Experience seems to be the buzzword in today’s job market. Young professionals entering the workforce are discovering the ever-increasing importance of internships to not only build their real world professional skills, but also to meet the qualifications to even obtain a job in the first place. By snagging an international internship you guarantee setting yourself apart from the rest of the “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” resumes competing for your dream job. Not to mention, obtaining a new perspective, global network, and excuse to go abroad are pretty worthy perks!
So, with all the other overly-eager, equally-qualified internship-seekers out there coming to the same conclusion, how exactly does one go about snagging the desirable, and sometimes seemingly elusive, international internship? There are two important parts that play into making sure your resume measures up and stands out to ensure your best chance at being “the one.”
First of all, make sure your resume itself is up to par. It may seem obvious, but it is often the most simple and basic aspects that get overlooked after hours of staring at the same page on the same screen. Especially since it is those same aspects that stick out like a sore thumb to fresh-eyed employers scanning your resume for the first time in a matter of seconds.
So before delving into your compelling cover letter about why you are the bestest, qualified-est, passionate-est candidate for the job, use some common sense, critical thinking, and your spell check.
1. Remain consistent.
However you decide to organize and format your resume, it needs to remain consistent throughout. That means that all headings, text, and bullets need to use the same corresponding fonts, sizes, and colors (if applicable) every single time they appear. While it is a good idea (even recommended) to utilize different fonts, sizes, and boldness levels to create clear section distinctions, focus, and flow; be sure that the choices you make complement one another and maintain a consistent vibe.
The obvious appearance of your resume will create the initial impression made upon the reviewer, so make sure it isn’t one of a sloppy, inattentive, disorganized, and lazy candidate.
Take two minutes to research font families, basic design principles, and resume layout tips if you need to to ensure you don’t unintentionally create discord or turn a stellar resume into a visually hectic mess.
2. Double-, then triple check your grammar.
Another seemingly obvious and amateur, yet equally important, first step is ensuring your are following grammar rules correctly. This means that your punctuation, verb tense, and sentence structure are (consistent, and) correct! Look up grammar rules if you need a refresher. Don’t start a new section for just one subheading, pick either bullets or paragraph descriptions, form full sentences, and have a layout that makes sense.
The organization of your resume and subsequent sections will likely depend upon how relevant and recent your experiences are to the internship at hand. Then, within each section, generally place each experience in chronological order starting with the most recent. It is always a good idea to have a friend read over your final draft for obvious mistakes in grammar and clarity.
3. Use strong and specific language.
In everything you do, using power words and tangible examples will almost always prove more forceful and compelling than blanket statements. Try replacing cookie-cutter position descriptions with quantitative examples. Instead of saying you canvassed for a sustainable energy non-profit, detail how you went door-to-door to advocate for local issues, generate community involvement, and successfully enacted a clean-housing bill. Along those same lines, don’t waste precious space or the reviewers time on empty, filler words.
Be concise, use vivid language, and opt for specific duties and accomplishments over generic responsibilities.
Taking the time to review your resume against these three basic tips will, among other things, result in making it unmistakably obvious how attentive you are to detail (which seems to be a qualifying trait on literally every job description ever) which resonates so much stronger when shown rather than told.
So, now that your resume won’t attract unnecessary negative implications, but will conversely impress upon your employer how serious you take this opportunity, you are ready to take it to the next level.
The second part of the resume boosting process has to do with taking what you now have and tweaking it to reflect the international internship for which you are applying and your position as a viable contender for it.
1. Be Relevant.
The person reviewing your resume should not have to do any guesswork when it comes to how you will directly benefit their organization. Do your research ahead of time and tie back each experience to the job description at hand or in a way that reflects their mission, vision, and values. It should be extremely obvious to whomever is looking over your resume exactly what you will bring to the table and why they should accept you for their internship program.
While you shouldn’t waste your limited space and employer’s time with your irrelevant old high school babysitting job, remember that every experience can be portrayed in a way that directly correlates a link between the two positions, even if it involves more “soft” or “transferable” skills like communication, cultural sensitivity, adaptability, or flexibility.
2. Be Unique.
While still remaining relevant, also make sure you stand out. That isn’t to say you should go above and beyond to emanate weirdness in a way that says “trying to hard unsuccessfully and talks about oneself too much.” A better vibe to aim for might look more like “being authentic and passionate about interesting and relevant matters.” Even if the job description is for an English-speaking position, make a point to include that you are fluent in Finnish (especially if your internship is in a Nordic region).
Likewise, don’t shy away from including your short-lived phase as a personal trainer just because it may not seem directly related to that marketing internship at first. Not only do both require significant levels of self and product-promotion, connecting with clients, and calling others to action, but it will help set you apart from the other single-sided business folk and give the reviewer a clearer, more accurate picture of you.
3. Be Aware.
There are many different ways to organize and design your resume. Generally speaking, it is best to err on the side of professional and conservative, but always keep in mind the internship position at hand and who is going to be reviewing your resume. Use industry-specific words, and utilize the chance at making an impression via a piece of paper to your advantage. If you are applying for a design or art internship, for example, use your resume as a portfolio piece!
Show off your skills and knowledge by applying them to set the tone of your resume.
Applying for international internships can be overwhelming and time-consuming. And while it can be tempting to do the copy-and-paste thing into as many open positions as you can find in an effort to increase your odds of acceptance, don’t fall for it. Think about why you want the internship in the first place. What is it about the organization and position that draws you to it, and what excites you about the way in which you can make a difference through it.
Put energy into first creating a clean, correct, and compelling resume, then take it to the next level. Passion is catching and potential employers won’t fail to pick up on yours if you authentically and strategically apply it to your resume per the tips outlined in step two.
So don’t leave your acceptance up to fate, instead take matters into your own hands and snag that international internship of your dreams! Who knows, you may even be so glad you did and like it so much that you decide to make it a more permanent gig.