How to Land a College Internship Without Experience

Landing your first internship can be difficult, especially when you don't have any experience. Here is an in depth guide to help you find that first internship

Posted May 21, 2024

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How to Land a College Internship Without Experience

Securing an internship in college is tough, especially when your resume isn't filled with much experience. Every successful professional starts somewhere, and there are strategic ways to help your chances of landing that first internship. This article will provide tips for college students who are trying to get an internship with little or no experience.

1. Leverage University Clubs and Societies

Joining clubs and societies at your university isn't just a great way to meet friends; it's also a strategic move for your career. Active participation in clubs related to your field of interest can compensate for a lack of professional experience. Leadership roles within these clubs can be appealing to potential employers. They demonstrate your initiative, commitment, and ability to work within a team. These clubs are a good resume builder, but they can also open doors to connect you with other people who might know of companies looking for interns. These people can then refer you and give you a better chance of getting your foot in the door.

2. Work with a Coach on Leland

Sometimes finding an internship is hard because you don’t have much guidance on where to find these opportunities, let alone how to interview well. Leland is a coaching platform that connects young students with professional coaches that can help you learn how to get that internship, make the resume look good, and crush your interviews. They can also be good people to ask for a referral from if you are applying to one of their companies. Browse coaches here.

3. Emphasize Your Academic Projects and Coursework

If you don’t have much experience, highlight your projects that show relevant skills. Describe anything significant that demonstrates your ability to apply what you have learned in school to the real world. Be prepared to discuss these projects in interviews to show your understanding and passion for the industry.

4. Networking and Building Relationships

Networking is often more effective than sending out dozens of blind applications. Attend job fairs, industry meetups, and guest lectures. Connect with speakers and participants, and don't hesitate to mention that you're looking for internship opportunities. Remember, it’s not just about what you know; it’s about who knows you. Make a lasting impression by showing genuine interest and enthusiasm. I see several students make the mistake of thinking that companies don’t want to hire them because they are young and don’t have any skills. While this is sometimes true, companies love interns that are proactive and want to work for them. Remember that interns are very cheap labor for these companies and can have a big impact.

5. Volunteer or Freelance

Gain practical experience by volunteering or freelancing. Non-profits, local businesses, and online platforms can offer opportunities that might not be as competitive but are valuable for building your resume. This experience shows potential employers that you are proactive and eager to learn. Several of these in demand skills can be learned on YouTube or other websites.

6. Consider Internships at Smaller Companies

While big-name companies are appealing, small to medium companies and startups can offer more hands-on roles with important responsibilities. These positions are sometimes less competitive and can provide a better learning experience.

Though the challenge of finding an internship with no experience is real, it's far from impossible. By leveraging your university resources, expanding your network, and demonstrating your passion and capability through clubs, projects, and volunteer work, you can create compelling opportunities for yourself. Internships are a big part of finding out what you are good at and can be a great learning experience especially while you are young.

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