I knew going into my second year of college, I wanted to gain experience in the three broad areas of public relations: non-profits, corporations and agencies. So I set a personal goal to gain some understanding of each area through internships to see which would be the best fit for me. As a senior with four internships under my belt, I now know the direction I want to take when searching for post-graduation opportunities.

It isn’t always easy to find the ideal internship at the ideal time and stand out amongst a flood of resumes. Here are five tips I’ve learned through my experiences to help you land an internship you love!

  1. Utilize your college’s career services office sooner rather than later: Don’t wait until your junior or senior year to wander in to career services! Many career offices have valuable information and yearlong programs to help prepare you for the internship search. If anything, career services understands important deadlines for summer- or semester-specific opportunities. In addition, they have connections and alumni who are willing to meet with you for informational interviews to help get you prepared. When I finally made the visit to career services as a sophomore, I wished I would have gone sooner.
  2. If you’re able to, create a flexible class schedule: If your program allows, utilize online or evening classes that free up your daytime for interning. I managed to create schedules my sophomore through senior years that freed up 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on either Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays or Tuesdays/Thursdays. Having an open and flexible schedule is a good way to get your foot in the door for your first couple of internships where you may not have the experience other candidates do. I’ve learned that most companies prefer having an intern in the office for a full day rather than a set of half days.
  3. Research a company before you send in your application: It can be tempting to knock out 10 applications on a Saturday afternoon just by searching “marketing internship” and clicking send. But blindly sending your resume to a long list of companies will likely get you nowhere. Landing a worthwhile internship takes time and careful research.My favorite way to learn more about a company is to follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. There you can catch a glimpse of the company culture and values to see if you would be a good fit. It’s also a plus if you can find a past intern on LinkedIn to get an honest perspective on the program. Not only will this research tell you whether an internship program is right for you, but it will also show you did your homework before a potential interview.
  4. Thoroughly read through the job description and requirements to prep your resume and portfolio: Major internship programs will receive hundreds of resumes that may never be seen by human eyes. Your application will have a better chance of standing out if you include keywords found in the job description. In addition, it’s important to gather work samples for your portfolio that relate specifically to major job functions. Don’t just tell your interviewer you have written social media posts for an organization before, show them! Just remember to always ask permission before including a project in your portfolio.
  5. Don’t be shy, utilize your networks: Asking friends, family and coworkers for networking help can seem intimidating at times. However, you never know who has a personal connection at the company of your dreams if you never ask! If you are in internship hunting mode, let those around you know, including classmates. You would be surprised how many companies turn to current or past interns to help recruit students for new positions.

Above all else, be patient and don’t let missed opportunities discourage you. You may have to reach out to a handful of companies before finding the right fit. Best of luck!

What are some of your go-to tips for landing an internship?