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How To Apply For an Internship Program

Girl sitting on couch with laptop.

A big part of a career journey is building up your skills and resume through experience in the workforce. A great way to do this is through an internship.

What is the meaning of ‘internship’?

Internships are short-term supervised work experiences that offer the opportunity to gain real-world experience. Students are not only able to retain knowledge in a fun way but also draw ties between in-class lessons and real-world use. To help, we took a look at internship programs for women in Canada!

Types of Internships

Internship programs are a great addition to your college portfolio and resume. However, they are many and fall under different guidelines. A great way to find the right placement for you is to know what you are looking for. 

Here are some internship options to consider: 

  • Time of Year: Some internships are only offered during specific seasons. It’s a good idea to take note of the time preferred internships are offered to plan your schedule accordingly. 
  • Paid vs Unpaid: Some internships are ‘pay as you learn’. While others are unpaid, some internships will offer a stipend for students. Always ask!
  • For Credit: A very common form of this internship is the Co-op placement where students earn grades or credits for working. Some co-op placements are paid. 
  • Industry Specific: Industry-specific internship programs (i.e. finance, health, emergency response) are often tied to post-secondary school programs and therefore applications are often exclusive to those students. 

How do I find a good internship? 

Finding opportunities can feel overwhelming. Here are three ways to find internship opportunities:

  • Job Search Engines: Indeed, TalentEgg
  • Internship Sites: Chegg Internship, Youtern
  • Leverage your network: Ask adults you know (teachers, parents, post-secondary advisors, etc.) about possible opportunities 

How do I apply for internships without experience?

Finding an internship program is only half the hurdle. With the shifting job market and a rising need to demonstrate experience, according to the Balance Career, more people are applying for internships than ever before. If you want to increase your chances, here are some simple steps to follow:

  • Assess your Skills: Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, outline what skills and credentials you offer and what areas you will work on if you get the internship. Assessing oneself can be a very difficult thing to do; don’t feel sullen if you can’t seem to get it right. Consider a meeting with a guidance counsellor, career advisor, post-secondary school advisor or a private career guide. 
  • Make a List: This can sometimes be a daunting experience and many students feel pressured to apply to every internship program to hedge their bets. While this may feel mathematically assuring, it is most assuredly mentally taxing. Look into your interests, passions, and skills, speak with your guidance counsellor about possible careers, research internships in those fields and finally, draw up a list of preferred internships. 
  • Cover Letter: A great way to think of the cover letter is as a snapshot of you. This is your opportunity to not only sell yourself to the agency of your choice but to leave a lasting remark. Even better if your experience is related to the field of choice! 
  • Resume: A good resume is very important in nailing the application process. A great tip for writing a resume is to consider the strengths you outlined above and compare them against the requirements outlined for the internship. This way you are tailoring your resume towards standing out in a sea of applications. 
  • References: An important part of getting yourself hired for an internship (or any job), is securing a good reference. Your reference should always meet the criteria and be someone who knows you well enough to recommend you with glowing reviews. 
  • Online Portfolio: Depending on the position an online portfolio may be required. Make sure to look through all requirements, especially desired formats for any additional submissions that are required.
  • Social Media: In this digital age much of what we do is no longer private. Maintaining a professional social media persona can help in securing an internship. For example, setting up a LinkedIn account is a great way to create a professional persona. 

How to Prepare for an Interview

Another real-world experience you will likely check off thanks to an internship is the endearing experience of an interview. Treat interviews for volunteer positions, co-op/internship placements or part-time jobs with a great deal of seriousness and respect. Not only will this be good practice for the future, but many of these positions could also become full-time jobs in the future or connections to other career areas. Use these tips to ace your interview!

  • Have a firm handshake (or an alternative). If you are going to shake hands, make sure it’s done with enthusiasm and confidence. Practice with someone who can give you feedback. If you prefer to not shake hands, have a reason and a respectful way to address it. 
  • Silence your phone. Leave your phone at home or turn off the sound before you enter the waiting room for your interview. Definitely do not answer or look at your phone during the interview.
  • Be confident. It’s natural to be nervous but have confidence in the abilities and skills that you know you have worked hard to achieve.
  • Practice. It might feel silly, but sit down in front of a mirror (or with someone you trust) and run through some sample questions.
  • Dress appropriately. Despite what you’ll be doing on the job, dress for the interview. When in doubt, ask a parent or teacher, call the job ad’s receptionist for advice, or go with business casual.
  • Read the job description and be prepared to answer how your skills address some of those requirements. 
  • Prepare examples of accomplishments and skills you have used in real-life occurrences or projects (i.e. behavioural questions). 
  • Read about the company and prepare questions to ask. Interviewers often ask about strengths and weaknesses. If you describe a weakness, be ready to also put a positive spin on it by describing how you are working on it.

After the interview, seriously consider sending a thank you note to the person who interviewed you. If you have additional information to relay (i.e. if they asked you to provide references), include these details. Make sure to treat your internship with the same level of seriousness you would a real job. It is a great opportunity to network and build on your skills and resume. 

Need more advice? Our blog post, Internship Advice for Women in Canada,  offers a lot of great tips on what to do to maximize your placement.

Good luck!

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