How to apply for your first job or internship



Your first job or internship as a college student or recent university graduate is a big step in your professional development. Landing a great internship or first-time job can help you launch your career successfully. In fact, according to research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 70.4% of employers extend full-time job offers to interns. And completing an internship makes you 85% more likely to get hired at any job.

While applying for your first job or internship is exciting, it can also be daunting. Being prepared can go a long way toward boosting your confidence. A strong set of application assets — including a resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and portfolio — can set you apart during the application process and help you land interviews with recruiters.

There are a lot of details that go into making a stellar resume, portfolio, and cover letter. In this article, we’ve brought together tips and resources to help you nail your job applications and get one step closer to landing an awesome new opportunity.

Create a job application process playbook

To create a great job or internship application, you first need a strategy that’s clear and easy to follow so you know what you need to do — and in what order — to get across the finish line. Let’s dig into some common job application questions that you can use to pull together job skills, research, and assets to make a winning package that puts you at the head of the pack as a candidate.

1. How do I find a job or internship?

If you don’t know what kind of job or internship you’re looking for, start by identifying the reasons you want one in the first place. Maybe you want to test out a certain kind of experience through an internship before committing to doing it full-time. You may be looking for a job or internship because you need the income. Or you might be trying to get a foot in the door with a bucket-list employer. Consider these takeaways as you think about what kinds of positions to apply for:

  1. As a college student, you can apply for entry-level jobs directly related to your major, such as being a teacher’s assistant while studying education.
  2. Some internships provide you with school credit. Find out if your program of study requires one and if your school will accept credit from a potential employer.
  3. Interning for a large company can lead to great opportunities, but don’t overlook the hands-on experience you can get at smaller organizations.
  4. An internship can help you stand out with your current professors and future employers and lead to better opportunities after graduation.

In your search for a job or internship, platforms like LinkedIn can provide ways for you to connect directly from your profile with job postings from companies or organizations. You can also use resources built specifically for your situation as a student or recent graduate such as college-related job boards and platforms like Handshake.

2. What do I need to apply for a job or internship?

During the job application process, you’ll need to provide details about yourself and your experience that paint a clear picture of your qualifications. These include general application requirements such as specific documents and information as well as unique requests specific to a particular organization. Here’s a list of the items most commonly needed as part of an application:

  1. Personal information (your name, address, phone number, email address)
  2. Resume
  3. Cover letter
  4. References
  5. Employment or experience history
  6. Transcripts

3. How do I make a resume?

Creating a resume for the first time can be anxiety-inducing. Nick D’Alessandro, digital designer, production manager, and recent college graduate, says he was unsure where to start with his first resume for a job related to his college major. “Students don’t get a lot of background or direction when building a robust resume,” says D’Alessandro. “Most of the process is major trial and error.”

As you begin thinking about how to make a compelling resume and what content to include, follow these guidelines as a starting point:

  1. Be brief. You want the hiring manager to see your qualifications quickly. Keep your resume to one page while ensuring it’s clear and easy to read.
  2. Target your audience. Tailor your resume to each new position rather than creating a generic document. If you have a lot of skills and experience, list only those that are relevant to that specific job opening.
  3. Include a summary statement. Start your resume with a sentence or two summarizing why you’re a great fit for the position. Briefly state your experience and skills so the hiring manager can quickly assess your qualifications.
  4. Weave in your skills. Discuss your hard and soft skills in the content you provide throughout your resume rather than in a dedicated list. This gives readers context for both what you’ve done and what you can do.

4. How do I design a resume?

Once you’ve decided what your resume should include, it’s time to assemble it into a professional, attention-grabbing package. Whether you’re a design all-star or a creative novice, there’s a whole world of resume templates that take the guesswork out of making a resume that gets you noticed for the right reasons. With the right template and easy-to-use editing tools like Adobe Express, you can create your customized resume quickly and easily.

Rather than a laundry list, create a clean, organized resume focusing on your greatest hits so your best experiences get the most airtime.

5. How do I write a cover letter?

You only need to provide a cover letter if the job or internship you’re applying for requests it or if the online application form lets you attach one. This single-page document accompanies your resume and summarizes it. If you include a cover letter, be sure to:

  1. Introduce yourself. Provide a short paragraph where you give your name, the job for which you are applying, and what interests you about the role and company. Include a sentence about why you’re a good fit for the position and why the organization is a good fit for you.
  2. Talk about your skills. Plug the skills and qualifications that qualify you for the open position. This helps reinforce what’s in your resume and provides some additional color.
  3. Tell a story. Describe an experience or project you worked on that shows how you’re uniquely qualified for the open position. If you don’t have a project that works, share a story that illustrates a passion or interest related to the company’s industry or mission. Weave your skills into your story to show that you’re the right person for the job.

    Still not sure where to start? There are tons of great cover letter templates that can help guide you through the cover letter creation process — and give you a polished document that pairs nicely with your resume. You can also package your content as a video cover letter if you want to stand out even more.

6. What should be in my LinkedIn profile?

Your LinkedIn profile is often the first stop prospective employers and internship selection committees make when reviewing candidates. This is your chance to present your professional viewpoint, and it’s one way you can show off your personality to people considering your applications. Putting together a smart LinkedIn profile page is a breeze when you include these five things:

  1. A professional headshot for a great first impression
  2. A compelling summary of what makes you tick
  3. A summary of experience, expertise, and education
  4. A list of skills for others to endorse
  5. A strong, attention-grabbing headline

7. How do I make a creative portfolio?

If you’re planning on applying for creative, advertising, or design roles, an online portfolio is a must-have. Think of your portfolio as the modern-day version of a business card, resume, and project showcase all in one. You want to build something that shows off your skills, presents your unique perspective, and looks professional. D’Alessandro offers these words of advice: “While there are a lot of templates you can use for your portfolio, the key is to make it your own.”

Try these tips to develop a portfolio that’s both unique and accomplished:

  1. Gather ideas about what kind of experience you want your portfolio to create.
  2. Choose an online portfolio template you can customize easily to showcase your work.
  3. Decide on your best projects to include (three minimum, eight maximum).
  4. Use high-quality images under 1 MB each.
  5. Add links to live web pages, but also hang on to a screenshot or project files in case URLs change in the future.
  6. Include project descriptions and site architecture to make your portfolio easy to navigate.
  7. Get honest feedback from your peers.
  8. Publish and promote your site. Adding to your LinkedIn profile is a great way to get exposure.

8. How do I apply for a job?

Check the job or internship listing to confirm what you need to deliver with each application. If there’s an online form, complete the required fields and attach your resume as directed. Only include your cover letter and portfolio if the form requires one.

If you apply by email, put your name and the position title in the subject line. Then attach your resume, cover letter, and portfolio. Include a few lines in the email itself about what role you’re applying for and what documents you’ve attached.

You did it!

With these first-time job application best practices, you’ll be prepared to put together a winning package of materials. Once you find some interesting opportunities to apply for, you can feel confident that your research, preparation, and application content will give you the best chance possible of landing your dream gig.

Adobe Express can help you create a polished, professional cover letter, resume, and portfolio that makes you stand out among the competition. Explore free templates, design assets, how-tos, and more on the Adobe Express website.

Try Adobe Express today