It is a sinking feeling: all your friends have secured their summer internships or jobs, but you’re still waiting for your opportunity to come.
Although you’re very happy for your friends who landed their dream summer gigs, you’re extremely frustrated that your persistence hasn’t paid off. You’ve searched and applied for every opportunity possible, had a professional writer review your resume and attended a few networking events. Nothing seems to work.
Here are seven job and internship search mistakes that may be costing you opportunities… and how you can fix them to land a new summer gig by the end of the semester:
Mistake No. 1: You Lack an Online Presence
Regardless of your major, you need to have some type of online presence. Employers want to see you are actively engaging in your search online – and that you can present yourself professionally. Although a strong cover letter and resume are essential, they can’t always display everything you have to offer. This is why you need to invest some time and effort into building an online presence.
This means you need to sign up for LinkedIn, build an online portfolio, and connect to any additional platforms and networks you feel are appropriate for your industry.
For example, if you’re a graphic design student applying for internships, employers are going to expect you to have an online portfolio where they can view your work. On the other hand, if you’re a marketing or public relations student, employers will want to see you actively engaging on Twitter.
Building an online presence doesn’t mean you have to connect to every network and use every tool. However, it is important to build a presence that’s an accurate portrayal of your character.
Mistake No. 2: Your Resume and Cover Letter Lack a “Wow” Factor
No employer wants to hire boring. They want to hire fresh, young talent who have a lot of ideas to bring to the table. No matter how much experience you lack, it’s still possible to spruce up a boring resume. You just have to illustrate your skills, accomplishments, and how they make you the best candidate for the position.
If you don’t have much experience, focus on your skills and involvement on campus. Employers want to see that you’re able to apply what you learned in the classroom to the real world.
Your resume and cover letter should also flow together. Whatever you mention in your resume, make sure you emphasize that skill or experience in your cover letter. Employers love hearing stories, so if you can tell a vivid story of your experience and skills thus far, employers are more likely to follow up with you for an interview.
Mistake No. 3: Your Resume is a Laundry List
Many college students fall into the trap of listing all their jobs, accomplishments, and experience without little explanation. Their resumes often end up looking like a lists of things they’ve done, but no explanation of why they were important.
For example, if your resume looks like this, chances are you aren’t going to hear from employers:
Barista, Starbucks, May 2013 – Present
- Make coffee
- Help customers
- Operate cash register
This description of your job doesn’t tell your employer anything about your skills or experience. It only shows them what they already know as Starbucks customers.
As you write your resume, make sure it fully illustrates your experience. You want employers to be able to visualize what you accomplished and how it applies to the internship or job you’re applying for.
Barista, Starbucks, May 2013 – Present
- Named Employee of the Month twice for delivering excellence customer service
- Prepare hot and cold beverages for customers in a timely fashion, receiving a nearly perfect cashier score
With these new bullets focused on results, an employer would be able to infer more about your customer service skills and dedication to your job.
Mistake No. 4: You’ve Never Gone Out for Coffee
In today’s era of online networking, it’s easy to forget about the importance of face-to-face interaction. If you’re going to land your dream gig, you need to go the extra mile to network in-person. Sure, while phone interviews and tweeting at professionals seem to suffice, the best connections are made in real life.
Reach out your adviser or contacts you’ve made online to see if they can connect you with a professional in your industry. After you’ve received some contacts, send emails to set up some meetings. Taking time to meet with a professional in person can help you learn about their work and see how a professional acts in real life. Plus, the face-to-face connection will provide you with a relationship you can carry throughout the rest of your career.
Mistake No. 5: You Don’t Ask the Right Questions
This is a huge mistake that’s preventing you from learning the ins and outs of the career or industry you hope tojoin. If you’ve had the opportunity to job shadow a professional, this a great way to find out what employers are looking for from the person they will eventually hire. If you’ve only used the job shadow as a way to gain experience but never asked the professional how to land a job or internship, you could be missing out on a valuable opportunity to maximize your internship search.
During your next job shadow or informational interview, prepare a list of questions. These questions should cover topics including what it’s like to work in your industry, how to succeed in the industry, and how to land a job. To get you started, here are some questions you can ask:
- What’s the first thing you look for on a resume?
- What makes applicants stand out from other candidates?
- What’s the most important skill you look for in an intern or entry-level employee?
- How did you arrive at the position you have to day?
Asking these types of questions will give you valuable insight about your career path, as well as some inspiration for your internship or job search. If you find you’re lacking in a skill employers seek, it’s time to read up and learn as much as possible by the time you apply.
Mistake No. 6: Not Carefully Selecting the Positions You Apply For
Finally, of the big reasons college students don’t fare well during their job or internship search is because they feel like they need to apply for any position they’re even remotely qualified for. When this happens, they miss out on a huge piece of the puzzle.
As you apply, it’s important to apply for positions that you could actually see yourself in. You should have a genuine interest in working for the company and find yourself getting excited when you think about applying. If you’re only applying for internships for the sake of applying for one, chances are you won’t be successful in your efforts.
Now, I’m not telling you to go out and apply strictly for your dream gig. What you should be doing, though, is applying for internships and jobs that fit your needs and goals. When you feel excited about an internship, you’ll better illustrate your desire to land the position. Feeling a little passionate about applying for an internship will help you sell yourself more to the employer and illustrate your desire to land the internship in your cover letter.
Mistake No. 7: You’re Taking “Think Outside the Box” a Little Too Far
Many college students feel the only way they’re going to impress employers is if they think outside of the box; that they must go above and beyond to get noticed by employers. Although it’s important to wow them with your resume or follow up routinely, if you aren’t smart about your strategy, this could cost you an interview.
For example, creating an over-the-top resume or following up with a recruiter every day with a phone call could result in a poorly designed creative resume or annoying phone calls that recruiters begin to ignore.
Think ahead. If you’re going to build a creative resume or make an effort to follow up with employers, ask yourself what’s appropriate for the situation.
Let’s say you’re applying for an internship at an accounting firm. Chances are, they aren’t going to want to receive a resume or cover letter printed on a t-shirt or box. In this case, you’d want to keep in mind the culture of the employer and their expectations for their applicants. On the other hand, if you’re applying for a creative marketing firm, you’d probably be safe stepping outside your comfort zone with your application. Just make sure it’s appropriate before you send it in.
When it comes to following up with employers, you need to make sure you think of the best ways to contact them. Not every recruiter wants to be called or has time to respond to emails. Therefore, it’s a good idea to do yourself a favor and only follow up every seven to 10 days. By the third time you follow up with the employer and you haven’t heard anything, it’s probably a sign to move on.
If you’ve found yourself committing any of these seven mistakes, you still have time to correct them.
Applying for internships and jobs is an ongoing learning process, full of mistakes and life lessons. It is, however, more than possible to fix your mistakes. Implement these tips in your search strategy, and greatly improve your chances of landing a great gig fbefore summer arrives!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at HeatherHuhman.com!
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.