Getting THE Internship

July 20, 2012

Be excited! Internships lead to jobs! Jobs get you money! Money is cool! College is fun, but only if you work as hard as you play.

Ok so you’re pumped, right? Now, imagine your dream internship. Whether it be at a certain company, office space or in a specific field, find something you’re passionate about. The best part about this waiting period known as “college” is that there’s tons of time to experiment. If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, these 4 years serve as a great way to at the very least figure out what you don’t want to be.

If you’re looking for your first internship, realize that the likelihood of finding a paid one is slim to none, and that’s totally okay. Some of my favorite internships have been unpaid. (Shout out to The Gift Insider!) Free labor isn’t as bad as you think; your boss usually hooks up free lunches or a little bonus. Take a few unpaid internships during the school year or over the summer to gain experience and build your resumé.

In my opinion, the summer before you graduate is the most important time of college. If you’ve had meaningful internships in the past, you’ll most likely not have an issue landing a great one before your senior year. If you haven’t had experience, you’ll be a little more stressed out, but you’ve still got plenty of time.

Don’t stress! Here’s how I got offered internships at every place I applied:

Having had internships before this summer, I knew I was interested in working for a startup. My dream workplace was 1871 (duh), but the company, however, was TBD.

I loved every startup at 1871, obviously, because they are all awesome. After researching, I narrowed down my options to 8 companies, 7 of which didn’t have any posts about looking for interns. It’s important to realize that just because a company doesn’t have a “Now Hiring” sign doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. If it turns out they aren’t looking for help, you’ll at least make a good connection.

I’ve had a lot of experience applying places and being rejected/ignored, so I knew that I’d need to get creative with my presentation this time around. In the past, I tended to overanalyze the purpose of a cover letter. It sounds like some fancy, important document, and while it can be fancy and is definitely important, a cover letter is not the time to tell every little detail about everything you’ve ever done, ever. Think about the emails you receive, which ones catch your attention? Essay-long, boring ones? No. A cover letter should be short, sweet, and to the point, while still highlighting why you’ll be the best intern ever.

Here’s my secret recipe:

Subject: Your Future Intern :)

Dear Mr./Ms. Company Owner,

While I understand that I am applying for a position that doesn’t yet exist,  I’ve attached a copy of my resume that will let you know why I should be _________‘s next intern. I’d love an opportunity to explain myself further, but until then, here are 10 things you should know about me:

  1. I’m a _________ at _________ University.
  2. I am working towards my BA in _________ with a minor in _________.
  3. My education has made me extremely interested in working in the _________ field. I love _________ , _________, and _________ and hopefully want to _________ after graduation. I’m eager to find the perfect career after college, and  feel working at _________ would be a great way to reach my goals.
  4. I’m passionate and knowledgeable about _________, _________, _________, _________.
  5. My first internship was with _________ , a _________ company based out of _________. Working at _________ taught me the importance of _________,  _________, _________, _________.
  6. I’ve gained experience in _________ through being involved with _________. This taught me _________, _________ , and _________.
  7. My education and previous work experience have sparked my interest in _________ , and shown me _________, _________, _________. I believe this will be useful at your company because _________.
  8. I also have experience with _________ and _________ through working at _________.
  9. I am interested in working at your company because I feel it would showcase my current skills as well as help me gain experience in the _________ field. I specifically think I’d be great at _________, _________, _________.
  10. I’m hardworking, and have an understanding that my personal life becomes secondary once the work day starts.

Thanks for taking the time to learn a little more about me! I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Sincerely,

Your name.

Your phone number.

Your email.

It felt really risky, but I didn’t have anything to lose and was confident it would grab at least one person’s attention. Maybe it has to do with the places I was applying, but everyone loved my pitch wanted to set up interviews.

And then comes the scary part. Here’s how to make interviews less terrifying:

  • Confirm your interview the day before.
  • Remember: overdressed > underdressed. Present yourself in a way that says you’re a professional, even if you aren’t and it was the only suitable outfit in your closet. You can shop after you get the job. (Bonus)
  • Research everything about the industry, company, it’s competition, and the person interviewing you. Being able to control a little bit of the interview makes it easier. Ask questions like: “How did you get involved with this company?” “What is the company looking to do within the next five years?” “What does your average day entail?”
  • Arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Bring a notebook. Future bosses appreciate that old-school stuff. I suggest getting this one: Brilliant Idea Notebook. 
  • Actually take notes. Not only does it show off your superb intelligence and organizational skills, but also decreases the amount of awkward eye contact.
  • Be honest! When asked questions, don’t be ashamed to say you aren’t sure. They aren’t expecting you to know everything, that’s what the internship is for, silly.
  • Stay confident even if you feel things aren’t going exactly as planned.
  • Follow up after the interview, thanking them for taking the time to meet with you and reiterating your interest in the position.
  • Get the internship.
  • Go shopping..?
I chose to intern at Dashfire for the summer for several reasons. I wasn’t just the perfect opportunity to learn about the tech startup world, but I knew I’d  get hands-on experience with the process by which different startup companies launch. I’ve made connections with so many great people and will soon be helping out with Dashfire’s partners at BucketfeetThe Black Sheep, and TableSAVVY, which I’m very excited about. At Dashfire, I’ve learned about entrepreneurship and what it takes to start a company; a process that’s much more difficult than I expected it to be. It’s much like what it takes to get a great internship: you can’t just have a great idea, or a great resumé; both processes involve careful planning, assertiveness, creativity, and the dedication to see your vision succeed, knowing you may fail.
 
 
Got it?