Many international students inside the US have the opportunity to gain real world work experience during their studies through OPT or CPT. Although both OPT and CPT will have limitations in which you need to closely follow, it’s a great chance to build up your resume and industry knowledge. However, the process of applying for an internship in the US might be different from the process in your home country, which can be intimidating. To ensure you don’t have to start the internship application process without knowing what to expect, here are a few things to help you prepare for what’s to come.
The competition will be fierce.
There are thousands of other students who will be looking for an internship at the same time as you. This means that you might have hundreds (or maybe thousands) of other applicants that you will be competing against to obtain the internship you want. Because of this, it’s important to put your best foot forward, be punctual and accurate, and follow up whenever possible.
Search and apply early.
If you plan on having a summer internship, don’t wait until May or June to start looking- start months in advance! Many internship positions (especially those that are highly sought after) will fill up early. Start looking on sites like Craigslist, LinkedIn, or our student job search and apply when you find an internship that fits what you’re looking for.
Provide the documents they require.
Most internships will require that you not only submit a resume, but perhaps also a cover letter and a job application specific to the company in which you’re applying to. Other items that they might ask you to provide include letters of reference and a transcript. If you don’t have these items, obtain them. It’s important that you make the effort to create a cover letter if you don’t have one, you figure out how to obtain an official transcript if you don’t know how, and that you step outside your comfort zone to ask a professor for a letter of reference when needed. If you don’t provide each document that the company asks for you to provide, you run the risk of having your application rejected.
Edit, edit, edit.
Proofread and edit everything you submit. After you edit each document, ask a friend to edit it for you or visit your campus writing center. If a company receives numerous applications for a position one way that many businesses sift through the initial applications is to discard any that have spelling, grammar, punctuation or other writing mistakes.
Don’t forget to say thank you.
If you make it to the interview round of the internship hiring process, make sure you follow up with a thank you note (email is typically fine). Before you leave the interview ensure that you collect the business card of everyone you spoke with and follow up with them by thanking them for their time.
Before you even start your search for an internship in the US make sure you know if you’re able to legally work while studying in the United States. If you’re really confused on the process or if you’re eligible to participate in OPT or CPT make sure you talk to your international student advisor.