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Applying for Internships (Part 0): Developing a Process

Applying for Jobs is a Job

What is your dream job? Are you doing what it takes to get that job, or are you just waiting for something to happen? A lucky chance perhaps, or maybe you’re waiting to reach a certain level of skill before pursuing your dream job. Well the truth is, you can always do a little bit more to prepare yourself before starting to pursue your dreams, but you're always going to wish you had started sooner. So start now! Even though I’m only about half way through my undergrad, and I still wish I had started preparing for my career even sooner.

I often hear people complain about the lack of job opportunities in today's market. It may be difficult to get a job these days (I don't know, I haven't looked at any statistics recently), but don't let that discourage you. If you are searching for a job, and don't currently have one, you should be working full-time -- 40 hours a week -- towards getting the job you want. Spend time building your resume. Do work for free in order to gain experience, go to school, start networking with people you know. There is always something you can do to improve your job prospects. While following along with my experience of applying for internships, think about how you can improve your own approach to applying for jobs.

Defining the Problem

Over the next few days, I'm going to be developing and documenting a process that will (hopefully) lead my to getting my dream internship in summer 2016. So why develop a process? Applying for jobs is pretty straightforward, isn't it? Traditionally, yes -- when applying for jobs you typically have a resume, a cover letter, and sometimes a transcript. However, this is what everyone does and some of the internships I want to apply for are highly competitive. So in order to help my application stand out from the rest, I'm approaching the application process with a problem-solving mindset.

Before developing a solution, the first step is defining the problem at hand. This will help guide us to a solution that produces the desired outcome and avoid solving the wrong problem. This starts by developing a problem statement which (1) states the current state of the problem, (2) states the desired future outcome, and (3) combines (1) and (2) into a single, actionable statement.

Problem Statement: I currently do not have interviews lined up for a internship/co-op job for summer 2016. Ideally, I would like to have an interviews with several high-profile companies. In order to get interviews with high-profile companies, I will develop a unique and creative solution which showcases my skills, and attracts the attention of recruiters.

Notice how my problem statement doesn't mention a cover letter or resume. Creating a problem statement helps generalize the problem. This is a good way to avoid an over-narrowed solution to a more general problem. It's important to consider all possibilities with as little bias as possible in order to reach the best solution to a given problem.

Problem statements are often redundant, but that's what you want. If a problem statement is too broad and touches on several points, then you're probably trying to solve more than one problem. Try to limit problem statements to one problem at a time.

Documenting the Process

Documentation, even if it's just for your own personal projects is often good practice in order to stay organized and to ensure all parts of the project are finished to completion. In adition to blogging about my application process I will be using several tools to facilitate documention.

I started by laying out the initial steps of my process on a Trello Board. This will help break down this task of applying for internships into more manageable steps that I can tackle one-by-one. I've also assigned due dates for each of the four tasks to keep myself accountable and on schedule, so I can have this project out of the way before the new year.

Initial setup of my "Co-op Summer 2016" Trello Board

Trello is like a supercharged to-do list. I often use Trello to document and manage my workflow for many different types projects. I even use it to ensure I get school assignments and projects completed on time. It's a versatile tools which can help you manage many areas of both your personal and professional life.

What's Next?

Now that we have the process outlined in Trello, we can tackle each of the four milestone tasks individually. In the next post, I'll explain more specifically the criteria for my research and discuss the results.

NEXT PART: Applying for Internships (Part 1): Research

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