Most college students understand the never-ending grind of securing a summer internship. It takes hours of hard work to receive an offer from a company, including many hours searching for vacant positions, long nights sending and replying to company emails, and the stress of preparing for and crushing the interview. All of this must be accomplished while a student is studying for midterms, attending club meetings, and writing papers—in addition to the countless other responsibilities of a career driven college student. 

My university, Claremont McKenna College (CMC), has a plethora of professional development resources available for its students, everything from career coaches with expertise and connections across eight industry clusters to career consultants who conduct mock interviews and review resumes and cover letters. Prior to CMC, the only professional networking site I knew was LinkedIn, and even my knowledge of this one was limited. However, CMC quickly introduced Handshake as another resource specifically for students and recent graduates.

How I Use Handshake 

As a media studies major, one of my obsessions is personal branding. I love completing an online profile with my information, skills, experience, and a well crafted bio that details my expertise, passions, and future goals. Like LinkedIn, Handshake allows you to create a profile, explain your experience, link to external projects, and upload supporting documents such as resumes and cover letters. It is filled with job and internship listings from small and large companies as well as upcoming professional development events, so naturally, I added this platform to my internship search toolkit. 

My internship search workflow involves me using Handshake like any other search engine to locate openings in my career cluster: creative and entertainment. Handshake does an excellent job at recommending positions based on your previous searches and self-identified industry interests. I am always receiving useful alerts for openings in my selected roles, and many of these leads have turned into interviews and internship offers. 

How Handshake Helped Me 

When searching for internship opportunities, usually an applicant must submit an application with a resume, cover letter, and sometimes supplemental documents. However, there are strange cases in which this step is totally bypassed. In fact, Handshake helped me land two internship offers, and I never even submitted a formal resume or cover letter!

One day while aimlessly scrolling through the thousands of internship opportunities in Handshake, I received a message in my inbox from a CEO searching for undergraduates to intern as brand ambassadors for his company, Freeze Crowd. The internship program fit my interests in marketing and social media, so I responded by expressing my interest in the opportunity. He immediately extended an option to interview, and I agreed. Never did I send an application with documents. In fact, the opportunity was quite literally handed to me through Handshake. 

The second offer required just a little more effort on my part. I saw a content writer internship at a luxury watch brand, but I wanted to learn more about the time commitment because the job description did not include this information. Once again, I contacted the company president to express my interest, but I never sent a resume and cover letter directly. He viewed my Handshake profile and scheduled a time to interview me. 

I guess that annoying notification to complete your profile has a purpose after all! 

How Handshake Can Help You 

If you are a student struggling to secure internship offers, then I urge you to consider using Handshake in your future searches. The user interface is easy to navigate, and the reward for engaging is increased exposure to job recruiters and internship listings not posted anywhere else. 

You, like my former self, might know all about LinkedIn but be totally ignorant about Handshake and what it offers. LinkedIn is a resource for professionals of all ages, ethnicities, and career paths whereas the only demographic Handshake targets are students. This means it is a less saturated environment developed with a student-first mindset. 

Spend time completing your profile and selecting your desired industries, which will help Handshake recommend opportunities. By increasing the number of platforms used to conduct your internship search, you significantly improve your chances of receiving an offer. Including Handshake, which is specifically designed for students, in your process is a no-brainer. 

About the author:

Classy Cain, legally known as Robert Cain, is dual majoring in Media Studies and Applied Mathematics with a Data Science minor at Claremont McKenna College. He is a UNCF STEM scholar, as well as a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, which he used to study abroad in Thessaloniki, Greece for a full semester. While abroad, he grew passionate about international travel and launched a blog in order to share his experiences with the world. Follow his journey at www.classycain.com or @classy_cain on Instagram.