Internships are vital stepping-stones for undergrads navigating the transition from students to young professionals. But how should you go about finding the right one? What can you do to prepare? And how can you ensure you succeed once the internship begins?
Our talent experts at Johnson & Johnson weigh in.
Finding the Right Internship
The first step to finding the perfect internship, according to our talent experts, is getting started early. "The planning process shouldn't kick off senior year," said Jamil Price, HR Leader - University Relations Manager at Johnson & Johnson. "Instead, it needs to start freshman or sophomore year. The moment you set foot on campus, you have an alumni network you can leverage."
Krystal Brindley, North America University Recruiting Lead at Johnson & Johnson, added that students should make a point of securing recommendations from professors in any courses that are relevant to their professional interests—even if they haven't decided on an internship to apply for yet.
"Start early, and collect recommendations on an ongoing basis," she counseled.
Many students also find that it's easier to start by identifying the company that seems like a good fit for them, then zeroing in on roles. In that case, Krystal said, it doesn't hurt to apply for multiple roles that you're qualified for—doing so demonstrates interest, and it certainly won't be held against you.
And in the event you aren't offered the internship, Jamil said, take that decision in stride. “ 'No' just means it’s not right this minute," he said. "Later on, it might be the right time."
Meanwhile, since you're still on campus, it's a good idea to hone your public speaking skills, whether through academic coursework or extracurricular activities. That can pay off in any number of ways, but it'll certainly help you prepare for an internship at Johnson & Johnson, where most interns are expected to deliver final presentations to senior leadership.
Getting Your Resume Ready
Resume writing is nobody's favorite pastime. But Johnson & Johnson's talent experts have some valuable advice to make it easier on you.
For starters, take advantage of the resources that are available to you. Your career resources center at your school can provide coaching and advice on best practices for everything from CVs to cover letters. And when you write, Jamil advised, try to be "simple but precise."
"It shouldn't be a long document," he said. "For undergraduates, one page is the right length." Beyond length, you should incorporate some language from the job description, which can help ensure your resume connects with a recruiter or hiring manager.
"It's also a good idea to maintain a working draft of your resume, and to frequently update it," Jamil said. "Otherwise, you might omit some of your achievements."
You should also be sure to include relevant work experience, however minor it might seem to you, according to Maren Berge, Senior HR Leader, University Recruiting, Johnson & Johnson Corporate.
"Don't underestimate your work experience in retail, food service—whatever the case may be. You can learn a lot in jobs that involve customer service."
Need more resume-writing pointers? Keep our checklist of resume do's and don'ts handy to help you craft and polish the perfect document.
Managing Your Expectations
At Johnson & Johnson, we're hard at work addressing unmet needs and combating the world's biggest health challenges, from HIV to Ebola. We have a long history of firsts to back it up, but to continue to innovate and disrupt, we need to be agile—and the projects we pursue reflect that.
Krystal explained: "While our internships at Johnson & Johnson are structured in many ways—for instance, you'll have a mentor—our projects aren’t prescriptive. You'll have to lean into and embrace some amount of ambiguity. Business needs can change, and that can take projects in exciting new directions."
She added, "Don't be afraid of uncertainty—or of having the freedom to make independent choices."
Ensuring Your Success Once the Internship Starts
When you decide to participate in an internship or co-op at Johnson & Johnson, we'll have your back every step of the way. For example, there's our "Backpack-to-Briefcase" initiative, which goes far beyond traditional onboarding programs. In fact, it'll even put you in contact with former participants in your program. These veterans can help you build your professional network, and they'll also provide you with coaching and guidance to ensure you're successful during your time at Johnson & Johnson.
Of course, success, once the internship starts, ultimately requires planning ahead. "Think in advance about what you want to get out of the internship experience—for example, developing a certain skill set or learning more about a certain area of the business," Maren advised.
Networking for Success
Starting a new internship or co-op is naturally an exciting time. You'll get to meet tons of new people, build new relationships and start working on cutting-edge projects. But Johnson & Johnson's talent experts have a word for the wise: Networking for networking's sake isn't the best approach.
"There's no reason to try to schedule 100 different one-on-one meetings the first day you arrive," Jamil observed.
Instead, what's needed is a more strategic approach—something Krystal calls "intentional networking."
She explained: "It's important to be intentional and directional in your networking. Try to think about your longer-term professional goals."
And because we believe that great ideas arise when diverse perspectives come together, cross-functional collaboration is an essential part of day-to-day life at Johnson & Johnson. That means you'll have a chance to meet and connect with people from a wide range of different disciplines. And if you ask the right questions—and learn more about other people's career journeys—you'll be able to mine those conversations for insights into your own career path.
Join Johnson & Johnson Today
Looking for a career-launching internship with a company that shares your values? At Johnson & Johnson, you'll find opportunities to create, innovate and make real-world impact. Your next idea could be our next big health breakthrough.
Be sure to learn more about our internships, co-ops and leadership development programs—and you should also check with your career resource center for more information about when to apply. Ultimately, whether you're an undergraduate, master’s or MBA student, you'll discover opportunities at Johnson & Johnson to work on projects that improve and transform people's lives around the world—starting with your own.