Twenty years ago landing an internship was a nicety, not a necessity. Today, however, it’s difficult to command the attention of employers looking to fill entry-level positions without at least one intern experience on your resume. One of the driving factors behind this transformation is the evolution of the internship experience itself. For years internships were viewed as little more than resume padding; many students were relegated to coffee runs and mailroom organization for the entirety of the summer and missed out on gaining career-specific experience. Although any type of job does help a student cultivate stronger a stronger work ethic, students were leaving their internship experiences with little to show for them.

Today, however, companies are making more concerted efforts to create valuable internship experiences that support both the student’s desire to hone real-world skills and the organization’s need for extra help and fresh perspectives. For the most part, today’s internships offer students the opportunity to get involved in real, client and customer-facing projects, which not only gives them a clearer idea as to whether or not this type of work might interest them in the long run, but it also offers the organization more clarity as to whether or not an individual might be the right fit for an entry-level position in the future. Although most of today’s internship programs offer more acute growth and development opportunities, they are not all created equal. Depending on the field, some organizations offer their interns impressive salaries, while other companies are still able to generate mass student interest by simply offering an opportunity for them to get their feet in the door.

As a result, locking down an internship during your Sophomore or Junior years of college is an increasingly competitive game. Students from across the country are all vying for the same small number of spots at major organizations. Companies like Goldman Sachs receive more than 250,000 student and recent graduate applications a year.  HR departments in companies sift through thousands of applications that often blur together. Even if you have a high GPA, impressive extracurriculars and stellar recommendations from your professors, it is difficult to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Here are a few strategies you can implement into your internship application process to show companies that you’re not only a good fit for their marketing departments, but also that you’re willing to go above and beyond.

Market yourself through your personal social channels

So much of today’s marketing departments revolve around social media across every industry and niche. People spend 116 minutes on social media channels each day and brand marketers know that the best way to reach potential customers is through communicating with them in the spaces they already spend their time: social platforms. Additionally, brand marketers also know that cutting edge social ideas and programs are not always strengths among older team members who are not social natives. When marketing departments bring on young interns, they want those individuals to have the insight and confidence to speak up about the emerging social trends they’re seeing among their peers. Cultivating engaging and varied content to grow your own social media brand is an assured way of proving to hiring departments that you have the social wherewithal to add value to the company’s social media initiatives.

Send High-Quality Communications

Marketing is all about being able to communicate with customers and key stakeholders. Marketing departments are eager to bring on candidates who are not only competent speakers but also, compelling writers. Taking the time to ensure that your resume, cover letter, and company-specific application projects are clean and engaging is crucial to positioning yourself to receive an internship offer. If a marketing department is deciding between two candidates with similar backgrounds and credentials they will always choose the candidate who submits grammatically correct communications and applications materials.

Pitch Companies

There may be organizations out there who don’t broadcast internship opportunities on their websites, but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t the possibility that they’ll create an opening for the right candidate. Proactively pitching organizations is a strong way to command attention because it lets companies know that you are not only a fan of their product and mission, but also that you have the drive to create opportunities for yourself. Furthermore, many brand marketers spend a majority of their time creating pitches for their own organizations and external clients; showing these teams that you understand what it takes to pitch and position your personal story in an enticing way will help them see how your skills may be applicable to their current project and business development needs.

Although the numbers you’re competing against may feel intimidating, you have agency in whether or not you obtain an internship that will further your career. Taking the time and energy to go above and beyond standard application requirements is the best way to demonstrate your capabilities, drive, and value to potential employers.

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