Career Advice for Job Seekers

How to milk your internship for all its worth

William Frierson AvatarWilliam Frierson
August 5, 2013

Mark Slack

Mark Slack

For job seekers, the value of working an internship during college is obvious. It allows you to accumulate work experience, provides you a taste for the professional world, and gives you a reputation as a serious and hardworking person. Basically, internships are steroids for your resume.

Without a doubt, these attributes give you a leg up over the less motivated competition. But how can you elbow out the rest of the high achievers, helping you land a high-powered entry-level job that can give you a head start in your career path? After all, studies have shown that your lifetime potential earnings are greatly impacted by the starting salary at your first job.

Here’s how you should go about finding an internship, and milking it for all that it’s worth.

1. Don’t be a passive worker

The biggest mistake students make is getting an internship simply to namedrop companies. Although getting an internship puts you a step above many of your peers, hiring managers won’t be satisfied if you’ve achieved the bare minimum expected of the employer. Often it’s true that companies will only offer very basic responsibilities to interns, which can understandably lead to weak job descriptions on your resume. After all, “Bought nine cups of coffee a day to fuel my boss’ coffee habit” isn’t exactly dream resume material.

That’s why you’ve got to express curiosity and an eagerness to learn during your internship, and try to edge your way into doing more valuable work. You need to put yourself in a position where you can write meaningful content on your resume.  By the time you leave, you should be able to competently explain what you learned about more complex and technical aspects of the job. If you can successfully support the professionals, you may find yourself doing more complicated tasks that can really add color your resume. Usually, you can get promoted to more complex tasks simply by asking for them.

2. Keep track of your achievements and write a juicy resume

At first, the basic nature of an internship may seem limiting in the realm of achievements, but that’s a misunderstanding. The fact is that if you’re writing reports, doing recordkeeping, filing documents, doing basic editing, or doing analysis – these are all duties that can be quantified and tracked. Most people’s job descriptions do not go beyond the surface level, meaning that they read like a mundane list of chores.

However, an intern that kept track of how much they wrote weekly, how many files they managed, or how much analysis they performed – this kind of candidate demonstrates far more commitment and interest in the job, and they can accurately compare their speed and competence in contrast to their less motivated peers.

By maximizing your internship experience, you can accumulate a lot of valuable skills and achievements (even minor ones) that will help to make your resume extremely ripe. This is where your resume writing skills will kick in. No worries – all of the hard work was taken care of in parts one and two. Now you just need to write it down.

3.    Build your LinkedIn profile based on your internship experience

In the 21st century, LinkedIn is becoming a must-have social media tool to boost your career. It’s just another way to create your own brand, make networking far easier, and make yourself relevant. Hiring managers WILL search your name online, and finding a LinkedIn account full of impressive work experiences will increase your value.

Unsurprisingly, even making a LinkedIn profile has become a meticulous science akin to writing a resume — so you must pay attention to the following advice.

Depending on your internship and academic experience, you’ll be immersed in professional lingo, acronyms, and verbiage related to the career path you’re interested in pursuing. You’ll need to tailor your LinkedIn profile to hit these keywords. What this does is make you more searchable by employers looking to hire someone in your particular job market. You’ll need to include a blend of both short keywords and acronyms, and longer, more specific search terms related to your progression.

However, one of the most valuable aspects of LinkedIn is that your bosses and colleagues can write recommendations for you on your own page. These recommendations, in tandem with your impressive and fully detailed resume, can work together to make a strong impression on a hiring manager. If you’ve been working hard during your internship, their recommendations should reflect your energy and hard work.

Still, it can’t hurt to “lead” your boss into writing you a more substantial review. Instead of simply asking for a review, ask them a specific question that they can write about. For instance, you could ask “What sort of value do you think I brought the company during my stay here?” It’s always better to give people a framework to work with, and will elicit more genuine and impressive responses.

You should be aiming to wring all the juice out of your internship experience, and leave not a drop wasted. Beyond simply doing so to boost your own career, the people who hired you are also counting on your support. So regardless of your own needs, it’s best to go in with a positive, hardworking attitude. However, no one will fault you for asking for some back scratching in return, and as long as you’ve been a good employee, people will be more than happy to oblige.

So don’t waste your internship experience! Attack it from every angle, and mine it for all it’s worth.


Mark Slack is a resume expert, mountain climber, and hopeless Sinophile. He gives career advice and writes about resume trends at the Resume Companion Blog. Feel free to shoot him any questions at

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