Written by: Bianca Elizabeth Ortega,
In today’s business world, it’s necessary to give yourself a competitive edge in order to stand out from the crowd. When applying for jobs and internships, taking the extra effort to demonstrate your experience and professionalism can make a world of difference. With hundreds of smart and experienced students applying for the same internship position, what makes you stand out from the rest? If you don’t strive to be a standout applicant, your application for that perfect internship is going to fall between the cracks. Follow these 5 tips, and you’ll be sure to set yourself apart from the rest!
#1: Professional Documents and E-Mail Correspondence
Conducting professional correspondence and presenting professional documents are great ways to make you stand out. In today’s society, so much of business is conducted through e-mail, and because of this, it’s important that you know how to demonstrate your professionalism through e-mail.
First things first, it’s essential that you use a professional e-mail address when contacting industry professionals. It’s time to put your first e-mail address from middle school with the crazy username to rest. Make a new e-mail address with a simple username like firstname.lastname@example.org, and leave out the crazy numbers, nicknames, and phrases. Many students have a similar address through their university, but because many university e-mail addresses expire after graduation, I suggest you create a separate account to use for professional correspondence. This will ensure that your professional contacts will be able to get ahold of you long after your college years.
After you’ve got a professional e-mail address created, the next step is to create a professional e-mail signature. It’s no longer appropriate to sign off of e-mails with just your first name, or even worse, without any signature at all. You can add an e-mail signature through your mail settings, and it should include your full name, e-mail address, phone number, university and academic major, and any current job titles. I also suggest adding a link to your personal portfolio or website if you have one. If you want to go above and beyond the typical e-mail signature, try out WiseStamp. WiseStamp is a sophisticated e-mail app that allows you to create customized e-mail signatures with a variety of design choices and icons for your LinkedIn profile and other social media sites.
Once you’ve got your e-mail address and signature, you’re ready to begin professional e-mail communication! The most important aspect of professional e-mail communication is timeliness. Make sure to answer and read each of your e-mails in a timely manner. It’s essential to get in the habit of checking your e-mail several times a day. If possible, view your e-mail on your cell phone, so you can stay up to date and answer people promptly.
In addition to being a professional e-mailer, it’s important to have the key professional documents—the resume and cover letter—available and ready to give out, whether it is online or in person. Keep your resume to one page long and include pertinent contact information, your academic information (major, university, GPA, expected graduation), and your three most recent job positions. Provide several bulleted points for each job position, and make sure they demonstrate your role for that particular position. It’s also important to include your extra-curricular activities and honors. When sending a cover letter with an application, make sure to personalize your cover letter for each company. Your cover letter should demonstrate why you’re the right person for the position, why you’re applying, and when you will follow up about the position.
Another important professional tool is the business card. When you’re at networking events, academic seminars, or conferences, you should always have business cards to give to professionals. You can design a simple, affordable set of business cards online at websites like Vistaprint or Moo. Your card should include your name, contact info, your academic information, and a quick one line about your skills and interests. Potential employers are bound to be impressed when you hand them a business card, and it’s a great way to ensure that you’ll be remembered.
#2: Professional Online Presence and Netiquette
It’s no doubt that social media plays a major role in our lives today. Social media’s ever-growing presence is changing the way that companies hire employees as well. Many companies will visit your social media sites to learn a little more about you. If they see something online that makes you appear to be unprofessional, they may not hire you. Therefore, it’s important to make a positive and professional online presence for yourself.
Facebook is definitely one of the most casual and informal social networking sites, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch what you post. First off, you want to always have an appropriate profile picture and refrain from uploading any inappropriate pictures. Even though you can set your album settings to private, there are still ways to access those images online. Don’t post anything that you would be ashamed to share publicly. You can still use Facebook to have fun and connect with friends and family, but just strive to keep things appropriate.
Twitter is one of the most public social media platforms, so it’s very important that you watch what you say. Don’t badmouth any company or individual, because you never know who might see that tweet. People have lots of connections and bad words travel fast. If you truly feel insecure about what you’re tweeting, set your profile to private.
LinkedIn is the social networking site that is designed purely for professional networking. If you don’t have an account, it’s important that you make one. LinkedIn will allow you to connect with professionals you meet over the course of time, and it’s a great way to showcase your experience online. Your profile serves as a digital resume, and it allows people to search and find your profile based on your job experience. LinkedIn is also a great way to find jobs and internships as well as stay up to date with your favorite companies.
#3: Showcase your Experience Online
You can only show so much job experience through a one-page resume, so a great way to make yourself stand out is by creating an online portfolio. It’s easy to purchase and obtain an online domain name, and they’re often as cheap as $9.99. Check out GoDaddy to buy your domain name. I suggest you create a simple, professional domain like biancaortega.com, which will mirror your professional e-mail address. If you think you have to be a web design aficionado to create an attractive and functional website, you’re wrong. There are a variety of website makers like Weebly, Wix, Webs, and Yola that make it possible to create a professional website without much work. Once you’ve got your domain name and website design, you can create pages with your job experience, education information, extra curricular activities, and any other aspects of your professional experience that you want to showcase. Online portfolios are a great way for design and fashion students to showcase some of their material as well.
Once you make your website, be sure to keep it up to date.
#4: Top Notch Interview
Many companies choose their interns after one short in-person interview. Even if you follow all of the tips to creating a highly professional online presence, employers are still going to look closely at your professionalism in person.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for an interview is to research the company you’re interviewing with and prepare questions about the position. When you’re discussing a possible job opportunity, it’s essential that you know the basic background of the company, because employers look for individuals who are interested and passionate about their work. There’s nothing less professional than entering an interview and not knowing anything about the company you’re trying to land a job with.
Once you’ve researched the company and the position, practice your interviewing. Many university career services departments offer mock interviews so you can practice your interviewing skills. Treat each mock interview as an actual interview and come prepared to be engaged and ask questions. Mock interviews will help you address your interview strengths and weaknesses ahead of time so you can focus on them and try to improve them.
When the day of the actual interview comes, be sure to dress professional. Regardless of whether of not the company has a casual corporate culture, go to your interview wearing business attire. Some companies allow their employees to wear jeans to work on a daily basis, but until you’ve landed the job, you need to wear professional clothing to convey your interest in the position.
In addition to dressing professionally, be sure to arrive to your interview ten to fifteen minutes early. Allow extra time for travel and unforeseeable roadblocks that could cause you to be late. As one of my university’s leadership directors always says, “If you’re on early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.”
Bring a copy of your resume, cover letter, and/or business card to the interview as well as a list of questions. Be ready to converse and engage with the interviewer, and you’ll end up taking part in a successful job interview.
#5: Follow-Up Fundamentals
One of the grayest areas of the internship and job application process is what to do after you’ve applied or interviewed. You’re eager to know if you got the job or if you’re even being considered for the position. When it comes to following up with companies, there are a few things you should know.
After interviewing for a position, it’s important to thank the interviewer. While at the interview, make sure to grab the person’s business card. On the same day of your interview, send the interviewer a thank you e-mail as well as a written thank you card. In your notes, express your gratitude for meeting to discuss the potential job position and communicate that you look forward to talking with them in the near future.
After a reasonable period of time or the particular time frame expressed by the interviewer has passed, it’s acceptable to follow-up by e-mail or phone. If you’re offered the position, be sure to promptly reply and accept the position. If you’ve chosen to pursue another job, be sure to professionally respond to company and tell them that you appreciate the offer. Don’t just ignore the company and not respond to their e-mails and phone calls. Taking the time to formally decline the position in a courteous manner is essential.
If you follow these five ways to be a standout applicant, employers are going to take notice of your professionalism and serious interest in their company, and it will truly lead to a better chance of landing the position!
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