Teaching College Students about the Internship Resume

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When students come to the Career Center asking for help with an internship resume, you know you’re doing something right. Your reach should expand beyond just identifying the right major or starting the job search process. All those steps in between, including landing a great internship, should take up a significant part of your wheelhouse as well. 

Walking students through the minutiae of internship applications can feel like prepping a job application with some training wheels. And you should take the opportunity to draw those parallels. If your guidance is beneficial now, the student can apply what they learn to a future job search. It’s also more likely that they’ll return to the Center and recommend it to friends!

But remember that an internship resume does serve a different purpose and audience than one for a full-time position. 

These are the qualities your student body must understand and what you can do to deliver that information: 

Elements of an internship resume: 

Landing an internship is high-stakes. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducts research for an annual Job Outlook. With its 2020 findings, NACE reported that having internship experience can play a significant role in determining who lands a job. Between two equal candidates, the one who completed an internship for the organization or in the industry will be offered the position. So you must ensure the resumes are top-notch. 

Work experience, skills, and education

These sections will look reasonably similar on the internship resume and job resume. Be sure to mention that the strategies you propose to make the skills pop and work experience details engaging can apply to the resumes they’ll work on in the future. 

Depending on the student’s comfort level with resumes, teach them how to cater to a specific position. If they have never seen a resume before, this information may be too overwhelming to process. But the more intermediate or advanced levels will gain a lot from going through the internship’s priorities with you and reflecting them on paper. 

Relevant coursework

If the student you’re working with doesn’t have any part-time jobs or babysitting gigs to mention, encourage them to replace the work experience section with relevant coursework. They can discuss what they did in the course, what they learned, group projects they led, etc. But be sure to address that coursework should not be the focus of the resume after the internship. 

Of course, a year or two after college, there can still be some information on courses. However, the responsibilities and achievements at the internship they land should take the spotlight. 

Academic accomplishments

Academic accomplishments are impressive, but taking up room with three awards from senior year in high school two years ago isn’t worthwhile. 

A college student’s most recent achievements should be from college. Tell students to limit the section to the name and year of the award and maybe a brief explanation of what it represents if it’s not self-explanatory. Any more details are unnecessary and if the info is limited — don’t include this section. 

Evidence of leadership

Regardless of whether an employer is looking for interns or full-time hires, they’re prioritizing candidates with leadership skills right now. According to the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, 60% of executives say leadership qualities are pivotal at all levels to prepare for unknown futures. 

Therefore, dig into the student’s history to identify moments in campus engagement, at a part-time job, or while volunteering where they exemplify those leadership qualities. 

Recommended reading: Encourage students to start professional development sooner rather than later. 

References

Like job applications, there’s no reason for a student to include references on the internship resume unless the company specifically requested them. 

Ensure students do have a list prepared of professional references however. Club or academic advisors, professors, coaches, and volunteer coordinators are excellent options as internship references. Friends from school are not. 

Options for conveying this information to students

You can always advertise that career counselors are happy to help with internship applications, but that will only get your reach so far. Not everyone is thrilled about signing up for one-on-one coaching because of the time it takes out of their day and the courage it takes to ask for help. 

Here are some other ideas to start your brainstorm: 

Classroom workshop

Coordinate with professors to run a classroom workshop. It’s the best guarantee to reach the most students. In addition, the workshop can help those who have not planned to visit the Career Center begin to trust your expertise. First-year seminars, Honors classes, or life skills electives like personal finance are the best fit for these workshops.

Newsletter

Newsletters are great because you can include more detailed information in one place. Instead of reviewing the surface level of just one topic to cater to the lowest skill level, you can dive deep with monthly installments of the series. 

With newsletters, however, you’re fighting against attention span. Students get lots of emails, and you need yours to pop to keep their attention and get the information across. If you have the time, include infographics, recent research, or embed a YouTube video. 

Worksheet

Develop a worksheet with a summary on internship resumes, a true or false section, and a fill-in-the-blank resume template.

Having a grabbable resource makes it easy to get the information across when you don’t have the time to dive into it. And including those interactive elements increases the likelihood that students will look at it and retain the information.

Put the PDF on your website. Include it in emails. Drop off copies with professors to hand out in class! If you’re able to be extra generous, offer a prize to students who bring a completed worksheet to the Center.


To connect with students even more, use these methods, too!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the co-owner and leader of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.