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How to Find an Internship at the Last Minute

Posted Apr 4 2014 - 7:00pm

It’s that time of year again. All of your friends are hearing back about their internship applications, but somehow you missed the memo and haven’t sent out a single application yet. With all your schoolwork and your busy social life, you may not have realized that summer is approaching—and fast. It happens; sometimes a busy collegiette gets so caught up with other things that her career plans can fall to the bottom of her priority list. But don’t worry; it’s not too late to snag an amazing internship! We talked to the experts about how to find an internship at the last second.

Start with recently posted positions

While many companies like to get a head start on hiring summer interns, this isn’t always the case. Start out your search by combing through job-posting sites. Tom Dezell, author of Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naïve Job Seeker, says you can try larger websites like Internships.com, but that “with any of the large career and job sites, you face the stiffest competition.” He recommends CollegeRecruiter.com or aggregator sites like Indeed and Simply Hired. Aggregator websites pull job postings from all over the web and put them in one place. They’re basically Google for your job search!

When searching for internships at the last minute, be sure to keep an eye on the date of postings. If you’re looking at a position now that was posted two months ago, it’s probably already been filled. Most of these websites will let you sort postings by date; start by applying for recent posts first so you can be one of the first applicants in. By focusing on these recent posts, you’ll seriously increase your chances of getting a position late in the game!

Reach out to alumni from your school

One of the most valuable resources you have as a student is the people who used to be exactly in your place. Usually, alumni love to help students from their alma mater. If you’re struggling to find an internship, Dezell says to seek alumni out during your job hunt. “Check with both the career center and alumni offices for possible contacts and introductions to alumni in fields you hope to pursue,” he says.

Career center associates usually keep track of prominent alumni in different industries, particularly those who would like to stay in touch with the school and its students. Make an appointment with an associate in your career development office and ask if there are any alumni he or she thinks you should be talking to! Ask for the alums’ contact information so you can email them.

You can seek out alumni online, too. “If you have started using LinkedIn, you could look up alumni at target companies and reach out to them directly,” Dezell says.

LinkedIn is an important career resource, so if you’re not already on it, make a profile ASAP! You can use the alumni search function to look for alums in your field, or you can try searching the whole site for the name of your school and of companies you’re interested in.

When you’ve found an alum whom you want to get in touch with, send him or her an email or personalized LinkedIn request explaining who you are and what your professional interests are. Tell the alum how you found his or her information, and ask if you can get together to talk about the industry. Don’t ask for an internship directly; mention that you’re looking for one, but focus on wanting to learn about the alum and his or her job.

Once you’ve started a conversation with an alum, tell him or her about what you’re interested in. Emily Miethner, founder of FindSpark, a community for young, creative professionals, says to “be specific about what type of role you want at one type of company. Otherwise, it’s hard for people to help you.”

If you tell an alum exactly what kind of opportunities you’re interested in, she’ll know to reach out to you if that kind of position opens up at her company or another one she’s connected to. Tell her exactly what you’re passionate about and how hard you’re willing to work for it, and you could be at the top of her list!

Find companies on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is useful for more than just finding alumni. Think about your industry and make a list of companies you would be interested in working for. If you don’t know any alumni who work there, search for the companies on LinkedIn. Most companies have LinkedIn pages where you can view its employees’ profiles.

“By looking up companies on [LinkedIn] that you might hope to intern with, you may discover you have connections to someone within the company that might be able to introduce you as an internship candidate,” Dezell says. Send a message through LinkedIn or send an email if the person’s address is listed, and tell her how interested you are in her company or job. By explaining your love of the industry and making the effort to contact her, you’ll stand out among potential interns.

If internship positions have already been filled, request an informational interview; people sometimes pull out of internships at the last minute, and you’ll be the first person the employer will think of when she needs a replacement. Even if the company isn’t hiring right now, you’ll stand out for future internships by expressing interest in the company. “Don’t be shy; associations will likely welcome the opportunity,” Dezell says. “They love to assist and know it’s a great opportunity to recruit future members.”

To ask for an informational interview, reach out and introduce yourself. Explain your interests and how you’re seeking an internship in the field and want to learn more about the industry. Ask for just 15 minutes to meet for coffee or chat on the phone; it’s not long, but it’s enough to get yourself noticed and have your questions answered.

According to Miethner, “It’s also okay to tell different people different goals based on what they’d be likely to help you with, if you’re open to a variety of opportunities.” For example, if you’re interested in publishing and public relations, reach out to people in both areas. Tell those in publishing how you’re dying to be an editorial intern, and talk to PR professionals about your passion for public relations. It’s okay to be open to different possibilities that you’re interested in, especially when you’re looking for an internship at the last minute. Cast a wide net and you’re sure to snag a great internship!

Get introduced

One of the most important things to remember while you search for an internship is that your network extends beyond professional contacts. Everyone you know – friends, family, professors – has the potential to help further your career. Ask your parents to think of friends they have in your industry. See if your older siblings know anyone, or ask your professors about their contacts. “Anybody you know that may have contacts in a field you’re looking at can [possibly] help,” Dezell says. “Don’t hesitate to ask anyone, since most people know people from many different backgrounds and can make referrals.”

If you’ve searched for companies on LinkedIn but don’t have any first connections there, see if you would be comfortable asking for introductions to second connections. You never know—your old roommate’s brother may have your dream job, and he may be looking for an intern! Send a message to your first connection explaining that you saw that he or she is connected to someone whose company interests you, and that you would love to be introduced to that person if that’s something he or she is comfortable with. Don’t push too hard; if your connection has only met that person once, he or she may not feel that an introduction is appropriate.

If your mutual friend can make an intro, Miethner says to “tell [your friend] exactly what you’d like them to say [to the person you’d like to connect with]. It isn’t pushy; it’s helpful.” That way, when you’re introduced, this new connection can know right off the bat what you’re interested in and that you’re seeking an internship. You should mention that you’re looking for an internship, but you shouldn’t be making any demands. Start out with your interest in the field and ask to meet for lunch or speak over the phone so you can prove yourself to be a valuable intern candidate.

Never be afraid to reach out to people; after all, the worst that can happen is that they say no. If that’s the case, just move on to the next contact. Reach out to everyone you can; you’ll never know whom you could meet if you don’t ask! Getting yourself out there is a great route to take when there aren’t many internship positions open. Making people aware of the fact that you’re looking for an internship will make them think of you when an opportunity arises. If you make connections now and stay in touch over the next few months, they’ll keep you in mind!

Make cold calls and create your own opportunities

This method can seem pretty intimidating to many collegiettes, but it’s totally worth it. If the companies you’re interested in don’t seem to be hiring interns, find a phone number for an HR representative or intern coordinator at the company and give him or her a call anyway. You can also try this over email since company phone numbers aren’t always available.

If you’re calling, give your quick elevator pitch and ask if the company is looking for interns. If the representative says the company has already filled its summer internship positions, ask if there’s any way you can volunteer to work with the company or shadow an employee for a few days. The company may not have the budget to pay another intern (if they’re paying interns at all), but if you’re qualified, they may accept the free help. Tell the representative you want to get involved in any way possible.

If the company you call doesn’t have an internship program at all, this is your chance to really sell yourself as a valuable addition to their team. When you’re struggling to find an internship, you need to get creative. Dezell says you sometimes have to “propose and create your own internship opportunities.” Give a brief description of your experience and how it relates to what the company does, and do your best to convince the representative to create a position for you. Dazzle her with your passion, dedication and fabulous personality, and she’s sure to want you on the team!

Go virtual

If there aren’t a lot of internships in your area and you’re concerned about getting summer housing in a major city at the last minute, consider seeking a remote internship. There are plenty of companies that hire interns to work from home. When searching for positions, try adding the term “remote” or “virtual” to your search.

Remote internships are great because they give you a lot of flexibility. They also save you the trouble of spending money on a commute or summer housing. This is especially helpful for unpaid positions; most unpaid interns lose money with the expenses required just to get to work.

If you’re interested in writing, social media or computer science, landing a remote internship is especially easy, since these industries require a lot of time on the computer and less face-to-face time. But no matter what industry you’re in, a remote internship could be possible. Virtual internships can be easier to get at the last minute because they require less planning in advance; if a company’s interns don’t have to find housing in the area, they can usually start work pretty much right away.

If your friends are accepting internships left and right, don’t sweat it, collegiettes! You have the resources you need to find an internship, even at the last minute. Take a deep breath and don’t stress. There are still plenty of opportunities out there!

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