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Score a First-Rate Internship without the Flashy Resume

February 14, 2013

Amy Knapp is a former intern turned career advisor at InsideTrak, where she writes about all things essential to creating more bliss in life and career. Get the nitty gritty on Facebook.

By Amy Knapp

It’s incredible how much competition we often face for jobs with little or no pay. While it can be disheartening, often it doesn’t take much to set yourself apart from the pack and score that dream position, even if you haven’t got a shiny resume to stand behind.

How to stand out:

Do the dreaded assignment.

The first time I was asked to do an assignment following a job application I balked. You want me to work for free? Without even the promise of a position? Don’t you know who I am?

Understand that you’re being given a chance. Lots of people will balk at the idea of doing a time-consuming project, especially if the job is a paid position. It’s hard on the ego to work for free. Completing it will not only set you apart but it shows humility and a willingness to go the extra mile. Do a good job and it’ll bump you right to the top of the list.

I scored two internships this way and in both cases was told after the fact that the majority of long-listed applicants failed to complete the assignment and/or complained about such a demand. I learned a ton from both of these projects – one of which was a lengthy PowerPoint presentation that I used not only to learn PowerPoint (I was quite clueless at the time of the application) but also included in my portfolio for years afterward – and gained several invaluable contacts from large, otherwise inaccessible corporations.

Pick up the phone.

A common theme with our generation is that we don’t like to pick up the phone. Cold-calling is scary if you don’t have experience with it. I’ve always found the first call of the day is the toughest. Once I get that out of the way its smooth sailing. Two or three more and you’ll be making calls, watching an episode of Community and painting your toenails all at the same time. (Of course, I almost never do that).

Keep up the action and you are bound to generate some interest. The internet is for following up, not making the initial connection. It’s a simple way to set yourself apart.

Invent a position for yourself.

Are you willing to work for free? Why not create a position for yourself in a department where you think you can make a difference? This will be a great tie-in to your cold calling.

Build yourself a portfolio.

Do you work in design? Why not create a brochure or newsletter free of charge for a company that badly needs a design upgrade? This will take your college portfolio to the next level and give you real life experience you can put on a resume.

Concrete action is a no-fail strategy. Close off your web browser and put on your creativity cap. People build successful businesses without any experience or any education almost every day. It’s doing the work that counts. Breathe deep and just do it.

Amy, thanks for taking the time to share this with us! Students, start searching for an internship now!

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