Are you a recent college graduate? Are you transitioning into a new career path?
If the answer to either of those questions is “yes”, you probably feel like you’re in a pickle. After all, every employer wants someone with experience but you cannot get experience without a job.
The solution? Get an internship! (and include the internship experience on your resume)
After you’ve completed your internship, you can include the experience on your resume. And yes, an internship does count as actual work experience.
Figuring out how to maximize the impact of an internship on your resume is tough. After all, many are unpaid and don’t require much skill to attain.
But, with the highly competitive job market today, it would be foolish to leave out experience that is relevant to the career you are seeking.
There’s much confusion about how exactly to include an internship on a resume. Where do you include internship experience? With the rest of your work experience? Or, maybe in a separate internships section?
The answer is...it depends on your situation.
We’ll go over these questions, in detail, and more in this blog post.
Why it's important to include internships on your resume.
Today’s job market is incredibly competitive. It’s important to use every trick in the book to set yourself apart.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that you’re too old or that you’re too far along in your career to include internships. If they are relevant, find a way to include them. You never know which recruiter will be able to relate to your experience, and when they do, it is a major advantage for you.
Of course, internships do not carry as much strength as paid positions. If you have more than enough relevant experience on your resume, adding an internship may not help you. But, given the right circumstance, it may be the difference between a job and radio silence.
Which circumstances call for the inclusion of internships on your resume?
The most common is a recent college graduate. If you just graduated, chances are your only relevant experience in the industry will have come from one or more internships. In that scenario, your internships should be a major point of emphasis.
Keep in mind the people you will be competing with for the jobs you want. Most of them will also be recent graduates. Either that or they will be a candidate trying to break into a new industry.
Another common circumstance that calls for inclusion of internships would be a change in career. If you’re transitioning from a 10-year career in journalism into a fresh career in graphic design, internships will likely be necessary. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Be proud of your accomplishments and emphasize your internship experience.
In both circumstances, there is a good chance your internships will be the experience that sets you apart from the crowd. Even in an industry with demonstrable deliverables, having experience in a professional setting is a game-changer.
Where and how to include your internships on a resume
Now that you know if and why you should include internships on your resume, let’s go over how to do it.
Evaluate your experience
Some internships include a lot of busy work or grunt work, others are packed with relevant experience.
Either way, you’ll need to evaluate your experience during the internship. During this evaluation, think through all your responsibilities.
Make a comprehensive list of every responsibility you can think of. This will allow you to swap different points in and out. This flexibility will give your resume relevance in a wider range of job listings.
For a more in-depth look at what it takes to build a flexible resume that can be used for a wider range of listings, check out our blog post on the keys to a flexible resume.
Later, when you’re applying, check the job listing for words or phrases that are similar to the points you put together before. Try your best to match your relevant points to the points mentioned in the listing.
Just like regular job experience, it’s important to quantify your achievements and go into detail as much as possible.
By matching your internship experiences to the experiences required by the employer, you will greatly improve your chances at landing the job.
Structure of Internship Description
The structure of your internship descriptions on your resume should be nearly identical to the structure of regular experience descriptions.
In short, list the title and company name. Put the time frame during which you interned. If it was a summer or seasonal internship, putting something like “Summer 2016” is perfect.
Since you’ve already reflected and evaluated your experience, the next part will be easy. Go through your list of responsibilities and choose the ones that are most relevant to the job you’re applying to.
If you need help choosing the right descriptions to include, look for keywords or phrases in the listing and try to match them on your resume.
Here is an example of an internship listed on a resume:
Placement on Resume
You have all the information put together, structured correctly and ready to go. Now, where on your resume should all of this be placed? Should your internship experience be placed under work experience?
If most of your previous work experience is irrelevant to the industry you’re applying to, it's best to put your internship experience at the top along with any other work experience.
We also wrote a great post on writing a cover letter for an internship which you should check out.
If your goal is to transition within an industry, for example, from a software developer to a user experience designer, you can include your internship under work experience. Since you’re lumping it in with the rest of your paid experience, make sure you specify that it was an internship.
Whether you’re a recent graduate or seasoned professional, breaking into a new industry is tough. It requires sacrifice, often in the form of unpaid work.
But unpaid work is not time wasted. It can be a very valuable experience. And, if you know how to present that experience in just the right way, it will lead to success in your new industry.
For more awesome career and job hunting posts, check out our blog here.
Jeffrey is one of ZipJob's co-founders and has been a blog contributor since 2016.