How to land the internship you actually want (because it's probably not posted)


When an organization needs to hire new staff, HR is notified, job descriptions are edited or created, and openings are posted (if at the very least, on the company’s website). Internships, however, are very rarely publicized in the same way, and if they are, the competition for them skyrockets because now everyone can see them. The trick behind landing an awesome internship is not waiting for it to be posted - because it probably won’t be. 

“But where will I find internships if they’re not posted?”

You pound the proverbial pavement and you ask. A lot. One thing you want to learn as early as possible is that modern day job boards have made us all lazy. People think that if a job opening exists, that it must be posted online. Wrong. It’s estimated that only about 25% of job openings are ever publicized off the company's own site, and trust me, that figure is even smaller when it comes to internships. So armed with this new understanding of the employment landscape, wouldn’t it make sense to try a new method?

Getting started

First thing to understand about internships is they are usually budgeted (if paid) and therefore, are planned in advance by the company. If you're hunting in April for something that starts in May, chances are, the best roles are filled already. (In my experience as a recruiter who ran our company's internship program, I was at career fairs in September or October looking for students to start in June.)  So the earlier you can start thinking about this process, the better. 

Understanding what you're looking for

Now, even though you may be seeking an internship, the first step to finding one is very similar to entry-level job hunting. Of course you can peel through your college's student job board, but that's reactive and might not be specific to what you want. It's also going to be flooded with resumes since every other student is going there, so how do you find something you want to do and stand out? You ask yourself, "Where do I want to intern/work, and what would I like to do?"

The other super important thing to uncover is what type of hunter you are.  Now, some people may be job hunters, meaning they don’t really care where they do XYZ job, they just know they want to do that job. Others may actually be company hunters, meaning they could feasibly fit into a number a roles based on their interests and skills, however, they really just want to work for that organization or in that sector/environment (healthcare, higher education, tech, law, etc.). Once you know what type of hunter you are, the next step becomes much easier.

Leveraging your LinkedIn network

The best way to find internships is to reach out to the people and places you’d actually be interning for, and the best place to find them is LinkedIn. Assuming you have at least a few dozen (or hundred) connections, go to your search bar and lick the magnifying glass to open up your broader search filters. Not only does this allow you to find anyone in your network that has a matching job title or company you’re seeking, but it also allows you to then filter down by location, industry, and even alumni network (by searching your school).

Connecting to start a conversation

Once you find someone who works in the role or company of interest, connect with them and be sure to personalize the message with something like, “Hi Jen. I know this is a bit random, but I saw that you went to XYZ University and now work at Company X. Your job sounds amazing! I was just wondering if you ever take interns in your department? Thanks for your time. Best, Krystal.” Connecting with alumni from your college can be incredibly useful here, as it creates a very warm introduction and already establishes that you have something in common. Also, they probably remember what it was like to be in your shoes, so they’re most likely going to empathize and give you a minute of their time.

Asking the right questions

Once you connect and perhaps start a dialogue with someone via email or over the phone, don’t forget to build a rapport with them before you flat out ASK for an internship. Ask them questions about THEM and if they did an internship in college. If so, where? And what would be their advice for you right now as you're trying to enter into the field? You’re basically conducting an informational interview, so remember, people love talking about themselves… just give them the chance. You can use this information to gain insight and perspective, so don’t take this time for granted. Not only that, but you’ll most likely find that you rarely have to ask for an internship. If they’ve ever hosted interns before, you’ll probably be encouraged to submit your resume either to them, or their recruiter, so they can keep it on file and see if something might become available. That’s not to say won’t have to interview for that opportunity, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

Finally, thank them!

Regardless of whether the conversation ends with a follow-up call, you sending in a resume, or an apologetic “Sorry, I’m not sure we have anything, but best of luck…” you better send them a thank you card. Yes, a card. Don’t be lazy. Get a package of those little blank ones, buy a damn stamp, and pop that thing in the mail addressed to them at their office location (Google it if you have to). It is imperative that you do this because 1) they spent time on you (and they didn’t have to), and 2) that thank you card will serve as a nice reminder of your conversation with them when it shows up a week later. I’ve seen this motivate alumni to make phone calls and network on the student’s behalf, sometimes resulting in leads and further introductions to others in the field. Don’t ever underestimate what gratitude and appreciation can inspire. It is your job to enable people to help you. Just be sure to thank them after.