The good news for graduates and current students is that there are more resources than ever for finding an eCommerce internship. But with this multitude of job sites and internship opportunities comes a lot of questions for those just embarking on their eCommerce career.
Where do you find an internship? How do you make your resume impressive? How do you stand out in the interview? What does an eCommerce intern do?
We’ll take you through every step in the process, from how to prep before you apply for an eCommerce internship, where to look, how to nail that interview and ways you can turn that first internship into a full-time job.
We’ve got questions for every one of your workplace worries answered.
You don’t need to have extensive eCommerce experience to get your feet wet with your first eCommerce internship. But you do want to show that you’re knowledgeable about the industry and have real world experience that can be applied to the position.
Here’s a few things to do before you submit your resume.
Combine Your Real-World Experiences
If you’ve ever sold on eBay or opened an Etsy store, make a list of all the things you were involved with. This could include anything from listing products to buying a sponsored ad. These are all great experiences in eCommerce that you can apply to a future internship. And if you’ve always been curious about selling online, now is a great time to get your first store up and running.
Classes are also important to think through too. If you’ve taken an advertising writing course or are lucky enough to have taken eCommerce-specific classes, these will be helpful in standing out among other applicants. Make sure all of these are listed on your resume or mentioned in your cover letter.
Read Up On The Industry
Stay knowledgeable about the industry. Subscribe to podcasts, catch up on blogs, read books, set a Google news alert for “eCommerce” so you don’t miss any breaking news. You can use all this information to really wow them in the interview seat.
Reach out to three people that can vouch for your talent if an employer wants a reference. Make sure you ask them in advance and request contact information for them should anyone want to reach out. We’d recommend at least one employer and at least one professor so your workplace and academic prowess can be put on display.
Boast Your Brand Knowledge
It’s one thing to have taken courses in eCommerce, but it’s another to have a personal and thoughtful opinion about the current industry. Prepare to talk about your favorite eCommerce brands and why you think they’re so strong. And think about what the company you’re interviewing with could be doing better too.
Bonus points if you can arm yourself with extra brand awareness. For example, if you’re applying for a fashion eCommerce internship, study the relevant fashion competitors of each job you’re applying to.
Polish Up Your Professional Profile
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, create one before you apply for internships. Include any past internships, but also take the time to list accolades, school groups you’ve involved in, community service and any organizations you belong to.
If you plan to focus your attention on eCommerce specifically, make sure you write a mini bio explaining that your goal is to find an eCommerce internship at a reputable company.
If you’re applying for product design or web development internships, make sure you have a refined portfolio online that you can send to prospective employers. Sites like SquareSpace or Wix or Format are great online templates so you can design one that looks slick and won’t be painstaking to put together. Feel free to mock up some faux eCommerce designs so prospective employers can see just how talented you are.
There are a lot of different tactics you can take for finding the right eCommerce internship. If some searches on big job boards are looking abysmal, have no fear. The right internship is out there and we’ve got techniques on how to find them.
You probably have a lot of Facebook friends. Combine that with your parents friends, classmates, professors and each of their networks, and you’ve suddenly got a huge pool of connections waiting to be made. Spend time composing a thoughtful email to at least ten immediate connections detailing your experience and the type of internship you’re seeking. It’s crucial to write a personalized, custom email to each person vs. a generic email blast as they’ll work much better.
Attach your resume and let each person know you’d be happy if they forwarded it around. And while you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to put a post out on Facebook. Keep it short, mention you’re looking for an eCommerce internship and that you’d be grateful for any leads, and see what comes of it.
There’s the tried-and-true method of searching for an internship online. With so many boards out there, there are some specific to eCommerce jobs and specific to internships. Here are a few good places to start looking:
If relocating isn’t in your plans, make sure you limit your searches to local businesses or remote internships. You can even use Craigslist in your area to search for internships too.
Spend time composing a thoughtful email to at least ten immediate connections detailing your experience and the type of internship you’re seeking.
Head to your college career office and see if there are any posted internship offerings there. You should also ask about your alumni network or professors that take on summer interns. You may already have people in the industry that enjoy recruiting students from their alma mater.
Sometimes it takes the right candidate to make a company realize, wait a minute, we do need a rockstar intern! Get in touch with the owner of a local eCommerce company by sending them an email introducing yourself. Let them know you’re interested in eCommerce, give a quick rundown of your credentials and let them know you’d love an opportunity should one present itself.
Drop knowledge about their company if you really want to be remembered.
Your first foray into eCommerce might not be a paid one. When it comes to internships, they fall into one of three categories: paid, stipend or credit. Most eCommerce intern job descriptions will let you know which their opportunity falls under, which will be helpful if you can’t afford to work just for credit.
These are ideal, especially if you’re on summer break and really need to save up for the coming school year. In general, paid internships will require you to work more hours, potentially even a full work week. The perk here, beyond getting paid, is that it’s a great forward look at what working in the industry might be like.
Since most students would prefer to be paid, the only con here is that these are often more competitive, so you’ll need to make sure your application really stands out.
If you see this on a job posting but aren’t sure what it means, you can ask for clarification at a later time. In general, this means you’ll receive a fixed sum. This could be a small amount for reimbursement for your travel or it could be a flat fee you are paid monthly. Either way, it’s meant to offer some form of compensation to you, but it won’t be akin to an hourly wage.
Before you apply for internships that only offer college credit, check with your own school to make sure you can accept it. Make sure the credit can also be applied to your major or to benefit you in some way. You don’t want to work for an extended period of time without reaping additional benefits (other than the experience!)
If an internship you want offers credit but you really need to work, try and work with them for a flexible schedule. Most employers understand the need for college students to make money and will probably be flexible in the days and hours you can work so that you can tack on a part-time job that pays.
You want me to work…for free?
Sometimes it takes a bit of a sacrifice to get your foot in the door at the company of your dreams. While it isn’t ideal to take an internship that offers you zero compensation, monetarily or otherwise, sometimes it can be the best way forward.
Take an unpaid internship if you want to work at the company and need to get your foot in the door. Or go for it if you think it’s an internship where the experience will be invaluable to you as you move forward in your eCommerce career.
Ultimately, the decision to take an unpaid internship is up to you. If you can financially handle it for the experience, go for it. But if the idea of working for free makes you sweat, try finding one that will offer some sort of financial help.
It’s time to make sure that once your application hits the desk of a prospective employer, it catches their eye and gets your foot in the door. Here’s how to make sure you stand out in the crowd.
Highlight Your Skills
Your Instagram following is 20K strong and you’re hoping to get a job in influencer marketing? Don’t be afraid to boast and explain exactly how you grew your personal fan base. If you have any personal interests or experiences that are directly applicable, drop them into your cover letter.
Cater Your Cover Letter
Do not write one generic cover letter and blast it out to every internship opening you want to apply for. Instead, spend time coming up with an intro paragraph that is specific to the job at hand. This will take a little more effort on your part, but it will pay off. Also, make sure to emphasize your skills and interest areas with the specific ones the company is seeking for the position.
Include Real World Experience
Nabbed an “A” in your digital marketing class? Ran a Facebook ad to promote your art show? Find that personal tidbit that will show them your eCommerce prowess and your obvious interest in it.
We’re not talking about mentioning that Kanye is your third cousin once removed. But we do want you to mention brands or competitors within the niche you’re applying in so they know you’ve got knowledge of the industry.
Find Common Ground
Everyone loves to have some commonalities with a person they might hire. Do a little cyber stalking (the legit kind) by looking up your potential employer’s LinkedIn profile to see where they’re from, where they’ve worked and if you may have anything else in common. Just make sure you’re being authentic. You don’t want to say, “Tim Ferris is my favorite author too!” but not be able to talk about his books intelligently.
Let Your Personality Shine
If you’re funny, be funny. Don’t be afraid to come across as light-hearted because when done correctly, you’ll really stand out. Here’s some good examples of one-liners you could get away with using in your cover letter.
I’m as reliable as a two-day Prime shipment.
I can’t wait to hone my SEO writing skills. Better my SEO writing skills. Write SEO like a pro.
I’m so good at writing code, it optimizes itself.
Keep Your Resume Brief
Since you don’t have years of experience under your belt yet, there’s no need to have a wordy, multi-page eCommerce resume. Limit it to one page and edit it so only the most relevant eCommerce experience is on there.
Before you hit “send”, make sure you’ve had your most grammar friendly friend or family member read both your resume and cover letter. You can’t get your foot in the door with misspelled words. Most companies worth working for will quickly discard your application if it has a glaring typo.
Interviews can be nerve wrecking. But it’s not all about how you answer the questions or how perfectly you’ve memorized the company’s roster. Sometimes it comes down to a personality fit or a gut feeling that an employer has. All the more reason for you to remember that above all, be yourself.
Here are some best practices for coming across as a top candidate in the hot seat.
Know The Company
Set aside a few hours to really do your research on the company you’re interviewing with. Take note of who works there, read through blog posts, get a sense of company culture on the “careers” page. There might be an opportunity where you can say: “I read that you have an annual staff day at a local soup kitchen. I’ve volunteered at the same one!” to show that you have done your homework. Just make sure you drop your knowledge where it makes sense. Don’t quote the company website throughout the whole interview.
Even if it’s pretty obvious that the office is a jeans-and-tee culture, dress up a little nicer for the interview. For both guys and girls, skip the jeans and sneakers. If you’re interviewing on Skype, make sure that you’ve got a professional outfit on and be sure that the background of your video call is professional too (i.e. not your band poster wall in your bedroom).
Have a few copies of your resume with you in case someone needs one so they don’t need to go print one off. Bring a notebook and pen and if you think there’s something you need to jot down, by all means do. For anyone in the design world (graphic or product), having a folio in hand is also key.
Bring Your Questions
The dreaded “Do you have any questions for us?” is definitely the hardest part of any interview. Things can feel forced if you don’t have a few thoughtful ones to ask. And you don’t want to say that you don’t have any questions either. Here’s a few suggestions, though we recommend you really think this through in advance so you can ask questions that you genuinely want answers to.
How is performance measured and reviewed?
Which of your competitors are you most nervous about?
How did you get your start in eCommerce?
If you think of your top employees, what are the characteristics that they have that make them so effective?
But Don’t Ask All The Questions
Keep questions about how long the workdays are and what the salary will be until you actually get the job offer. It’s hard to ask these questions without coming across as focused on the wrong aspects of the job. Wait until you are further along in the process to inquire.
Get a Business Card
You’ll want contact details so you can put a thank you note in the mail!
Follow Up In Due Time
Two weeks have passed? It’s acceptable to send off an email to inquire about your status. We suggest keeping it light.
Here’s an example email:
Thanks again for meeting with me last week. It was so great to connect in person and I enjoyed getting a glimpse at what working at Bella Baby would look like. I was wondering if you had a time frame for when you’ll be making a final decision. If you had any additional questions for me or needed any clarification, please don’t hesitate to ask. I hope the interview process has been going smoothly for you! I look forward to hearing from you.
An internship is a trial run for a potential job. Treat it as if you’re a candidate for a full-time job since that’s essentially what it could be. Jake Cook is the founder of Tadpull, a digital marketing software and services company in Bozeman, Montana. He has hired four past interns into full-time positions in his company. He’s seen firsthand how interns can excel so much that a company can’t imagine them not becoming a permanent team member.
Here are his key tips for how you should engage if you want to get hired.
Even if you have to make morning coffee runs, be the best coffee runner the team has every seen.
Get Involved In Everything
Jump at every opportunity to learn. Even if you’re working with the digital marketers, but the SEO team asks if you’re curious about a project they’re working on, dive right in. The more varied your knowledge of eCommerce can be, the better.
Take Every Task Seriously
“Even if you have to make morning coffee runs, be the best coffee runner the team has every seen,” says Jake. “Take even small opportunities like this one and find ways to make it better.” There will be some things that you’ll be asked to do that are not your eCommerce intern responsibilities. If your mindset is that you’re overqualified for any task, you’ll come across as entitled, which is not a trait an employer wants.
Engage With Others
Take every opportunity to connect with others around the office. When you’re refilling your mug in the office kitchen, engage with the employees that are in there. Ask them what they do in the company. But don’t ever ask too many personal questions (“So what do they pay you?”) and don’t pop your heard into the CEO’s office unannounced.
Arm yourself with a notepad and paper in every meeting you are invited to. The simple act of pro-actively taking notes won’t go unnoticed and will act as a strong signal that you’re detail oriented. Plus, there’s a good chance they’ll come in handy for you or someone else on the team when trying to recall details.
If you’re really great at graphic design, offer to lend your hand if anyone needs a little extra help. “Being a self starter is probably the biggest trait we look for,” says Jake. “We want to see interns that can find things that need to be done when their managers are busy during the day. We don’t like to see people just sitting and waiting for instructions.”
This is a learning experience so no one expects you to know everything or get the hang of things immediately. Instead, ask questions if you’re unsure about something. It’s better to be upfront about needing clarification rather than go into a task using some guesswork.
Try and find out everything there is to know about the company’s customers. “Understand everything about them. How they experience the brand, how they earn loyalty from customers,” says Jake. “Come at it from that biopic of wanting to understand the user very closely. It worked well for Jeff Bezos.”
Find New Ways to Learn
One of Jake’s interns really wanted to learn more about Instagram marketing, so she started a page for her friend’s pet corgi to try and learn about engagement and growing an audience. “We love to see interns that like to tinker and learn new things,” says Jake. “In this field something that is working today, won’t work next year, so a natural curiosity is key.”
Remember that you are starting out at the ground level, so keep these things in mind throughout your internship.
Don’t say you’re an expert at something unless you really are. “You may risk someone giving you a project you’re not equipped to tackle,” says Jake. And don’t be overly confident. Your work should speak for yourself so you don’t have to constantly sell yourself to managers.
Complain on Social Media
Had a rough day in the office? Have a vent session with your friends in person, but don’t ever post anything about the company on social media. Once it’s out there, someone will see it. It’s a fast way to ruin your reputation.
If an internship isn’t what you were hoping it would be, just finish the job and move on. You don’t ever want to leave on a bad note. Instead, use it as a learning process and be grateful for the lessons.
Your work should speak for yourself so you don’t have to constantly sell yourself to managers.
Engage in Office Gossip
You’ll undoubtably make friends as an intern, but that doesn’t mean you should engage in office politics or banter as an intern. This could easily backfire if someone finds out you’ve been chatty about any office issues or fellow employees.
Once you’ve wrapped up your internship, you might be ready to start your job hunt. If so, congrats! We think you’ve picked a great path to focus your career search in.
Here’s a few key things to focus on once your internship comes to an end.
Find Your Lane
Hopefully your internship has brought you one step closer to finding the niche you’re most interested in pursuing. Whether you’re looking for another internship or an entry-level job, take the time to find one in the path you’re most passionate about.
Stay In Touch
Unfortunately not every internship ends in an offer letter. Stay in touch with those you worked for or bonded with during your time at the company. Follow up every three months simply to check in and say hello. These connections can only help you in the future.
Ask For Feedback
Request an exit interview for some honest feedback once your internship wraps up. Use the constructive criticism to make changes in your next position. But also find out what your strengths were so you can be sure to mention those as you apply for jobs.
Leave handwritten notes or small tokes of appreciation behind with those you worked with. These gestures are sweet, sure, but they also show a level of gratitude and appreciation that won’t soon be forgotten.
Now that you know how to land your dream internship, it’s time to start hunting! Check out our list of currently open eCommerce internships here. Best of luck!
Everything you need to go forth and get that internship.
Position Yourself for an Internship