Ultimate Internship Guide: How to find work, leverage LinkedIn and more

Headshot photos courtesy of Morgan Young and Caitlin Sweeney

By Sophia Crawford

This school year flew by like Victor the Viking (our mascot, duh) gleefully speed sailing across the open waters, which means summer (and a summer internship) is right around the corner! 

I interviewed one of PSU’s amazing career counselors, Caitlin Sweeney, and the one and only Product Management intern at Disney, Morgan Young (she’s a first year with more than 3,500 followers on LinkedIn). These two career geniuses spilled an ocean’s-worth of useful information about navigating the job market and last-minute summer intern tips. 

As a reward for educating yourself with the admittedly long but very juicy and informative article below, we have a goodie bag for you before you leave this party, which includes a special internship material from Morgan (but no peeking before reading 😤). Get ready to take notes on how to find work, use Handshake, leverage LinkedIn, create a resume and write a cover letter. We’ve got 5 steps for you with interactive questions to create a career application plan by the end, so treat this as a self-paced workshop! Think of this as your ultimate internship guide, so remember to bookmark and share this blog :3 

Oh, and check out the “Resources you need to know” at the bottom before you leave!

Step 1: Create a self-inventory

Image description: A meme that reads, “Me applying to jobs with zero work experience and nothing to put on my resume.” Below the text is an image from The Bachelor that reads, “Alex, 25, Former Child.”

Victor the Viking always embarks on a new sailing journey with a clear map of where he’d like to go, and you should, too. A self-inventory is how you can figure out your career goals, your workplace values and what skills you need to develop. “It’s hard to make yourself attractive as an applicant if you seem like you’re all over the place,” Morgan says. She explains that writing one can help guide job-seeking students through… 
Step 2) Figuring out what you need to upskill
What future professional experiences do you hope to gain? What are the soft and hard job skills needed in order to perform the responsibilities of your desired position? 
Step 3) Establishing which jobs and companies you should apply for
Which characteristics, benefits, and values do you want to see in a company and in a job role?
Step 4) Writing your resume
What past experiences as well as soft and hard job skills do you currently possess?
Step 5) Perfecting your personal brand/story to convey in interviews
How do your experiences and current skills fit into your career goals? What traits do you want the hiring committee to remember of you and associate with you?

The answers to these questions are the content of your own, personalized self-inventory. I know this may seem daunting, but you don’t have to write two detailed pages in a notebook or Google document. You can just jot a couple bullet points in your Notes app and use that as your self-inventory. All you have to do is get started, your way. Baby steps.

Morgan periodically updates her own self-inventory and, around the time of our meeting, was actually in the process of reviewing it once again. Especially in college when you’re exploring various career possibilities and changing your mind every other day (only me? cool…), you should be reassessing your goals at least after every school term — so a few times a year. After every big project, experience and internship, you could reflect and re-evaluate your self-inventory to ensure the journey you’re currently on is still the path you want to continue. 

Step 2: Acquire skills

This spiderman meme is *chef’s kiss*, but you can get experience outside of a job!!
Image description: A meme of two cartoon Spidermen pointing at each other that reads, “Need work experience to get a job. Need job to get work experience.”

Answer these as you go through the article to flesh out your career application plan

What future professional experiences do you hope to gain? 
This is where you answer that classic question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Use this as an opportunity to get specific. For instance, if you’re aspiring to gain professional experience in the movie/TV industry, does the creative or studio side appeal to you? If studio, are you aiming to find people and connect them to opportunities? Maybe Talent Acquisitions could be a good fit. If you’d rather manage creative work, perhaps a role in Content Development would prove fulfilling. 

Try working backwards and see what careers are out there that use the skills you already have. There could be a job you haven’t thought of that you’re already perfect for (I mean, you already are perfect just the way you are :3 ). 

What are the soft and hard job skills needed in order to perform the responsibilities of your desired position? 
What skills do you currently possess?
Soft skills are abilities like teamwork, problem solving, public speaking, or digital literacy. Hard skills are technical, quantifiable like knowing coding languages, SEO marketing, certifications, or typing speed. If you’re struggling, look through the descriptions of job postings you’d be interested in and see if you already have some of those talents or knowledge. You could even watch “day in the life” or “what it’s like to be a [job title]” YouTube videos (no, I’m not kidding).
What skills would you need to learn? 
Based on the type of work and career you’re striving for, what assets would you need? You’ll need to research this one. One strategy is looking through open roles you’re interested in (based on your answer in section “C”) on job listing websites like Handshake and see what the job description expects from applicants.

Networking Tip: Go to LinkedIn, search for a job like “Accounting”, use the “People” filter, then use the “School” filter under “All filters” to look for alumni of your university who are now working in your field. Look through their profile (they might mention what tools they’ve used or skills they’ve acquired) and message them saying you go to their alma mater and are interested in hearing about their work. “People love to talk about themselves.” — nearly everyone I’ve networked with.

Now that you’ve written down your goals and have some direction, let’s take action and begin upskilling (learning new skills). Knowing what skills you’re wanting to learn becomes extremely helpful when picking college courses. If you should be learning quantifiable microeconomics skills to work in your desired career, take econometrics instead of international economic theory. 

You can also learn online through LinkedIn Learning, EdX, Google Career Certificates, Khan Academy, and of course, YouTube. You have to pay a subscription for the LinkedIn Learning service (there’s a free trial, though) and you get a virtual certificate that’s posted in your LinkedIn profile when you’ve completed a course! EdX is another website that covers a broad range of subjects from how to foster workplace teamwork to learning AWS systems. It’s free to use, but you can also pay to get certified after completing the graded assignments. Remember: you don’t need to have an official certification to put it in your resume. I’ve used Slack in internships for years and learned Python in class, so you bet they’re in there.

Step 3: Search

Image description: A meme with an image from The Matrix that reads, “What if I told you employers intentionally set high expectations in job applications. Apply Anyway.”

You’ve thought about what skills you still need and positions or companies to apply for, so let’s find openings! 

There’s a multitude of platforms that work great for students, such as Handshake, LinkedIn, and even Indeed. Get started today, because Caitlin suggests it can take 4 to 7 months to understand how to look for openings and find ones that fit well with you. If you haven’t already heard of the college mega beast that is Handshake, it’s a job-search platform that partners with universities for college students to look for good-quality, legit internships. You can see upcoming career fair sessions, student reviews on their internship experience with a company, and find application resources such as what a resume should look like. What’s amazing is that there are constant sessions held by companies looking for interns or recent grads! The sessions are usually virtual, so it’s easy to meet directly with employers. Check out the rough tutorial video below to see how to use and make the most of Handshake!

At 2:21 minutes, I meant to say “places”, not “positions.”

You should also look directly on the company websites for organizations you’re interested in working with. For instance, if you’re interested in journalism or broadcasting, search for local news station opportunities such as the KOIN 6 website (their office building is just a few blocks from campus, btw). Subscribe to career newsletters from companies you’re interested in and sign up for notification alerts from job search platforms like LinkedIn.

Which characteristics, benefits, and values do you want to see in a company and in a job role?
Consider whether you want to work in an in-person, hybrid, remote environment. Would you accept an unpaid internship? What kind of company values and culture are you looking for?

Networking Tip: Use the LinkedIn filters mentioned earlier and connect with people working in companies that you’re drawn to in order to find out whether or not there’s a disconnect between how the company appears to be versus how the employees view their employers. Reaching out to people who currently work at a company you’re interested in consistently proves insightful and can be mutually beneficial!

Networking Tip: When you Connect with someone, that person has to approve that Connect request. However, you can Follow anyone. Follow recruiters for companies you want to work for because these are the people that often post internships and job openings! 

Pay or no pay?
Caitlin (one of our career counselors) believes, “All internships should be paid” but says only half of internships out there offer compensation. “Consider your financial situation and what’s feasible. Also, think of how useful the internship could be to you. When you read the [internship] description, do you think you’ll grow professionally, fill gaps in your skills, or get new exposure? One person may find that their answers to these questions will convince them to apply, while another person may realize it’s not worth it for their situation. It’s a personal decision. For students that aren’t able to intern, volunteering can offer opportunities for skill building and give their resumes a great boost.” You can get college credit for internships, though, if you really want something official in return. We cover this process later at “PSU resources you need to know.”

On a personal note, while I’ve been compensated for part-time work in the past, my first college internship was unpaid. Since then, I’ve only applied and worked for paid internships, but I also had some previous research and leadership experience that might’ve boosted my application. Your time is valuable, you know?

Step 4: Apply

*staring under my non-existent eyebrows at my applications to WarnerMedia, UTA, ViacomCBS, and too many more*
Image description: A meme of the film Office Space that reads, “Upload your resume. Now painstakingly fill out this form containing all the exact same information.”

If you already have a resume and have written a cover letter before, feel free to skip this Workshop Question. Otherwise, resist using a cookie-cutter template and look at some university-approved sample resumes to get you started.

What past experiences have you learned from or might attract or stand out to hiring managers?
Trust me: I know you’ve done something that’s resume-worthy. What academic or professional undertakings have you previously worked on? This can be anything from volunteering to paid work, such as coordinating volunteers for a community service project or performing research for your final paper in a course or even a personal project. If you’re a Data Science major, you could aggregate data on baseball swing angles using code you uploaded to GitHub and present visualizations with Jupyter Notebooks (I used to be an analytics major #weirdflexbutok [who am i????] ).

Networking Tip: Again, use those LinkedIn filters mentioned earlier and connect with people working in your dream industry to discover how they stood out to hiring committees.

What skills do you currently possess?
Go back to Step 2 when we covered this. Now, add any new skills you might have developed after you acquired new skills. Keep your list of valuable professional abilities up to date.

Refine your application materials! Most of your submitted resumes and cover letters will go through an Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that will screen your materials before a recruiter ever sees it, “So you need to make sure those are really solid before you even start applying,” Morgan says. You should edit and customize both your resume and cover letter to every position you apply.

  • Add keywords and phrases from the job description that describe you and your abilities
  • Remove all grammar and spelling errors (don’t be a rookie, take a lookie!)
  • Include any new skills or experiences you might’ve earned since your last resume review
  • Proofread your documents and ask someone else (like a career counselor) to proofread
  • Schedule an appointment with the Library’s Writing Center and the Career Center

Don’t forget to make your LinkedIn Profile as solid as a rock (with a small, tangy crunch of your personality in the “About” section). Put your LinkedIn link in your resume, and in case the employers check it out, ensure all the main sections (such as Experiences and Education) are filled out. Here’s a great YouTube video on getting started.

Career Services has a calendar of upcoming workshops to create or improve your application documents!

Step 5: Interview

Image description: A meme of a wide-eyed, surprised dog that reads, “Went to the interview. Got the job.”

Morgan talks about how a strong resume and cover letter can get you to the interview stage, but the expectations in the interview change. If the hiring managers conclude that you have the experience and skills (or at least the potential to learn some of the required skills), they’ll offer you an interview and probably won’t need to ask about your knowledge again. Of course, some industries, like tech, might expect you to perform a coding test. However, often the interview is about your level of professionalism, enthusiasm for their company, and revealing your personality. 

Research the company and the position’s responsibilities thoroughly to showcase your awareness of their work, goals, and values, and share whether you possess or share those values and expectations. Write down any questions you have about the logistics of the role or comments you have about the company’s previous projects as well, so that the hiring manager can see your genuine interest and commitment. 

Book an appointment with a career counselor to set up a mock interview for practice and check out the calendar of upcoming interview workshops held by Career Services. Glassdoor created a helpful guide on preparing answers to 50 most common interview questions

What’s an Elevator Pitch?
This is how Caitlin describes it: If you found yourself in an elevator with an employer for 30 seconds, what would you say? Introduce yourself with your name, your current job (or if you’re a student, maybe your major, year, graduation date, and college), your skills and values as a professional, and career goals. You should have this fleshed out and written down, and can modify it depending on the context. Whip out your elevator pitch whenever you’re asked, “Tell me about yourself.” It’s great for career fairs, as well. This — as Morgan would say — is how you introduce your personal brand and the message you want to convey about your professional self. You should have a new response every year or as your goals change. Work out your pitch with a career counselor!

Step 6: Land the job!

Image description: A meme of an excited Oprah from The Oprah Winfrey Show that reads, “You get a job, and you get a job, and you get a job. Everyone gets a job!”

If you were offered a position, congratulations! Add this new experience to your resume and LinkedIn profile, and consider getting college credit for your work (see more info at “PSU resources you need to know”). As always, network and stay connected with your new co-workers.

If you were denied (or never heard back), congratulations! It’s going to take more than just a couple applications to land an internship. The more quality applications you submit, the more opportunities you have to refine your materials, and the closer you are to getting an internship and winning in the job market.

A Podcast…?
Morgan had a wealth of information and thoroughly answered all of my specific internship, networking, and personal career questions. I couldn’t bear to leave out some of her answers, so instead, I decided to just include the audio of our conversation here! Note: The audio has been lightly edited, but this was not originally supposed to make it into the article, so I’m a bit awkward (#quirky), but Morgan BROUGHT IT, so enjoy.

Thank you Caitlin Sweeney and Morgan Young for your support.

PSU resources you need to know:

Image description: A meme of the show Parks and Rec that reads, “I don’t know how to update my resume and at this point I’m too afraid to ask.”

University Career Center

Setting up your major in banweb automatically subscribes you to department newsletters that often include job openings. So if you enrolled in PSU as a Psychology major, but you’ve switched to Business, make sure you update this in Banweb! 

College Credit from Internships

Bachelor students need 180 credits to graduate, but since some majors require less than that, you’ll need elective credits to complete that graduation requirement. Other degrees may even require an internship. One way to get those credits is through a hands-on, real-world internship! Keep in mind you still have to pay tuition for the credits you register, but it might be worth it! 

Caitlin clarified that, “The college or department of your major will allocate academic credit, not the Career Center, but our Internship Coordinator, Marisa Miller, is a fantastic resource and support as you navigate the process.”

Either search “PSU PDX internship credit [your major or department]” in Google or use the search icon at pdx.edu to look up “internship credit [your major or department]”. For International Studies majors, there’s a page that describes the steps students need to take and forms to complete in order to register their internship for credit. Your supervisor at the internship would need to sign a form, so make sure to communicate with them. A faculty advisor/mentor would also need to sign a form, and sometimes your department already has a professor who performs this role (look on the department’s site). The credits will be registered with a designated course, and for the International Studies department, it’s called “INTL 404.” The number of hours you work determines the amount of credits you receive, and may be graded as Pass/Fail or with a letter. The faculty advisor would review your weekly submissions where you reflect on how the internship experience fosters professional development and personal growth. 

Library Writing Center

You can meet with a Writing Consultant at the PSU Library Writing Center by booking an in-person or virtual appointment with one of them. They also organize virtual workshops you can join throughout the year, such as sessions to perfect your Personal Statement for graduate school applications. 

Academic Advisors

Your academic advisor can also provide insightful guidance on bridging your degree and career. Contact an advisor in the directory or view advising requirements and further information.
To see who your assigned advisor is, follow these steps…
Log into Banweb → Student Services →  Find Assigned Advisor → Select your current term → Look for “Primary Advisor” to see who your assigned advisor is, and you can “Schedule an Advising Appointment” at the hyperlink.

🛍️🎁🛍️🎁🛍️🎁🛍️🎁🛍️ GOODIE BAG TIME 🛍️🎁🛍️🎁🛍️🎁🛍️🎁🛍️
Congrats on preparing yourself for the career world! Here’s a goodie bag of internship materials:
🛍️Morgan’s ever-growing spreadsheet list of paid tech internships still open for applications this summer

About Sophia: I’m a Portland State Junior from the Portland suburbs, majoring in Economics & Social Science and in love with my college. I’m interested in economic reform and Scandinavian welfare systems, and am also a huge movie buff. FYI, everything I write on here is cryptically about Timothée Chalamet, so pls comment about it under my articles (but don’t tell my boss, I might get fired). 
Connect with me on LinkedIn!  Check out my media portfolio!




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