, but not least — online applications. Go to a company’s official website and apply from there! Don’t be afraid to fail at interviews or tests — the path to your career is all about trial and error.
Looking for internships is intimidating and sometimes stressful, but it’s a great way to learn more about your preferences, weaknesses and personal growth goals!
Contact Karina Nguyen at[email protected].