A Marathon, Not a Sprint

It’s time to start thinking about finding an internship. The good news is that you have little to worry about! Much like a shiny quarter magically appeared under your pillow in exchange for a lost tooth as a child, you can expect that the Internship Fairy will come through for you and hand deliver the perfect internship without you having to do a thing!

The bad news is that the Internship Fairy is not nearly as reliable as rumored when it comes to helping you land an awesome internship. In the absence of a great deal of fortunate serendipity, that fact is that finding an internship isn’t any easier than any other job search, and that the most successful searches are marked by a great deal of horsepower being put forth on the part of the searcher.

Keep It Up!

You got an interview, congratulations! Your next order of business, after preparing for the interview by ensuring you’ve researched the company and ironed your interview clothes, should be to put in five more applications for other internships. If you put all of your stock in securing the internship you have an interview scheduled for, and that one doesn’t work out, you’ve potentially missed out on several other great opportunities in the meantime. Internships go fast, so don’t lose momentum on getting applications in until you’ve accepted a firm offer.

Follow Up!

You submitted your application; just wait for the email inviting you to an interview, right? You had the interview, surely an offer will be headed your way soon; just kick back and wait for that to happen, correct? Don’t let factors like thinking that you will annoy potential internship employers or letting things take priority over your internship search result in missed opportunities that could have been had with a simple follow-up email or phone call. Instead, practice the art of ‘professional persistence’ or ‘effective follow-up.’

When you applied, did you get an email letting you know when you should expect to hear if you got an interview? If so, the day after that date passes, you should follow up to ask about the status of the search. In the absence of a specific date being communicated to you after sending in an application, wait three to five business days, then follow up. Same story with interviews. Always, always, always ask what the timeline for hearing back is at the end of your interview, if they didn’t already provide that information, then follow up right away if that date passes. It’s not pushy or rude, and you should word your follow up neutrally and professionally, to check in when it appears as though the timeline you were given is no longer correct.

Sometimes hiring managers get busy, and despite their best intentions to keep the internship hiring process moving along, it gets pushed to the back burner. Your professional follow-up might just be the thing that encourages that hiring manager to get the process back on track, and in following up you’ve gotten your name in front of them again and have demonstrated a definite interest in the opportunity.

Use All of Your Resources

Your school likely has a database where internship opportunities are posted. Don’t fall into the trap of limiting your search only to that resource! There are many sources for potential internships out there that you should be tapping into. There are general job boards, like Monster, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. In addition, there are job boards that are specific to a particular field, like Teamworkonline for sports-related positions. Also, don’t forget that many professional associations have sections of their websites where jobs can be posted. CalCPA is a good example of this for accounting-related positions.

Though we spend much of our lives online today, there are many off-line resources for finding internships as well. Tell your family and friends that you’re searching for an internship; you never know what connections you might access through your existing network. I once had a student who got an internship because his mom’s masseuses’ son happened to work in his industry and had an internship opportunity. Attend networking events and professional association conferences/events (these are many times deeply discounted or free for students). Though your resume may be currently languishing in a stack of hundreds to be considered, the impression you’re able to make on a hiring manager in three minutes at a networking event may be just what’s needed to get you to the front of the line.

Be bold. I have had several students who landed internships simply by walking in the front door. It’s easy for a potential internship employer to ignore an email or a voicemail, but it’s much more difficult to ignore a person standing in their office. I’m not suggesting that you stage sit-ins at offices until you’re offered an internship, but I have seen students be successful with a well-executed and professional drop-in. Prepare as you would for an interview, including researching the company, professional dress, and having your resume and cover letter perfect and simply walk into a company that is of interest to you. Be sensitive to the fact that you are coming in suddenly and don’t have an appointment with anyone, but just ask if the company currently hires interns, or if they would be willing to consider it. You might be able to speak with someone right away, you might be asked to leave a copy of your resume (which you should follow up on in three to five business days if you’re not contacted), or you might be told that the company doesn’t work with interns; but in any case you explored the opportunity!

Marathon, Not a Sprint

The internship search process is typically not easy. In some cases, it goes on far longer than you expect, and can understandably become discouraging, but don’t lose hope! The success of the search is directly proportional to the level of effort you put into it. Although there isn’t an Internship Fairy, your own efforts, professionalism, and dedication will pay off in a great internship!

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Menlo College

Menlo College is a small, liberal arts-based, four-year private business college in the San Francisco Bay Area. All business majors participate in an intensive academic internship in Silicon Valley before they graduate.