How to Land an Internship Today

By Anne Brown
Author, Grad to Great

Did you know that companies need more help during a recession than when the economy is actually thriving? It's true and the reason is simple. When companies have layoffs, fewer employees are expected to do the work that several employees once did. While this period of being overworked is no fun for the employees, it's your ticket to securing an internship that otherwise may not have existed if the economy was in better shape. So where do you find all of these newly created and available internships? First, realize that not all of these internships have even been identified yet. So, that means there are two types of internships available to you. 1.) Internships available through formal internship programs within companies and that may be advertised through your on campus career center; 2.) Internships that companies create after you approach them and ask for one. I can tell you from my experience, that all of my former bosses wanted to hire interns at every single company I have ever worked. Often I was tasked with hiring interns, and I ran into the same problem over and over again. If I called up the campus career center and asked to be connected with professors who taught the subject matter we were interested in, the person answering the phone would insist that I open some online account with them and post jobs through the web site. That way, any student, whether they had the type of experience we wanted or not, could then post their resume for us, or send us an email. This process is cumbersome, and frankly just plain annoying. Forget it! Now, when students approached me through email and explained how much they wanted to do an internship with our company, that would get my attention right away. Especially if we had not listed an internship opportunity anywhere. When a student takes the initiative to create their own job description and propose what the internship could look like, I know that student will have the ability to move initiatives forward as an employee as well. By the way, professors are great referrals because if they are impressed by a student, chances are an employer will be too. Professors teach hundreds or thousands of students each year. If they think you're a standout, I guarantee an employer will think you're outstanding. While you're still in school, and even after you graduate, make it a point to be on good terms with your professors. So where can you find internships? Here's a few creative ways to land an internship right away: 1. Visit the web sites of companies that interest you. Write a letter to the person in charge of the division at the company you want to work for. Forget the HR department for now. And this is not a cover letter. It's a letter explaining your deep interest in this company, and more specifically in that division. Clearly state that you want to do an internship for them, that you'll work for free, and that you're available immediately for part-time. 2. Pick up the phone and call the person you want to work for. Ask if you can send over your resume and again, explain your deep interest in this company, and more specifically in that division. Clearly state that you want to do an internship for them, that you'll work for free, and that you're available immediately for part-time. 3. Visit or call your campus career center and ask to learn about any opportunities they know about that may not yet be online. 4. Ask your professors, family, and friends about any companies they know of that might be willing to hire an intern. Most of these positions will be unpaid, but don't let that deter you from pursuing the internship. Don't be put off if you don't get college credit for the internship either. Getting experience in your chosen field, even unpaid/no credit experience, is worth a zillion times more than showing up to a job interview with a 4.0 GPA, but zero job experience. Employers want to know you can put theory into practice. And even if you're only getting coffee for the senior executives at the company during your internship, you're benefiting from learning about the decisions they have to make on a daily basis. You're getting exposure to the industry. You're learning the lingo of your chosen profession, which is not taught in the classroom. In other words, your starting (just starting) to pay your dues. So don't let an unpaid internship slip through your fingers just because you think you should get paid. For more career tips and job search opportunities sign up for our FREE quarterly newsletter.