Getting An Internship WITHOUT the "Trial and Error"

It’s the middle of a tumultuous season for students, as we’re trying to juggle a lot of things right now. We’re submitting assignments, studying for final exams, perhaps graduating, and for those seeking experience in their desired fields, we’re searching for internships. This is the second year in a row I’ve searched for internships. Although I have a part-time job I can fall back on when I come home for breaks, summer is the prime time for internships. It’s important to get your foot in the door and learn about what you like (and what you don’t like). With one internship under my belt from the previous summer, I came into this internship season with some knowledge and more experience written on my resume. However, I still suffered from moments (let’s be honest, weeks) of stress, no matter how much I thought I knew what I was doing. Here’s what I’ve gathered from my internship research experience that will hopefully guide you in the right direction and ensure a quicker response from the #1 on your list!


Address the elephant in the room: your resume and cover letter.

As daunting as it sounds to have those completely flushed out and written, it quite literally represents who you are, sans headshot. Be sure to list your job experience, with the most recent job at the top and so on for each one after. The same applies to the schools you’ve attended. Don’t forget to mention skills, extracurricular activities, and extra bits like volunteer experience. If you feel the need to expand on these, for fear of muddying up the precious space on your resume, write about them on your cover letter. Your cover letter should introduce yourself in a friendly manner, and simultaneously address key traits and skills the internship notes they’re searching for in the job position. Sell yourself and your expertise!

Know the worth of your time/skills/energy/etc.

Internships are extremely beneficial (when they’re paid). I’m a huge supporter of paid internships because it’s an experience unlike that of working on projects and homework. In the real world you apply for a job, interview with the Head of said department, and begin a journey that includes making mistakes, learning along the way, and making your mark on the company—how is that any different from an internship, which are commonly unpaid? Nowadays, students can’t afford to work unpaid with student loans, and commonly a house/apartment to pay for during the school year. If you believe you can afford an unpaid internship, it’s a personal decision you should consult your parents about. I could write an essay on the benefits of paid internships, but that’s for another time. In the meantime, consider the transportation costs, food you’ll spend, and overall time you’ll put into the internship before you research positions that are unpaid.

Start researching positions on job boards/search engines.

Once you’ve determined what kind of position you’re willing to take on, start your search! It can be overwhelming, staring at the search box, not knowing where to begin. LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Internships (a lot of outdated posts), Handshake (for my U.S. friends), Monster, and Reed are good websites to use. So, start with the search engine filters to help you. The most important filter to begin with is to narrow down the primary location you’re considering. If you’re looking at positions in a big city, you can usually vary the distance range from that city. Look out for filters like whether the position is paid, how close the job posting is to expiring (or recently posted, even better!), or perhaps what industry it is in. Use the filters to your advantage, and then pay attention to the titles of the positions. Diversify the names of the internships by adding ‘summer’ or ‘2019,’ that way you get more current roles.

Email the company directly.

If you haven’t heard back from companies, fear not. Some companies I’ve applied to strictly tell me not to email them again once I’ve applied because they will reach out to you if they’re interested. If you’re finding it difficult to hear back from anyone at all, take matters into your own hands and reach out to the company. If the job search website updates you on the status of your application, otherwise be patient and see if the job poster reviews it. Take it one step back and apply to the company directly! It never hurts to be prompt, and you’ll certainly get an answer back from a real person and not an automated email. I’ve heard back from more companies when I’ve directly emailed them than I have patiently waiting for an application to be opened that never would.

Be patient and keep applying.

You’ve now applied to easily a dozen internships, so now you deserve to chill out for a bit. Remember that these companies do have to run themselves, but at a certain point, they should get back to you within a week or so of your application. There’s no definite amount of time, so it’s all a waiting game. Be sure to go back into your resume and cover letter and see if they need tweaking. In the meantime, pat yourself on the back. Soon enough you’ll hear back from someone, thus the beginning of your internship journey!