How to Land Your Dream Internship

intern_mugRED Hearts are guest posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today.

Today’s RED Hearts post is from RED author Cindy Morand, 24, in NYC, who is gracing us with her scholarly wisdom on how to land your dream internship:

Hi students. I know, the school year just started, and the last thing you want to be thinking about is, uh, the coming spring and summer. But here’s the thing: If you plant a few smart seeds this fall, you’re going to be way ahead of the competition come apply-for-internships season.

Toward not being one of those people who’s scrambling come March to learn Mandarin and fencing and sequence DNA and establish references at the speed of light -- while you reek of desperation -- here are five simple, right-now things you can do to increase your chances of spending your summer 2014 with a dream internship.

The advice comes from several friends in different fields, from fashion to economics, engineering to marketing. Also, Oprah. She says “I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” So how can you start preparing now for when that perfect internship opportunity comes along?

1. Get involved in student clubs and extracurricular activities that focus on the subjects you are most passionate about. Try on different leadership roles within: Contribute to the planning of events, fundraising, and recruitment of new members. You’ll gain experience in a field you love and stand out as someone who’s responsible and has the ability to lead, which are very attractive qualities to employers.

2. Volunteer for a great cause as a way of making a difference -- and applying your school skills to real-world interaction. Hint: Not-for-profit orgs almost always need help and in multiple capacities. Make it easy for their already overworked staff and propose what you can do to help in a specific area, whether that’s spreading the world through social media efforts, organizing community service projects, writing marketing plans, or calling up local businesses for goodie bag donations. You have a lot of talents, and chances are your charity of choice can use them.

3. Assist a professor in your subject area. This one may sound obvious, but here’s the trick: Do it now, rather than when everyone’s clamoring to do so in the spring. It shows you mean it. Most important, it gives you a mentor, which is invaluable for everything from helping you analyze if your strengths and skills match jobs you’re interested in to introducing you to other professionals who can help put you on that path.

4. Set up informational interviews with senior students and individuals in your field. Ask them about themselves and the steps they took when they were you. They’ve been there—and not so long ago. From them you can gain great insights such as: the unwritten rules for certain jobs, the best places to network and classes to take, even what to wear to an interview or a workplace.

5. Have an elevator pitch that speaks of your experience in and enthusiasm for a particular area. Be ready to pull it out should you find yourself in the right one-on-one (elevator or not) brief interaction with someone in your field you admire. Articulating your interest in a new opportunity can be everything, as sometimes you only have a minute or two to demonstrate what you can do.

Right now, you have six months till spring—plenty of time to start putting your dream internship plan in place.

RED Hearts guest poster Cindy Morand is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.