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If you have the chance to apply for internships when you’re in college, do it. The experience is incredibly valuable. You’ll have the chance to learn from experienced professionals, and you’ll get a taste for the type of job you will or will not like to have after graduation. Furthermore, you’ll gather experience that many other recent graduates don’t have, and that internship not only looks great on your resume but it just might help you land an interview and a job.

Many internships are very competitive, and you need to prepare in advance to increase your chances of getting one. Fortunately, there are some things you can do that many other internship applicants might not be doing which can help you stand out from the crowd. Here are five tips you should follow to help you get the internship you really want:

1. Leverage your school’s career development resources and help.

Every college has a career development center filled with resources and people that can help you find and land an internship. Many students don’t fully leverage those resources and people, or they don’t use them at all. You’ve paid your tuition and part of that money goes to those resources and people, so take advantage of their accessibility. Schedule a meeting with a member of the career development staff to learn what is available to you and how to use those resources. When you’re done with the initial meeting, schedule ongoing follow-up meetings as you navigate the internship search and application process.

2. Focus on the right internships for you.

Many students make the mistake of applying for every internship available in the hope that they’ll get one. However, you’d have more success if you focused your efforts on the internships that truly interest you and offer the most learning potential as you prepare for your own post-graduation career.

3. Get prepared by creating a great applicant package.

Once you have your focus set on specific types of internships, you need to prepare a great applicant package that really sells you to the hiring manager. Work with your career development staff to create a great resume and cover letter and to complete your applications accurately. Ask for letters of recommendation from faculty members who teach subjects in your major of study or subjects related to your desired internships.

The more professional and prepared you are, the greater your chances of being selected for an internship. Think of it from the hiring manager’s perspective. A prepared and professional applicant is likely to be a prepared and professional employee, and that’s something that matters greatly to the person who will make the decision to hire you or not.

4. Get social (or clean up your social profiles).

If you’re not already active on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, create your profiles and start connecting with people and joining professional conversations. The keyword in the previous sentence was “professional.” This is not the time or place to act like a college student. If you already have social media profiles, clean them up immediately.

Hiring managers will look at your social media profiles before they hire you. That means everything from your text posts to your photos need to reflect the professional, employable person that you want to become post-graduation, not the immature teenager or college student that you may have acted like up until this point. Remember, it’s about the packaging, and you need to be perceived by companies as a responsible, trustworthy adult who would be an asset to their organization, not an embarrassment or problem.

5. Look and play the part.

You’re applying for an internship at a professional organization, so you need to fit into that culture or you’ll have no chance of working there. You might have been hanging out with your friends the night before your internship interview, but when you walk into that interview, you need to look and sound just as professional as the other employees who work there. Your speech, your clothes, your behavior, and your entire persona needs to fit the company culture, so clean yourself up and practice playing the part of a young professional rather than a carefree college student.

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