It’s common for companies to require or desire experience when posting a job. And it’s hard to have experience on your resume if you’re fresh out of college or went straight to graduate school.

Internships are a great way to get experience, as well as a taste of day-to-day interactions and activities in your desired field of work. If you’re looking for an internship or trying to build your resume in the field of communications, we have some tips that might make you stand out above the crowd.

Start a Portfolio

Keep a portfolio of your work. Some of the most impressive student resumes we’ve received have included portfolios. Better yet, utilize free resources to develop a website that displays your work and tells people a little bit about yourself. A personal website serves as an extension to your resume and a great way to showcase the stuff you’ve already produced. Plus, it’s impressive to know you’ve taken extra initiative to get yourself noticed.

Get Involved on Your Campus and/or Community

While you’re in school, make it a point to network, get involved in student organizations and put yourself out there. Join the newspaper or magazine staff. Work at the TV or radio station. Get involved in student chapters of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or International Associations of Business Communicators (IABC) on your campus or consider attending events hosted by professional local chapters. Being involved in organizations like this show potential employers you are serious about your industry and willing to put in extra time outside of your classes.

Internships Are Not Just for Students

Although it’s typical to see undergraduate or graduate students seeking internships, it’s not uncommon for graduates looking for employment to apply for internships as well. To these individuals, as well as graduate students or those further along in your studies, consider volunteering for an organization. Maybe it’s a non-profit you feel particularly passionate about or an organization you connected with during a school project. This allows you to get some real world experience, meet other professionals and build your resume. Who knows, it could turn into a job, too!

Find a Mentor

Maybe you aren’t quite ready for an internship, but you’re looking to get some one-on-one attention with a professional. Find someone in your industry that is willing to give you advice and feedback. This could be as simple as exchanging e-mails with a professional, asking if they can meet for coffee or if you can shadow them for the day. You may be able to meet people in the industry by talking to your professors, family and friends or by networking at local PRSA or IABC events.

When seeking a mentor, it’s important to be mindful of someone’s time. The communications industry can be demanding at times. When meeting with a mentor, be on time, be prepared with relevant questions and be sure to keep meetings short, unless you’ve discussed other plans with the professional. 

Start Your Internship Search Early

It’s never too early to start your research. If you plan to complete multiple internships – which is common these days – don’t wait until your senior year to start your search. Some internships are in high demand, and if you want to be highly considered, you need to reach out to companies well before the semester starts, especially if you plan to do your internship for school credit. When you reach out to prospective companies, read through the website, look at client lists and get familiar with what the company does. Then, personalize your communications to show you’ve done your research. Believe us, it makes a difference.

You Can Judge a Book by its Cover

In some instances, the cover letter can make or break you. If you’re sending your resume and cover letter through e-mail, it’s your introduction. Everything needs to look nice, and we can’t stress this enough, be spelled correctly and free of grammatical errors! You need to make a good first impression and typos or incorrect spelling can discredit even the greatest of resumes. Know your industry and don’t forget to spell check.

If you get an interview, whether it be over the phone or in person, be polite, attentive and dress appropriately. We live in a casual world nowadays, but that doesn’t mean employers accept a casual “look” when meeting someone for an interview.

A Thank You Goes a Long Way

If you’ve been given the opportunity to interview with an organization, don’t forget to send a thank you note. This can be in the form of a simple e-mail. It’s an opportunity to reiterate your appreciation, convey how much you enjoyed meeting with them or show that you were really listening during the interview.

Best of luck and happy searching!