Career Advice for Job Seekers

How to find an internship or co-op job with no experience

Sean Kelly
May 19, 2021

Finding an internship or a co-op job isn’t an easy task because of how competitive these roles can be. With many people vying for the same position, which can of course be helpful in gaining the experience needed for the next career step, standing out among all the candidates is crucial.

For those unsure of the difference, a co-op—or cooperative education—is a hybrid of sorts that combines classroom education with practical work experience. An internship, technically speaking, is an exchange of services for experience. That’s why many college students take internships unpaid; it gives them a certain amount of experience in the field that, coupled with their education, might give them a leg up when entering into their desired industry.

Besides a leg up, one of the major benefits of taking on a co-op job or internship is exposure. For students struggling to find their area of interest, these types of positions can help shed light on the type of work environment they do and don’t want to work in, as well as where their true passion lies. 

With no prior work experience, though, it might seem like getting yourself seen and standing out for a co-op or internship would be impossible. If you’re wondering how to find an internship with no work experience, the best place to start is with your education and/or any relevant experience that might be of note. This can include student competitions, clubs, sports teams, etc. The more you can include on your resume, the better you’ll look to hiring managers. 

Having a letter of recommendation or two helps immensely as well. It doesn’t balance out a resume, but in addition to a resume that highlights your strengths, a letter from a professional that can vouch for you can go a long way. 

It’s understandable that many people question whether education is more important than experience when it comes to the workforce, though there are studies that have shown that education does weigh heavily in a job application process. Even though it does seem that experience is preferred, education is still an important factor. If you’ve got a good education, you can still be a viable candidate. 

Volunteering is another way to gain some credit as a worker, which in turn will help you in landing an internship or co-op. If you can demonstrate that you’re reliable, capable, and worthy of the position, anything that aids in that is important to include. Networking, as it does with a standard job search, also goes a long way. Make connections with people in your desired industry and stay in touch, that way you have people in your corner who might be willing to go to bat for you when the time comes. 

Most importantly, getting an internship or co-op with no experience comes down to being personable and memorable. You’ll want to “sell” yourself to the hiring managers, and really make them feel that you’re the right person. Convey your excitement, passion, and enthusiasm for the work and even share your professional goals in a letter or essay. 

When all is said and done, putting yourself out there in any way possible is the key to standing out among the crowd for an internship or co-op. Getting an opportunity like that will be immeasurably valuable when it comes to ultimately moving up the ladder in your career. 

— Article by Sean Kelly, an analyst researching the latest industry trends for College Recruiter

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