No Internship Experience? No Problem.

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With internships becoming the new entry-level job, it’s crucial that college students do their best to obtain an internship before graduation. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to find an internship during college. Luckily, it’s not too late to get a summer internship by highlighting your skills and tailoring them to the job description. Below, career coach Fran Berrick offers some tips on how to rise above the crowd and get the internship you want.


How can students with little or no work experience create a competitive resume?

Just because you don’t have experience in a traditional work setting doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills an employer needs or can’t craft a convincing resume. First and foremost, consider what the employer is looking for: I find many recent grads have a longer list of tech/computer competencies as a result of their academic work, hobbies (think social media) or professional interests than mid -career professionals I work with do. 

Here is what to take a look at:

Include a summary statement

This is different than a resume objective, where you state exactly what career goals you wish to achieve- which is not a good start. You want to focus on what you can do for the employer, not what the employer can do for you. A resume summary statement, on the other hand, tees up who you are, and your professional value at the top of the page in a sentence or two and serves as the first impression you give a hiring manager to entice them to keep reading. 

Focus on your education and skills

In lieu of work experience, it’s best to expand and focus on your education and the resulting skills you’ve developed. What can you do well that this job requires? What will be useful to the employer? What have you done in school and what have you studied that has prepared you for assuming this job? This is generally a little easier if you’re a college graduate with specialized education, but you can focus on electives, research work, group projects, especially if there was a result ie capstone project or thesis. Importantly I find this helps clients develop their narrative: why they wanted to take specific courses, what they learned from the experience- and how this is relevant to the role they are applying for.

Take stock of your achievements, activities, and internships

I spend significant time with clients ensuring they have a comprehensive list of absolutely everything they have done that might be useful on a resume. From this list, we narrow down what is relevant for their resume geared toward a specific set of positions. Paid and unpaid college internships one of the best weapons you have against “experience required.” Not only do they give you some real-world results oriented work experience, they allow you to network and make connections that can put you in a job later. If you haven’t had one, consider applying as a step before an entry-level job.

Include any extracurricular activities or volunteer work

Depending on the individual, career and scope of the role, volunteer work can highlight your talents or explain where you learned a new skill. Only include hobbies if they are relevant to the position and have equipped you with transferable skills that would be useful for the job role.

Use keywords!! 

Most employers use some form of an applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan and sort resumes. Thus is the reality of the digital age: to get through to the next step, getting your resume in the hands of an actual person in a position to hire you, you will want to come up with and include a list of relevant keywords in your resume when applying for any job. The best place to find these keywords is in the job listing itself or in ads for similar jobs. I suggest to clients that they do a search for 4-6 similar roles and develop a list of aggregate keywords. I could write a thesis on this subject- it is especially important if the bulk of your submissions are online, as opposed to network introductions. 

Pay attention to the details

When editing your resume, make sure there is no punctuation, grammatical, spelling, or other errors that will make your resume look unprofessional. If you can have a reliable editor read it again to catch any mistakes you might have missed. Also, be sure to vary your language and utilize action verbs throughout your resume to keep your reader engaged. 


What topics should be discussed in the cover letter?

Generally, a cover letter is 4- 6 paragraphs that make your best first impression, showcasing the need- based (the employers not yours) attributes you wish to highlight, so they will take the next step: evaluating your resume.

Address what you can do for them

Although you certainly want to explain why you’re interested in a position, it’s best to spend the majority of your letter describing how you will be an asset to the company. Even when you talk about why you’re pursuing the job, word it in a way that highlights what the organization does. If you say, “I’ve been engaged in this field for four years through my experiences in…,” that is a better pitch better than, “this would be a great step for my career.” 

Address their checklist

Not every experience and accomplishment is going to be relevant to every position. So how do you know what to keep and what to put on the chopping block? When employers create a job description, it’s essentially a checklist of the things they’re looking for in an employee. So, in your cover letter, you want to tick off as many of those boxes as possible.

In order to make it easy for an employer to see that you have what they’re looking for, find the things that the company is looking for and highlight specific examples of how you have them. This will help you focus on credentials that are really important—and help the employer focus on why you’re a great fit for the role.

Stay Skill-Focused

Your resume can be focused chronologically, however your cover letter is an opportunity to highlight 2-4 of your skills and abilities. Structure each paragraph around one of the skills you’ve chosen to highlight, then write 2-3 sentences about how your experiences specifically showcase them.

Don’t worry about covering everything or addressing sequentially. You want to avoid repeating your resume— this is a waste of your time and that of your potential employer.

 Include results

Same as your resume, you want your letter to get very specific when you talk about your accomplishments. Give them facts, figures, and numbers. Tell them how much money you raised, how many people or databases you organized. Be sure whatever you assert you can speak to with a solid example.

Include your authentic voice

While you want to make the letter professional, you also want to put some of your own personality in it. A recruiter is reading, (possibly) hundreds of these, and understands they are looking to hire an individual, not a document. Crafting an engaging letter with some color and authenticity, if done with the appropriate tone can set you apart from other candidates. 


What are the best places for students to look for summer internships? How should they go about their search?

This question cannot be answered with out considering current events. Typically, I always suggest college students start at Career Services at their college or University- each school structures it a little differently, however most schools have a platform like Handshake (on about 500 campuses): an app that connects students with open positions, internships and entry level jobs. I now understand most centers are doing virtual appointments with counselors- which is great.

The second place I suggest students look is within their extended network. This includes mentors, employers (or volunteer supervisors) friends and extended friends of family. It is important to develop and formalize the network you have – and wish to develop- from your first search.

I am hearing from students ready to throw in the towel for the summer and I would urge them not to.
I understand it is discouraging however there are still job listings out there.  But with state after state demanding all nonessential businesses to close, companies are only able to operate through work-at-home arrangements.  These orders, of course, are intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

I have reached out to a number of industry HR execs to pose questions, but I haven’t connected yet.  I’m not surprised. HR employees are deluged with work prompted by the industry-wide shutdowns and cutbacks, and by laid off employees asking about benefits and assistance.

My best guess would be for you to go ahead and apply for positions you see online.  But don’t expect a quick response. Companies may be accepting applications but not actually hiring anyone for these positions until nonessential businesses are able to function again.  Also, some of the job listings, are for future openings for entry-level positions like Assistants and Account Coordinators. When applying for any position at this point, I don’t think it would hurt to indicate that you’d be ready, willing and able to perform any duties remotely (as a full-time or part-time worker) if the company has available work suited for that. And most importantly, do your best to continue activities that might help your job search further down the road.

Here are some websites I suggest to clients, aside from the biggest Linked In, Ziprecruiter- including some specialist sites ie Fashionista, Idealist:


Any interview tips for college students and recent graduates just entering the workplace?

This link offers my most comprehensive point of view!


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