Top 10 Things You Should Look For In a Company

Whether you’re looking for a paid or unpaid internship or an entry-level job, finding a great position goes way beyond the job description. From company culture to opportunities for growth, there are several things you should keep in mind when deciding between potential employers.

Here are the top things to look for in a company.

1. Do the company’s values align with yours?

One of the most important things to consider when researching potential employers is how their values align with yours. This is because working for a company is about a lot more than just the hours you put in each day. It’s about knowing that the company values some of the same things you do (like honesty, integrity and hard work) and understanding how those values match up with your own. Whether it’s finding a company with a model you admire or one that takes environmental action seriously and donates money to prevent global warming, you should feel that you and your potential employer stand for the same things and that you can build a lasting relationship.

2. Does the company culture fit your personality?

Many employers list cultural fit as the most important thing they look for when interviewing candidates, and you should put this at the top of your list too. For example, if you’re more comfortable in a relaxed environment than a conservative one, then a company with a corporate culture might not be a great fit for you. Before you sign that offer letter, take the time to assess how you’d fit in at the company and how the company culture would fit you.

3. Are the team members people you’d love to work with?

Whether it’s an internship or a full-time job, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your new co-workers so it’s important to make sure that they’re people you’d like to work with. This goes hand-in-hand with cultural fit and it’s something you should be aware of when considering a new opportunity. The average American spends around one-third of each weekday at work, so having co-workers you get along with is a key part of being happy at your job.

4. Will you be offered opportunities to learn?

Having the chance to learn new things is important in any position, but it’s especially important during the early stages of your career. For that reason, finding an internship or full-time job that allows you to learn as much as possible is key to the development of your career.

5. Is there room for growth within the company?

In addition to offering you opportunities to learn about the industry, a great company should also offer opportunities for advancement within the organization. This is even more important in the case of internships and entry-level jobs because the opportunity for a promotion (or a full-time job) is a great incentive to learn as much as possible and prove your commitment to the team. The exception to this is if you’re not looking for a long-term opportunity but are looking to gain experience for a year or two before going to grad school.

6. Will your managers make you feel appreciated?

Feeling appreciated is an important part of any life experience, but it’s especially important in your working life. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that there should be company-sponsored happy hours or free weekly lunches, it does mean that your employer should make you feel valued by offering positive feedback and supporting your efforts to learn and improve.

7. Does the company offer security and stability?

One of the most important things a company can offer its employees is a secure and stable environment. This doesn’t just mean a regular paycheck (although that’s part of it), but also a proven history of steady success and a sense of job security. Although it’s unrealistic to expect smooth sailing all the time, a solid track record is a great indication that the company can provide you with the type of environment you need to succeed.

8. Does the company set you up for success?

Although a lot of your professional success will depend on you, there are several things an employer can do to set you for a great outcome. This includes everything from in-depth training to goal setting and regular feedback, factors that are especially important as your begin your career.

9. Will your role teach your transferrable skills?

In addition to offering training for your current role, a great company will set you up for future success by teaching you transferrable skills that you can use in your next position. When applying for a job, ask yourself what you can learn from the role and don’t be afraid to discuss training opportunities and skill building during your interview.

10. Will you be challenged in a positive way?

Being challenged to learn and to grow is one of the key markers of a great company. In fact, getting out of your company zone is one of the best ways to learn new skills and to find out who you are as a professional. Look for companies that make you feel enthusiastic about taking on new challenges and offer the support you need to turn those challenges into wins.

Whether you’re embarking on your first job search or your fifth, finding a company that will provide you with great opportunities requires some research. By following these tips, you’ll be sure to find the right fit and to give yourself the best chance of success.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How Much Should I be Paid at an Entry-Level Job? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

What’s the Difference Between An Offer Letter And A Contract?

Understanding the difference between an offer letter and a contract is one of the key ways to set yourself up for success in your career. Since the terms are closely linked, many recent grads tend to think of them interchangeably when in fact, an offer letter and a contract have some important differences.

Here are the key things you need to know about offer letters and contracts.

What is an offer letter?

Once you’ve successfully gotten through the interview process and received a verbal offer, you’ll soon receive an offer letter. So, what is an offer letter? It’s a formal job offer that includes most or all of the following things:

  • Job title
  • Start date
  • Salary
  • Manager’s name
  • Employee benefits
  • Employment relationship

Intended to lay out the terms of employment, an offer letter is the employer’s way of letting you know exactly what the job entails and what you can expect from accepting the role. Once you receive an offer letter, you typically have anywhere from 24 hours to a week to sign it. If you choose not to do so, the offer will expire.

What is a contract?

Similar to an offer letter, a contract lays out the details of a role and includes many of the same key pieces of information. However, unlike an offer letter, a contract typically has a specific time period attached to it and is used in cases where employers are hiring someone for a certain amount of time. Contracts are likely to be used in the following cases:

  • Freelance positions
  • Temp to perm positions
  • Contract positions for specific projects

Like offer letters, contracts are time sensitive and generally require a signature within about a week.

Are you likely to receive both an offer letter and a contract?

Generally speaking, the answer is no. Although offer letters and contracts serve similar purposes, they’re generally used for different types of work. While an offer letter indicates the beginning of a long term full-time role, a contract is more often used to a establish short-term work relationship or one that does not fit the terms for full-time employment. For example, while you might work standard full-time hours on a contract, you’re unlikely to receive the same benefits as a full-time employee such as health insurance or a 401k plan.

Pro Tip: Temp to perm employees (employees who begin as contractors before transitioning to full-time members of the team) are the exception to the rule. Since these types of employees start off as contracted workers, they work on a contract basis before receiving their offer letter to join the team full-time.

Knowing the difference between an offer letter and a contract is a great way to manage your expectations when it comes to accepting a job offer. This will ensure that you know what each type of offer means and that you’re able to make an informed decision about accepting it.

What Should You Do If You Have A Verbal Job Offer But Not A Written One?

After successfully applying for a job and going through the interview process, the hiring manager says the phrase you’ve been hoping to hear. “We want to offer you the job!” But what happens when several days have passed and you still haven’t received the offer letter? Do you follow up to ask when you can expect it or just sit tight waiting for the email?

Here are the steps to take if you have a verbal offer but not a written one.

Send a follow-up note asking for a timeframe

If it’s been over 48 hours and you still haven’t received a formal offer, contact the hiring manager to express your enthusiasm about the offer and to ask about the status. Keep your note short and to the point, and be specific about what you’re asking.

Say something like:

“Dear Ms. Blocs,

Thank you so much again offering me the social media coordinator position. I’m very excited about the role and looking forward to being part of the team at XYZ company.

One quick question: When can I expect to receive the offer letter? I’d love to review it and understand the timeline by which I must make my decision.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thank you again,
Emily”

Understand what might be causing the delay

Waiting for a job offer can be nerve wracking, especially when you’re not sure of the exact timeframe. A good way to stay calm is to understand some common reasons for a delay. These can include things like the time it takes to coordinate between different departments or the fact that a key member of the team may be away and unable to offer their approval until they return. Whatever the case, there are likely to be several reasons why the offer letter hasn’t arrived yet that have nothing to do with you personally. Sending the follow-up note is a great way to address these issues directly and to get the hiring manager to give you some clarity about the hold up.

Keep going with your job search

Another key thing to do while waiting for the offer letter is to keep going with your job search. Since job offers do occasionally fall apart before an offer letter is sent out, it’s important to keep your options open by continuing to apply to jobs and to go on interviews. This will ensure that you’re not losing momentum in your job search and that you’re able to move on quickly if the offer doesn’t come through. Added bonus: You might get a second job offer in the process.

Although waiting for an offer letter can definitely cause some anxiety, by following these steps you’ll be sure to stay on top of the process and to get hired as quickly as possible.

How to Use a Blog to Apply for An Internship

Writing a blog post on why you would like to work at a company is a brilliant way to stand out. A blog post application serves two purposes:

1.) It demonstrates that you understand and know how to use important online marketing and communication tools.

2.) The medium itself allows you to express a voice and excitement for a company in a manner that is much stronger and more powerful than a traditional cover letter.

There are two easy to use services for writing a blog post on — Tumblr and WordPress!

Tumblr
takes only a few seconds to setup and is built to allow to get applying quickly.

WordPress
is more customizable, a little more complex to setup, but has a ton of additional tools and features to help you standout.  It is also more commonly used by companies so is more helpful in teaching you the right skills when applying for a marketing or communications role.

Inspiration:

This blog post by Lisa Petrilli explains 4 ways your blog can succeed in making you standout and offers additional insight on why this strategy can be effective.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Internship? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

The Importance of Location in Your Entry-Level Job Search

In general, recent grads that are looking for their first job fall into 3 major categories when it comes to location preferences:

  1. You’re willing to go anywhere. The world is your oyster after all.
  2. You’re open to several locations but not willing to work just anywhere.
  3. You have strict location requirements. Gotta stay close to home, your boo, or whatever it is.

You location preferences are one of the primary determining factors in your search for your first job after college. You may really want that amazing non-profit gig in NYC, but if you really need to stick close to home it’s not going to do you much good to spend time wishing it was local.

Willing to Go Anywhere

If you’re willing to go anywhere, you’ve got plenty of options. In fact, the primary difficulty is in narrowing your location options to those that interest you. Even though you’re open to re-locating, that doesn’t mean that you should be willing to move absolutely anywhere.

The location of your job has a dramatic impact on how enjoyable and satisfying your job is. Particularly your first job. If you really can’t stand winter but move to Chicago to take the job there anyways, you might find yourself resenting the job all winter long. It’s important to prioritize your search efforts to focus on the locations that are most likely to bring you joy first. If you can’t find the right types of positions there, then broaden your search.

When considering the viability of a location you don’t know about, it’s important to do proper and thorough research. Here are some critical factors to consider when learning about a location for the first time:

  1. The weather. How do you deal with winter? Heat?
  2. Red state vs blue state. Knowing the political leaning of your location will help you fit in ideologically.
  3. The average age of the population. You’re young and likely want to make young friends. Don’t move to Palm Springs (sorry Palm Springs).
  4. Travel to and from the location. You’re likely going to have friends and family elsewhere if you re-locate. How easy and expensive is it to get to and from them?
  5. The local activities. What do the local folks do outside of work? Hike? Eat? Dance? Theater?
  6. The commute. You’re likely going to be making the same trip every day. What will it look like?

Open to Some New Locations

If you fall under this umbrella, congrats, you’re well on your way to an easier job search process. You don’t have too many options nor do you have too few. The trick is going to be quickly figuring out whether or not the location requirements you have align with your job interests. For example, if you really want to get into theater as a performer and eventually make it to Broadway, you’re probably not going to find the best opportunities in a small rural community.

Once you know the several locations you’re targeting, head over to some major job search sites like WayUp
to run a search for jobs in a particular location. Then sign up for job alerts by email for that location. You should start getting notified by email when new jobs pop up in your desired location. This way you don’t have to spend time constantly running the same job searches on multiple sites.

It’s also imperative to weigh the relative attractiveness of the locations you’re considering. For example, say that you know that you want to be on the west coast in a city. You’re attracted to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. It’s important to research each city and prioritize them. The stricter you can be about your preferences in every dimension of your job search, the smoother your search will be.

Strict Location Requirements

Recent grads with strict job location requirements often either have it fairly easy or really tough. If you’re looking for a theater job and you have to be in NYC, then there’s already great alignment between your interests and your required location. However, if you’re looking for a theater job and you don’t want to go far from your home in Fargo, you likely have a major uphill battle.

When looking for entry-level employment in a single location there are several specific tools that can help you right off the bat. First, head over to major job search sites like WayUp to search for jobs and create job alerts by email for that location. This way, you see every job that pops up in that location. Ideally, you set your filters for entry-level jobs only so you don’t have to comb through endless part-time and senior-level roles. Second, leverage the career resources available in that location. If you’re looking in the same city as where you attended college, head on over to the career center.

Career centers often partner with local businesses looking for great entry-level talent.
Otherwise, check out the city’s official website. There will often be lots of helpful advice on gaining employment in that particular location.

Location is critical when searching for entry-level jobs. Make sure you don’t underestimate just how impactful the right location can be on achieving success in your first job after college. We’ve got other great tips to
help you get started on your entry-level job search and land an entry-level job without any experience.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Entry-Level Job? and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell me about yourself.

How to Get A Great Letter of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation can make or break your ability to get hired. Even if your qualifications are excellent, if your referrals are non existent or negative your chances of finding employment are slim. That said, there are several things you can do to help insure that good references follow your employment trail, and are accessible to potential employers.

1.Identify the right references

If you have no work history or if you are asked for personal references, do not use family or peer group friends. If you feel that one of your parent’s friends knows you well you might consider using them.  Teachers, councilors, TAs and coaches could make strong personal references. But, don’t forget to ask them first.

2. Always ask permission of the person you hope to use as a reference.Never just assume they will say yes.

They may feel uncomfortable talking about you for reasons you may not even guess at. Some companies even have policies that prohibit their employees from saying anything but a confirmation of your employment and the dates of your employment.

3. Help them out.

You may want to list some skills, accomplishments or character traits that you think would apply and send the list to your references for their use. Also include the dates of your employment. Sometimes, people can be busy or distracted or forgetful and it is helpful for them to have a list in front of them when they write or talk about you. If they disagree with something you have put on the list, they can always leave it out.

4. If possible, obtain a letter of recommendation before you leave your internship or job.

You can ask for the referral during the all important exit interview or anytime before you leave.  What you don’t want is for your boss to move on from the company and disappear into the mist at some later date without a way for you to contact them.

5. Conduct an exit interview.

(See the section on how to conduct your exit). The exit interview will be a good opportunity to go over the company’s expectations and how they were met or exceeded by your accomplishments. You, also, will have refreshed their memory about how wonderful you are so they can say some very nice things about you.

6. Don’t burn any bridges upon leaving.

If you want to leave recommendations for change then do so carefully and with tact. Limit your discussion to issues that might make the next intern’s experience even better. Never, ever complain about any individual or incident, and make sure that you make any suggestions positive in tone and content.

7. You might consider having your boss’s recommendations posted on a professional networking site or on Facebook.

Such a site allows you have the references for public view for all of posterity. If you don’t like what someone says about you, you can simply erase it.

8. You do not need to say “references available upon request” on your resume or cover letter.

Employers know they can ask for them. If the references are available on a professional network, however, you could mention that in your cover letter and supply the specific link to your specific reference page.

9. Keep in touch.

If you worked for a company that refuses to give a reference because it is against company policy, do not despair. It is often possible to contact an employee after they have left the company and get a reference then.  Make sure you keep up with your boss or colleagues so you know where and when to reach them.

10. Don’t ask for references from someone who may give you a negative review.

A negative review from a reference can look really bad. This is someone you have hand selected as able to attest to your strong characteristics as a worker and a person. Make sure your references are coming from someone you can trust, who has openly commended you in the past, and ideally someone who has willingly offered to be a reference

11. Keep a list of five references handy so they can be quickly and easily emailed to a prospective employer.

Most interviewers want a list of three but you don’t want anything held up if a reference is out of town or for some reason is unreachable. Include in the list:

  1. Their name
  2. Their position (and current position)
  3. The company  (and their current company, if they have left)
  4. Their professional relationship to you (ex. The person you reported to.)
  5. Their contact information…email and phone

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 6 Do’s and Don’ts of Video Interviews and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell Me About Yourself.

How to Stand Out with Student Business Cards

At WayUp we believe every student should have amazing business cards. They are one of the easiest and most effective ways to stand out at zoo-like career fairs and to remain at the top of a recruiters mind after an interview.

Get A Leg Up:

A good business card says I’m a professional.

It helps recruiters put a check mark next to your name and says this student is ready to work in an office, meet with executives and contribute to our team. It’s an action that is worth a thousand words to most employers who are constantly afraid that after making their student hires, they are going to spend the next month teaching interns professional basics rather than getting work done.

Aside from being an in your face way of telling interviewers that you are better equipped and more ready to begin working in the professional world than your peers, a good business card makes you memorable.
Every person you meet at a career fair or job interview, is talking to tons of students.   They are taking down mental notes of who is a good fit and who isn’t but, it is easy for those notes to begin to blur together.  These recruiters are begging for a sign that helps them make a more informed choice on who to select.  When they open their pocket or look down at their desk and see your business card, with your picture or favorite quote on it, you will have just made their job a whole lot easier.

Personalized Design:

I’m a student, not a business, what should I put on my card?

Business cards are relationship builders, they are ways to stay in touch and build your personal brand.
The golden rule is that when an employer looks at your business card the day after you meet, they should instantly remember you.

So if you are interested in marine biology, then perhaps put your favorite whale on the front of your card.  If you are interested in finance, make a clean, professional card with a quote from Warren Buffett on the back.  Or if you are an art major, you can put your favorite Picasso on the front! There is a no limit to what you can do, but the best cards are typically both subtle and personal.

If you’re running out of ideas or don’t want to pigeon hole yourself with a single design, then a great fall back design is to place your college crest on the front of your card with your name, contact info, and school email address.  A college crest on a mono-colored business card is a simple and professional way to show pride in where you go to school.

Business card etiquette!

Knowing when and how to hand out business cards is a whole skill in itself.  The general rule is that in networking situations you want to give out your business card at the end of the conversation.  For example, when wrapping up a conversation, you can say, “It was great speaking with you, here is my card, let’s stay in touch.”  The other person should also give you their card and that way you too can follow-up with them as well.

In an interview or meeting setting you want to give out your business card at the beginning.  You might say, “Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, here’s my card to hold onto.”  If they give you their card, proper etiquette says you want to place it squarely on the desk in front of you, facing you for the remainder of the conversation.

Business Cards from Moo.com!

Whether you need business cards for an upcoming career fair or want them because they are a lot of fun to make and to hand out to friends WayUp has you covered.WayUp recommends Moo.com for a pack of professionally designed business cards from Moo.com. Moo is one of the leaders in business card design so whatever you decide is just about guaranteed to look great.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Internship? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

Advice for Starting Your Entry-Level Job Search

Knowing where to start the search for your first job after college and how to refine the numerous options available is half of the battle. Intelligently planning out your approach can save you precious time and energy. Here are a few pieces of advice to get you started on your search.

Understanding Yourself

The first task you should tackle is getting familiar with yourself. Knowing your desires, strengths, and weaknesses will enable you to narrow your search process from the get-go. If you’re an exceptionally strong writer and outgoing, social individual, you might make a great marketer. Analytical thinker and problem solver who loves to tackle problems on your own? You might make a great data analyst or engineer. Not sure about your strengths or what type of position you’re looking for? No worries, you can easily start by looking at all of the positions available in a particular location.

Knowing Where to Look

The internet is full of resources to help you find jobs. There are hundreds and hundreds of search engines for jobs. How do you choose the right one?

The good news is that there are two primary strategies for job searches on the internet. Searching on Google will often lead you to the largest job search engines and often some search engines that specialize in what you’re looking for (like WayUp). These larger search engines will often have many positions from the largest companies and most prolific brands in the world. Searching on the specialty job boards is the other primary strategy. If you know exactly what you’re interested in doing, job boards with a narrower focus often have high quality postings from very desirable small companies.

You can also start looking locally by getting in contact with your career center (even if you’re a recent grad). Local employers often post jobs with the local universities knowing that students will come to the career center for help finding employment. If you’d like to remain near your university, the career center can be a fantastic resource.

Searching for Entry-Level Positions by Keyword

If you opt to search for jobs on a larger search engine, you will likely lose the ability to easily search for entry-level positions only. In that case, here is a list of job title keywords that can help you narrow the results down to entry-level positions:

“Junior”

is a very common entry-level term for technical jobs or design related jobs.

“Associate”

is another commonplace title for recent graduates. Many marketing and business roles have the associate title.

“Entry-Level”

is a term primarily used by the job seeker. It’s not common for employers to post positions with this term in the title. However, a few will, so you might get lucky and find a position if you search by this term.

“Recent Graduates”

is a term you won’t find in many job titles, but it’s often in job descriptions for entry-level positions.

“Graduating”

is a much broader search term, but one that will also often be prevalent in the descriptions of entry-level positions.

Look Outside of Your Major

It’s becoming more and more common for recent grads to land their first job in a position completely unrelated to their major. Just because you chose to major in psychology or english doesn’t mean you have to only look for jobs in psychology or english. There are plenty of junior or associate-level jobs that aren’t directly associated with a common college major. Keep your eyes open for things like coordinator or volunteer management roles at non-profits, account management positions, and operations roles.

This isn’t just the case for non-technical majors either. If you majored in Computer Science or Mechanical Engineering, you don’t have to go straight into an engineering role. You might make a wonderful Product Manager or Data Scientist.

Interested in stepping outside of your major? Here are 5 tips to help you get a job that is unrelated to your major.

Be Aware of Scams and Advantageous Employers

It’s incredibly sad, but recent graduates are often taken advantage of in their first job. Many positions that sound incredibly appealing and promising are actually terrible jobs or scams. Here are a few things to watch out for:

Jobs That Seem Too Good to be True

Pro tip: they probably are too good to be true. If someone is offering you a large signing bonus or an unbelievably high salary for an easy position, it’s best to steer clear. Scammers often masquerade as employers hiring recent graduates for positions like Office Manager, Customer Support, Front Desk, Assistant, etc.

Ambassador or Campus Rep positions

These positions are common part-time roles for current students but aren’t the best options for recent graduates. They often pay a meager commission for each student you get to sign up for their service. When you’re in school and can easily network with your classmates, these positions can help pay the bills bit-by-bit. However, once you graduate, it’s extremely difficult to make enough money to live off of.

Be Diligent, Daily

Employers post new entry-level roles constantly. It’s important to diligently stay on top of your job search. Here are a few tips for doing that:

  1. Sign up to receive job alerts by email from any of the entry-level specific job boards (i.e. WayUp).
  2. Search for positions on your phone while you’re commuting (please don’t do this if you commute by car). Use Google to find entry-level jobs near you.
  3. Create a daily calendar reminder to check the major job boards for any recent positions that might be of interest to you.

Finding the right entry-level jobs to apply to is not an easy task. However, taking your time to do some introspection and plan out your search process will make your process far less painful.

Start Your Entry-Level Job Search Now

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Entry-Level Job? and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell me about yourself.

5 Tips for Getting an Entry-Level Job Unrelated to Your Major

It’s increasingly common for college seniors to realize that the major they selected years ago and have been working hard towards completing has no direct path into the workforce. For example, if you majored in History, Philosophy, Anthropology, or Art History, you probably don’t have many obvious career paths. Fortunately, there are plenty of recent grads who have gone on to become wildly successful in roles outside of anything their college major focused on.

Here are 5 actionable tips to help you break in to a role unrelated to your major:

1. Choose the Right Positions

There are quite a few positions out there for recent grads that don’t require specific college degrees. Choosing which ones are the right ones for you can be more of a burden than actually breaking into that field. If you’re not sure how to go about choosing the best positions for you, we have a guide to help you start your search.
Otherwise, figuring out what types of roles you’d excel at or want to excel at can make a world of a difference.

2. Get an Internship

This is the most surefire way to transition into an entry-level role. Internships, by definition, are supposed to provide you with real-world experience in a role. They shouldn’t ever require that you have any existing experience.

Sites like WayUp aren’t only there to help current students find internships. Even if you’ve already graduated, internships can be great opportunities for you. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’ve already graduated that an internship will be easy to get. They’re becoming more competitive all of the time and you’ll want to look at doing some of the other tactics mentioned in these tips if you want to ensure you lock down that internship.

3. Start a Related Side Project

Side projects aren’t just for engineers and designers. If you’re looking to get into marketing, start a blog or some social media accounts that aren’t personal to practice representing a brand.

Another way to get some side project experience is to offer your skills for free. Find a small, local company near you and offer to help them run their social media campaigns for free. Want to learn more about sales? Find a local business with a sales team and ask if you can listen in on some of their calls.

4. Learn to Sell Yourself

Don’t focus solely on your skills. If employers are going to take a chance on a recent grad, they want to know that you’ll be passionate, driven, trustworthy, and respectful. Look back into your life experiences and figure out ways in which you can relate them to the position you’re applying for.

Don’t assume that your coursework is completely irrelevant. You may not immediately see how taking that ‘5th Century Greek Theater’ course could possibly help you excel at a ‘Volunteer Coordinator’, but it just might be your ticket. It’s possible that the morals of the plays were important life lessons to you and show that you can take away nuggets of helpful information from every context. Seek to make every experience an asset.

5. Discover a Mentor

The internet can be a great resource when researching career options or starting a side project. However, there’s another fantastic resource at your immediate disposal: people who are already in the career you’re looking at.

Search on Meetup for individuals or groups related to your career interests and get involved. Meeting people is a great way to learn more about a particular role and gain exposure to what the people in that role (the ones that will be hiring you) are looking for in candidates. If you can, try and get one of them to mentor you. The more you can use their connections to meet other individuals in the field, the better.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Entry-Level Job? and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell me about yourself.

How Do I Get an Internship?

Internships have slowly graduated from an optional over-the-top resume addition to an essential part of finding a job when you graduate. More and more businesses are looking for internship experience on the resumes of their entry-level job candidates.

But how do you find an internship?

Step 1: Know what you want

The first step in answering the question “How do I find an internship?” is asking “What do I want to do?” Start looking at industries that you’re interested in and get a feel for what they’re looking for. Make a list of the industries you might want to work in, and then start listing potential internships in each one.

Internships should be tailored to your interests, and your skills. If you’re majoring in accounting, you probably won’t be qualified for an engineering internship (I mean, I’ve been wrong before, but stay with me). The company should also offer the kinds of things you’re looking for in an internship. If working remotely or being able to access your personal social media at work are important factors, keep them in mind when making your list.

You should also look at which cities you might want to try out or that you’ve always wanted to visit.

Step 2: Prepare for the search

Once you have a list of places to go and companies to work for, you’re going to need to gussy up that resume. “How do I get an internship?” “You make a great resume.” Take a look at an online resume guide or check out Pinterest to get some solid and creative ideas for how you want your resume to look. You’ve only got about fifteen seconds to grab a recruiter’s attention on paper, so do it right. Don’t have typos in your resume, and try not to let it get longer than a page. I know, you want to expound on all the things that make you a great person, but keep it short and sweet.

Cover letters are also a very important piece of applying for an internship. Each application should be accompanied by a completely customized cover letter. Do not generalize and then send it out to a dozen different companies.

Do some serious research on each company that you are going to contact (because you will be contacting them) and apply to. The best thing you can do to recommend yourself to a company is to be well-versed on what they do and how they do it. The more you know, the better you fit into the already established order of the company and the less they have to think about training you.

Step 3: Make contact (Network. You have to network.)

The best way for you to get an internship is to network, and to network intelligently and efficiently.

Start with your school’s career center. Honestly, that is the best resource you have at your disposal. They might not have contacts at a particular company, but you might be able to break into an industry from there. Career centers often host mock interviews for practice, have resume and cover letter help, and networks and contacts of their own that you can tap into.

If they can’t help you (or even if they can), your next step should be finding alumni from your school on LinkedIn who work at your preferred companies. Connect with them and explain briefly what you’re up to, ask if they have any tips, advice, etc.

Also consider shooting out a Tweet or a Facebook status. “I want to get an internship at X company. Does anyone know somebody I can talk to?”

Depending on a company’s internship program, you may be applying online. If this is the case, you need to identify the recruiter or internship coordinator, if at all possible. In the age of information, “To Whom it May Concern” is a thing of the past, and there are few excuses for not being able to directly address the person reading your application. Find them on LinkedIn or a company directory, or you can try calling the company.

If the company you want to work for does not have an internship program, things get a little interesting. Find the contact information for the head of Human Resources (this can sometimes be accomplished with a simple phone call to the company). If you can provide value to a company and prove the merits of having an internship program, you can get an internship simply by creating your own. But this needs to be a well-thought-out presentation, with persistence and confidence.

Step 4: Be Prompt

Whenever you make contact with someone at a company, assuming they’re interested in you, they’ll ask for your materials. This could be as simple as a resume and a cover letter, or it could extend to an entire portfolio of your creative works. Send in this information as soon as possible. Recruiters are busy people, and they appreciate someone who is on top of their game and who responds quickly and efficiently.

Apply to open positions early so that you can follow up early and can demonstrate an eagerness to fill the role.

Step 5: Follow Up

So you’ve applied, you’ve made contact. You need to follow up or all of that work will have been for nothing and you might end up not getting an internship. Send a succinct email reminding the recruiter who you are and mentioning your application. This should be sent about two weeks after you’ve sent in your application. Thank them for their time and consideration, and say that you really appreciated having the opportunity to land an internship with their company. Don’t ask when/if you’ll find out about the internship. They’ll contact you or they won’t, and bugging the recruiter for those details might make you sound like you’ve got multiple applications in the works (which, however true, is something you want to keep to yourself).

Attending your college’s career fair can also be a form of follow-up, as you should have your application completed and sent in before you set foot on a job fair floor. If a company you applied to is attending the fair, definitely pay their booth a visit. Follow some career fair guidelines to make a (favorable) lasting impression and increase your chances of getting an internship.

Step 6: Interviews

If you’ve managed to land an interview, you’re halfway there. Yes, only halfway, maybe even only one-third, depending on how many rounds of interviews the company has.

Phone Interviews:

While this arms-length interview puts less pressure on your physical appearance, it is still a very important step in the process of landing that internship. The most important thing you should remember with a phone interview is to not interrupt. I mean it: be respectful and do not interrupt. Wait for an opening. Listen and respond to the questions. Keep your answers brief, and address the interviewer’s questions without launching an in-depth tale of your life story.

In-Person Interviews:

Obviously, you’ll need to dress the part, so know what kind of dress code is common for the industry you’re interviewing for is crucial (this goes back to all that research you did). Make sure your hand isn’t clammy when you shake the interviewer’s hand (wipe it on your pants first if you have to) and do NOT be the limp fish handshake. While many people recognize the folly of basing an interview on the initial handshake, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a good firm handshake.

Similar rules apply in-person as over the phone. Do not interrupt, answer questions as completely but as briefly as possible, and don’t talk yourself silly. But now there’s a physical element. Keep eye contact when listening to your interviewer. Do not fidget, it makes you look restless and impatient. Be friendly but not informal, even when interviewing in an informal workplace.

And no matter what, always have questions for the interviewer, whether you’re talking on the phone or in person. Have at least two good questions to ask when the interviewer says “Do you have any questions?” If, at the end of the interview, the interviewer hasn’t asked you if you have any questions, ask them anyway.

Step 7: Repeat.

Don’t give up. Every rejection is a new opportunity to look for a new opportunity. And believe me, you’re not going to get every internship you apply for. You’re going to receive a lot of “Sorry, we’ve chosen someone else”s and even more opportunities will pass without a response at all. Don’t be discouraged. To get an internship, you have to be a special breed of persistent. You can do it.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Internship? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?