Landing an Internship: 5 Tips for Distance Education Students

By Brady Tamblin
Brady is an HR consultant specializing in helping startups create hiring plans and bonus structures. In his free time he likes to fly fish.

As an intern, you have a one in two chance of landing a full-time job post-internship, per the National Association of Colleges and Employers annual survey. While a local college might have career experts who can help you identify and apply to local internships, as a distance education student you’ll have to do much of the legwork to find one. Use these five tips to streamline the internship process and find the right opportunity for you.

1. Virtual: OK or no way? As a starting point, decide whether you want to complete an in-person or online internship. Internships.com reports that 33 percent of companies hire virtual interns. If you’re hoping to treat your internship like your education, you’ll have a 1 in 3 shot at finding something virtual. On the other hand, if you want hands-on experience to supplement your distance education, decide that before you start looking at opportunities.

2. Use listservs to send jobs to you. Hunting for internships in your field can be a full-time job if you let it. Instead, automate much of the work by signing up for listservs and creating discipline-specific RSS feeds. Wake Forest University recommends resources such as Indeed, Internships.com, the University Career Action Network, CareerShift and The Internship Center. Automate internship alerts at these (or similar) sites, then set aside time each week to review opportunities sent via emails and RSS feeds.

3. Polish your resume and cover letter. These materials are crucial for any internship interview—virtual or place-based. CareerBuilder offers eight useful tips for writing strong cover letters and personalizing each one; these can help you draft your application materials. Your online school should have a career counselor who can review your materials and suggest helpful edits. Consider also having friends or family members review your materials for grammar, spelling and readability. You may think you’re being very clear about your desire to work for Consultant A, only to find that your logic doesn’t make sense to others.

4. Brush up on your skill set. While you’re polishing your application materials, review any internship requirements or preferred qualifications. Use this time to add (or brush up on) any skills you lack. For those who have pursued Web Design degrees online, you might not have used Flash in two semesters. If so, review tutorials and play around with the program if you find that internship opportunities require knowledge of the software.

5. Prepare for any interview with care. If you’re lucky enough to be granted an interview for an internship, take it seriously. Prepare well for the interview by learning as much as you can about the company and by mock interviewing. Again, your career center, family and friends can drill you with interview questions and offer constructive criticism. Practicing classic interview questions like “Tell me your greatest strength and weakness” not only gives you time to prepare a thoughtful answer ahead of time, it can relieve jitters. As part of the preparation, pick out (and iron) an appropriate interview outfit, review the office directions and make sure that you know where you need to be and have left enough time to get there. There’s nothing worse than getting to an interview late (and making a bad first impression) because you got stuck in a traffic jam or got lost.


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