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5 Ways to Exploit your Summer Internship for a Competitive Edge

by Monette Anderson | Aug 13, 2019
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If you are one of the few lucky students wrapping up their summer internship with a solid employment offer, congratulations! However, leaving a firm without a job offer doesn’t mean you should switch to a liberal arts major or solidify plans to move into your parents’ basement. For many, a summer internship is just one checkbox in a long-term plan. Completing one means you’re ready to take what you’ve learned and put yourself out there for the next opportunity.

Fall recruiting will be upon us faster than you can say “meet the firms.” You’ll need to be prepared to give your résumé to any stranger at a moment’s notice (reminder: physical addresses are passé and set you up for identity theft). Should you make yours pink and scented à la Elle Woods? Optional, but I don’t recommend it. Should you update it? Absolutely. Below are five tips to help you achieve fall résumé readiness.

Review Length and Make Necessary Cuts

You found the perfect summer internship and are ready to put together a résumé that is busting at the seams with all your amazing experience, including all the volunteer, leadership, and other activities you took on last year only to be told that you have to fit it all on one measly 8 ½ x 11 page. The irony! It’s important to remember that as a future accountant your role will involve prioritizing deadlines and honing an impeccable attention to detail. Sharpening your résumé for content and length is the best way to show recruiters and future employers that you have the chops to succeed. Many of our firm recruiters agree that substance is key, but using smaller fonts (within reason) and creative styling may help you here.

Include Transferable Skills

Some internships provide more résumé fodder than others. Maybe your internship was with your dream firm. Maybe it was in a completely different industry or specialty than the one you intend to pursue. Maybe you worked retail or babysat on weekends so you could fit in a larger summer course load. In each of these scenarios, the key is to find the most relevant experience to highlight on your résumé. Recruiters highly recommended that you describe your experience in an achievement-oriented overview, instead of a task-oriented one, for maximum impact—so show off all those major accomplishments!

Ask for a Professional Review

Use the contacts you made at your summer internship to solicit résumé feedback. Jamie Gardner, CPA, is a manager and the head of student recruiting at Sweeney Conrad. She says, “Last year I told our (summer leadership) attendees that I’d be happy to review anyone’s cover letters or résumé and give tips. Only two students took me up on that—and you’d better believe that I remember those students more than the rest during fall recruiting!” For extra credit, make sure you leave the internship with a recommendation you can use over the coming year. You don’t need to leave with a written letter, but asking them verbally if you can count on them if you need one may come in handy during recruiting season, or for any scholarship (like the Washington CPA Foundation scholarships) or leadership opportunities you may want to apply for in the coming year.

Update LinkedIn

Don’t forget to add your new, achievement-oriented bullet points and experiences to LinkedIn. Unlike a résumé, you aren’t limited as much by space constraints and many potential employers may be scouting you here. Here are some key considerations:

  • Summary: Make sure this is up to date as this is your elevator pitch and newest experiences. Did you learn something new about yourself you want to include?
  • End Date: Be sure to put in an end date once the internship is complete so your timeline is clear.
  • Special Items and Projects: Did you take on a special project during your internship that may be appropriate to highlight? Summer coursework or leadership programs are great additions. Did you write a blog post or publication? Share that too!
  • Connections: Be sure you send invitations and connect with relevant internship contacts before you leave. Recommendations may be appropriate here if you feel comfortable soliciting a LinkedIn written recommendation.

Showcase Your Professional Knowledge & Awareness

It may be helpful to consider what career-oriented sites and interests you are following on LinkedIn as employers can see this information on your profile. We recommend following the Washington Society of CPAs LinkedIn page and if you are a member, adding that to your profile (and resume) as well. Following some accounting-related resources show that you are serious about your future profession and taking the time to now to stay up to date on hot topics and trends. The WSCPA has over 7,500 members across the state, and many firms pay Society membership dues for their employees, so odds are good that the person across the interview table in the near future is also a WSCPA member. Having something in common with your interviewer is a great way to begin a professional relationship!

Now that your résumé and personal branding is updated, we highly recommend attending the WSCPA Small Firm Career Fair on September 17. Perfect your pitch by “speed-dating” with over a dozen small firms while also learning how their perks and cultures differ from their larger competitors. Best of all, the Small Firm Career Fair is free to WSCPA student members! Advanced registration is required, so go sign up now, before you forget.

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Monette Anderson is the WSCPA's Manager of Membership. You can reach her at manderson@wscpa.org.

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