AWorking instead of a semester break may sound like a bad deal. But: In an internship, students can finally apply boring theory. Working on an advertising campaign, helping to construct a new pedestrian bridge or developing a sales strategy – that motivates. However, only if the internship is exciting and well organized. These places are hotly contested. So how do students make themselves interesting for a company?
The application naturally differs from that for a regular job. Students have little practical experience and have yet to find out what sets them apart from their competitors. The competition for internships can be fierce for corporations, for small and medium-sized companies there are often no advertisements. An unsolicited application is necessary here.
Ludmilla Aufurth from the Career Service at Freie Universität Berlin recommends that students start searching one year before the start of the internship. “With some organizations, it’s time to apply for an internship,” she says. Other companies plan more quickly. Many companies provide information on how long the lead times are on their website. Otherwise, of course, a call also helps, Aufurth advises.
Tamara Schrammel, author of the guide “The first applications for schoolchildren and students”, advises students to get in touch personally. For example, by speaking to company representatives at job fairs and asking for internships. In the application they can then refer to the interview. But be careful of confusing names or wrong spellings: To prevent this from happening, interested parties should ask for business cards at the trade fair or take photos of the name tags.
Application: Ex-interns help further
Students can also get in touch via the student council or the university’s Career Center. For example, to fellow students who have already completed an internship in the company of their choice or graduates who now work there. The threshold is low here. Simply write an e-mail or ask for a phone call – that doesn’t cost much effort. “Most feel flattered,” Schrammel knows from experience. Maybe you can even win them over to forward the application.
New students do not have to exaggerate when presenting their skills. “The personality of the applicant is more important than grades and the course,” says Schrammel. HR managers know that they cannot yet expect work experience from interns. As a result, they primarily want interested and motivated candidates.
In “Praktikantenspiegel 2018”, a survey by Clevis management consultancy among 308 German companies, around 74 percent of the HR employees surveyed stated that interns should be motivated. In second place, they rated social skills at almost 58 percent. On the other hand, it was only important for 37 percent of the HR staff that the course fits the job.
Explain the motivation for the internship in the cover letter
Applicants explain their motivation in the cover letter. Why are you interested in this industry? The enterprise? The Department? They can name everything as long as it is correct and sounds credible. A young applicant is welcome to write to a transport company: “I have already visited the Nuremberg Transport Museum three times,” says Schrammel. Or: “The specialist book xy on the subject of transport fascinated me because …”.
It is also well received when you have informed yourself about the company. Then you can write, for example: “You launched a program for e-mobility this year, that’s my main focus of my studies.”
The cover letter is a kind of test for the applicant himself. When writing, he can become clear about his own interests and goals. Schrammel therefore advises to write one even if it is not required. Those who find it difficult to explain why they want to get to know the branch or company may have chosen the wrong one. “If I couldn’t think of anything, I would save the application,” she says. Her tip is also for compulsory internships: “Take a look at something that actually interests you”.
The resume is the most important document for HR professionals, according to the Clevis survey. The main theme here is that the applicant does not have to name every hobby or all previous internships, but only what suits the current position. That can be a lot, even at the beginning of your studies.
An example: When applying to a pharmaceutical company, someone could write that they chose the science branch in high school, were in chemistry group, were involved in the volunteer fire department in their free time, and attended further training courses on acids and now at university gives a tutorial on the basics of chemistry.
Schrammel advises to think: If I were the employer, what would be important to me? What would i want to know “For example, computer skills are often taken for granted, but they are not,” she says.
Create a reputable email address for internship applications
Although it is not compulsory, you can send your CV with an application photo. Schrammel advises dressing for a photo shoot as you would for the interview. For some branches such as banks or management consultancies, blazers or jackets are compulsory, as a rule plain-colored tops, blouses or shirts are sufficient for interns.
Cover letters and CVs are standard. The expert, on the other hand, recommends sending certificates only on request. The same formalities apply for internship applications as for other positions: “Never send Word documents, but PDFs,” says Schrammel. These can be opened on any PC and can no longer be changed later. And: “Please provide a proper email address.” Emails from senders like “Berlinbabe95” not only sound untrustworthy, but can also end up in the spam folder.
A serious address consists of first and last name. If the combination is already taken, numbers are allowed, explains Schrammel. Students can also use the email address they received from the university. But only if you use it in the long term. It would be annoying if the company loses contact with a former intern because his university address has become invalid or he no longer retrieves it.
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