5 Tips to Land a Last Minute Internship

April 12, 2016

high school and college internships
The school year is almost over and summer is just a month away. All you have to do now is coast through the rest of the semester, crush a few papers, form a solid study group for that one big final, and oh… how did you completely forget about applying to internships?! Don’t panic, it’s not too late to still land one for this summer. Here’s how:

1) Choose your industry

There are many industries that wrap up recruiting by winter break, but there are also ones that don’t hire summer interns until a month out from the actual start date. Find out which industries these are and decide whether you’re interested in these fields or if you’d be able to learn relevant skills that you can use as a steppingstone.

For example, I was interested in a career in broadcast journalism, but, when I didn’t get a journalism internship by May, I had to expand my search. I ended up as a Communications Intern at a government agency in DC instead of at CNN. Although it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, I knew I would gain marketable skills and know-how that would complement a journalism career.

2) Know where to look

Your school job posting portal is a great place to start, but it shouldn’t be the only place you look. Aside from checking external job boards and LinkedIn for open positions, look into industry-specific job listings. If you’re not sure whether your industry has a specialized job board, check with professors in that field or with older students who are part of relevant affinity groups. There are often untapped opportunities ripe for picking by a discerning internship seeker. This also means less competition for one of these spots because few applicants have ventured far enough to find it.

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3) Be proactive

Yes, this means be diligent about your search; check for openings regularly and jump on new postings. However, it also means you should go above and beyond what most people do. Pat yourself on the back after submitting a resume and cover letter? You wish. This is tip #3 - you should know by now you’re playing in the big leagues. Here’s how I would define being proactive:

Dial it in

You know what’s harder to ignore than a cover letter? A real person on the other end of the line. If you really want a job, pick up that phone and get someone to tell you whether there are open positions that haven’t been posted or to put you in touch with whoever is making hiring decisions. True story: My dad once made me call 50 of the top law firms in NYC to ask whether they had internships for college students. None did, but it was an exercise I’ll always remember. It also honed my rhetoric so, with each phone call, I got better at explaining my interest.

Ask for “informational” interviews

These aren’t real interviews but meetings or phone calls you request with a potential manager in order to learn more about a position or that person’s career path. If you can get one of these, that’s a foot in the door. Not only do you get to meet with someone who can guide you (and whom you now have as an insider contact), but you get to directly express interest in working there. At the end of the informational interview, let the interviewer know that you would be interested in any positions that open up. Who do you think they’ll think of when one does become available? Hint: it’s not that guy pursuing a study in complacency without the verve to put himself out there. At the very least, you’ll have learned more about what the job entails and be able to speak to it, should you interview for it at a later time. Caveat: Come prepared. Nothing looks worse than being granted a favor and then wasting the other person’s time because you didn’t do your homework. That brings me to….

Follow up

You won’t believe the opportunities lost because people fail to follow up. Now that I sit on the other side of the hiring desk, I can tell you that I don’t consider candidates who don’t follow up interviews with a thank you; this extends to informational interviews. Writing a thank you note is not only a common courtesy but demonstrates follow-through and professional acumen. If someone tells you there may be an open position and will let you know in a week, if you don’t hear back after a week, it’s on you to reach out and inquire. No one cares about your career as much as you do.

4) Put it out there

The candidates most likely to get hired are personal referrals. Tell everyone in your network—family friends, professors, neighbors, your dentist, basically anyone and everyone who will listen—that you’re looking for an internship. You’re not a startup - get out of stealth mode. (To that end, I don’t think startups should have a stealth mode either. It’s hard to grow in a vacuum.) The more people you tell, the more likely you are to discover an opportunity and, better yet, also have someone to vouch for you.

5) Choose your own adventure

Sometimes, the best opportunities are ones that don’t exist yet. If your dream internship isn’t available, create it. Reach out to people or organizations you want to work with and ask to volunteer over the summer or to shadow someone you would like to have as a mentor. The best part of this method is that you get to shape your entire experience and it shows ingenuity and initiative, which is something you can highlight when you interview for a full-time job.

Bonus tip: Stay in touch

Even if you don’t land an internship this summer, ask to be considered at a later time and keep in touch with your point person. You never know. Even though I didn’t get my dream internship at CNN that summer, they called me toward the end of the summer to let me know there was a position that fall if I was still interested. And that’s how I landed my dream externship at CNN that fall semester.

Read more internship advice from students by searching through our database of admitted students. Find thousands of students just like you who have shared their college admissions stories and pieces of advice on all things high school and college life. 

About The Author

Stephanie Shyu
Stephanie Shyu

Steph is our founder and the most prolific consumer of Easy Mac™® within a 3-mile radius of our office. She attended Duke where she was a Div 1 fencer, then picked up a J.D. and a Wharton Certificate focusing on Entrepreneurial Studies from UPenn plus an LL.M. from the University of Hong Kong. She founded a charity to increase education access for female students in rural China and was once an aspiring journalist (as is clearly evident from this artfully crafted author bio). Named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, she gives interviews and talks about startups, education, and student mental health – email her at steph@admitsee.com.

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