Tips for landing a summer internship
It's not too late to find a job or internship for this summer! Current students and the Stanford Career Education office (BEAM) offer useful tips and resources to aid you in your search.
The job market is in many ways returning to a pre-pandemic normal — which means that although many companies have completed their summer hiring, there are still options for students who have not yet found a summer job or internship.
After a steep drop in hiring at the beginning of the pandemic, openings surged last year. Now Stanford Career Education (BEAM) is seeing both job opportunities and applicants approach or surpass their pre-pandemic numbers. And in a just-released report, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) projects that employers plan to hire almost 33 percent more new college graduates in 2022 than in 2021.
There are some changes and challenges, however. For example, it appears that virtual and hybrid opportunities are here to stay. This allows students to apply for a wider variety of positions – though it also increases the competition. It can also help students who find part-time opportunities, since it’s easier to juggle two part-time positions if they are virtual.
Some larger companies — the big consulting firms, for example – have already selected their summer interns and new hires who will start in the summer. This chart of recruiting timelines shows when companies in different industries typically do their hiring (though some industries, such as consulting and finance, are moving to recruit even earlier).
That doesn’t mean there are no opportunities left in April.
“There are positions available all year round, regardless of industry,” said John (J.B.) Horsley ’19, employer engagement coordinator at BEAM.
Networking: the most common path to a job
For those still looking, networking is a crucial tool. On average, 70 percent of opportunities come from networking, compared with 30 percent from job postings, Horsley said.
“Networking is your best friend,” Horsley said. Still, “it’s a terrifying word to many students. They don’t want to make a bad impression or take advantage of someone.”
Because the most effective networking benefits both parties, students with little work experience may feel like they have nothing to offer. But Horsley said alums and others who talk to students simply enjoy the conversations.
“Sometimes it’s just about talking about something you both enjoy,” Horsley said.
Divya Mehrish, Class of ’25, has used networking — including with a Stanford alum — to identify several media and law-based opportunities for the summer.
“I’m looking at how I could combine various experiences,” she said, which may be possible since not all of them are full-time for the whole summer.
Vedant Khanna, Class of ’25, found his summer internship, with the Santa Clara office of Tata Digital, through a virtual career fair that he heard about from his introductory computer science class.
Khanna didn’t start his search until winter quarter, and he was successful. But he realized that he had missed the recruiting cycle for some tech companies by starting that late.
“If you’re looking for an internship for the summer, it’s best to start as early as possible,” Khanna said.
Tailored applications vs. mass production
Creating a good resume is worth the time.
“On average, a recruiter spends 7 to 30 seconds on the first read of a resume, leaning much closer to 7,” Horsley said. “You want to make sure that your resume is explicitly showing the skills they’re looking for.”
Is it best to customize a resume and cover letter for each position, or is it better to send out as many resumes as possible even if they’re all the same? It’s possible to find a job using either approach, Horsley said.
A carefully tailored resume — one that matches the job-seeker’s experience and skills with the job description — is the most likely to be noticed. However, early-career job seekers will likely need to apply for many opportunities, and it may not be practical to create custom resumes for each.
Horsley suggests that students use a hybrid approach, creating a version of their resume for each industry or type of position they are considering.
Horsley offers several other tips for students still looking for a summer opportunity:
- Contact employers who have already completed their internship recruitments for summer 2022 and ask if they have any available internships. They may have several rescinded offers and may welcome the chance to consider your application. If you opt for this approach, be sure to have your resume ready to share and be willing to interview immediately, as employers may be looking to fill vacancies very quickly.
- Search for more than internships. In Handshake, some employers don’t take the time to specify the category for each position, so some internships end up posted as a “full-time” or “part-time job.” Students can also search for “internship” in the search bar.
- Consider other options for the summer. Students who are unable to secure a job or internship for the whole summer should look for other ways to build their resumes. Gig or project work is one way to do this — and the Stanford Alumni Mentoring platform is one place to start looking. Taking a class — to learn a new programming language, for example — may also be a good way to fill resume gaps. Stanford offers access to LinkedIn Learning.
- Don’t be discouraged by experience requirements. Many employers are asking for a year or more of experience for positions they describe as entry-level. In reality, they often don’t actually care about the years of experience and just want to know that a job seeker has the skills to solve their problem. Additionally, Horsley said that those years of experience can be demonstrated through various types of experiences beyond just jobs and internships.
- Focus on transferable skills. Transferable skills are what most employers view as the most important. Horsley said classwork, volunteer positions, independent projects, and service jobs such as retail or restaurant work can all contribute skills for a resume. “How do we turn the experience we have into what an employer is looking for?” Horsley said. “Teamwork, communication, customer service, hard work, time management: There’s a large number of transferable skills that you are bringing to the table.”