How To: Get an Internship Without Experience

Internships are a valuable experience but getting one can be competitive. While previous work experience is helpful when getting an internship, it is not mandatory. An internship is an excellent way to gain meaningful knowledge in a professional setting. A student can learn with the guidance of a mentor without committing too much. It gives you a sense of what an entry-level position may be like. This will help you to decide the best fit for your skills and interests. At Delaware Valley University, career exploration is embedded into the curriculum, through The Experience360 Program, where students can intern for credit. I am a junior at Delaware Valley University, and I will soon have to fulfill the requirement. I know many students are in my position right now, and feel as if getting an internship without prior experience is impossible. After interviewing experts and students alike on the topic, I have found some tips on getting an internship with no experience. 

Before the Resume 

It is beneficial to research the company beforehand and begin to create a network. Having a good resume is helpful, but researching is too. Reach out to different people and ask others for advice. Brooke Farber, a student at DelVal, said “I made my resume stand out by including some of my interests at the bottom. However, my resume was not the reason I got my internship.” Farber continued by saying “I called around to many places near where I live back home and talked with someone over the phone/in-person numerous times before I even sent in my resume.” The resume is the last step when applying to an internship, it is helpful to research and create connections before even creating your resume.

Relevant Coursework

Surveys conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers have shown that employers expect competency in “critical thinking/problem solving, teamwork/collaboration, professionalism/work ethic, and oral/written communications”. Critical thinking is a skill that can be applied to almost every career. The good thing about critical thinking is that it can be learned in many different courses. It is helpful to list any courses that ask you to problem solve, research, or analyze data on your resume. Relevant coursework should apply to your internship, as the skills learned can be transferred into the workplace. You can usually see what coursework is best to list by looking at the job description. Employers do not always want to see past experience. You just need to demonstrate that you have competency in critical thinking, and understand how to make your resume stand out from the rest. 

Ways to Make your Resume Stand Out

  1. Extracurricular clubs, organizations, groups, and sports are good ways to demonstrate career readiness. Emmaline Armstrong, an E360 Advisor, says that “extracurricular clubs, organizations, groups, and sports all provide transferable skills that employers are looking for – such as communication, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving… to name a few. When students are participating within these organizations, it is best to set time to reflect on what skills you have learned and what they want to learn resulting in real-time reflection. This will help when students create their resume and provide examples when it’s time for an interview.”
  1. Volunteering is an excellent addition to your resume, especially when you have no experience. College is a great time to volunteer and there are usually volunteering opportunities in many organizations on campus.
  1. Tailor your resume by using keywords from the job description. This will make your resume stand out.“ Students look at the job description, and highlight any keywords or phrases that show up multiple times and incorporate them into their resume,” said Armstrong. “Say the description says the employer is looking for someone with leadership skills.”Students should reflect on their previous opportunities and think about when they were a leader, and add how they were a leader and how that impacted the organization or team as a bullet under that specific position. Another way to stand out is to make sure the resume is formatted correctly and is easy to read, utilizing bold words–, underline, and use italics strategically.”
  1. Having a student job on campus may be beneficial as it shows work experience. This can show your potential employer that you have practical skills that will aid in the workplace. Farber says that having a student job was very helpful when applying, “I was, and still am, a student tour guide for DelVal and of course I put that on my resume. I think that having that on my resume only benefited me because it showed that I had prior work experience.” I have learned from many different people that having a student job was immensely helpful when applying for an internship or even a job. If you can start finding work experience it will only help you. This of course is not an option for some students, especially during Covid-19, as there are increasingly more remote students. While I don’t think this is applicable to everyone (I myself am a remote student now) if you are able to get a student job, I strongly suggest you do. It will only benefit you, by providing experience and strengthening your resume.

Concluding Thoughts 

It is clear that internships are valuable, and if you are like me, getting one can be tricky if you are lacking experience. After reading this you will have hopefully learned new ways to make your resume stand out and ultimately get an internship. Anyone can get an internship and you should not be discouraged due to a lack of experience. Besides, everyone has to start somewhere!

Written by: Edie Bradley

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