Every college student knows about internships. It’s the thing to do – right? So in the Spring of your freshman year you attend career fairs, visit the Career Center on campus, create a resume, do a little research to see if there are any available internships and call it a day after finding out employers only talk to upcoming juniors and seniors.
So your sophomore year you go in a little smarter, prepared to “find” the internship opportunity that eluded you after your first year. Now, you “qualify” since you will be an incoming junior. All engines at full throttle! Then you find out all the internships are going to “incoming seniors” (this year’s juniors). Once again you are locked out.
Here are some interesting statistics from the infographic to the right before I share “the rest of the story”.
- 97.6 percent of interns recommended internships to other students
- As of April 15th, only 16.6 percent of seniors had received a job offer
- 68.9 percent of college seniors have done at least one internship
- Students with paid internships are three times more likely to have job offers than students with unpaid internships
- Students with three or more internships are twice as likely to have a job offer than students with just one internship
- 48.3 percent of internships were paid in 2014
Here’s the rest of the story…
So you have one last chance at an internship – next summer between your junior and senior years. You could approach it the same way you’ve done in the past – and likely end up empty-handed. Or you can take control of your own destiny and step up to the challenge. Here are some ways you can step up:
A. Meet representatives at the on-campus career fair. Get their business card. Attend profession-related association/chapter meetings in cities close to you, take business cards and get business cards from attendees.
B. Create a “drip marketing campaign“ where “you” are the product you are marketing (not selling!).
Identify the top 25 employers for internships based on your career direction. Don’t stop until you have 25 on the list.
Contact someone at each company to confirm an internship program exists. If not, you have to evaluate the value of keeping that company on the list or replace it with a different company. For example, the company may not have a formal internship program but you know someone who works there and they have told you it is possible to get a summer job there. In that case, you might want to keep them on the list. However, with no formal internship program and if you don’t have any “warm” or “hot” networking contacts at the company, you either need to get the networking contacts quickly (see LinkedIn) or drop the company.
Connect on LinkedIn with all employer contacts you can find at the employers on your list.
Construct a “Contact Management” Excel spreadsheet includes the name, job title, company name, mailing address for the contact, phone number and email address.
Use the Excel spreadsheet with Word Mail Merge to create printed letters and other materials you’ll be mailing (via USPS or FedEx) to your contacts. You can also track all activity with each contact using the contact management spreadsheet. For 25 companies, your goal is to obtain at least two contacts at each company. One is the key HR or “Talent Acquisition” specialist that handles internships. The other is a line manager, meaning a department head. This might be a VP, Director or Manager.
Design a campaign of ten communications, use e-mail, printed letters/postcards and phone calls.
Drip Campaign Sample Design
- SEPTEMBER: “I Want the Internship” postal mailing – This could be a letter or postcard design stating that: “I am so interested in what [xyz company] is doing related to [your field of interest] that it would be a great thing to intern at their company. I will be completing my junior year this upcoming May and want to intern at your company. I know this is a little early but I do want you to know of my interest. I’ll be reaching out to you a few more times over the next six months. If the possibility of an internship goes away just let me know and I’ll stop sending these. I’ve attached my resume in case you are personally interested. If you know someone who might be interested, don’t hesitate to send my resume to them.
- OCTOBER: “My LinkedIn Profile” – Hopefully you are already connected but if you aren’t no problem. If the contact has a LinkedIn profile, you can send them a “message” (if you are connected) or an “Inmail” (if you are not connected). In this message, you have to be brief. You might ask a question related to news you read about the company like “Hi ___, I read about the 80% layoffs at the corporate headquarters today. I hope you weren’t one of them but I feel for everyone who lost their job. Speaking of jobs, is the internship program going to survive the cuts?” That example, while using great ironic humor, probably won’t be seen in a humorous way. A better example might be “Hi ___, I just read about the new product release [check their Media page on their website for latest press releases]. Congratulations! I’m sure it took a lot of work by a lot of people. Reading about it made me wish I had been one of those contributing. I hope to do an internship with your company next summer so maybe I will be able to contribute in some small way. “
- NOVEMBER: Postal mailing, postcard or letter. Dear ___, Just a short note to say I am still very much interested in the ___ internship opportunity this upcoming summer. On a related note, I made a 4.0 in my Fall semester classes which included [name a relevant course, don’t name a course that they wouldn’t care about]. I also was elected president of the ___ club [if relevant to your career direction or if you feel it helps identify your leadership or project management skills development focus].
- DECEMBER: Phone Call
- JANUARY: Postal letter. Attach resume. This is a more formal letter requesting to speak with the person about upcoming opportunities to intern at their company. This may be customized based on what you already know.
- FEBRUARY: Email. Find something relevant about what positive things are happening at the company. Let the reader know you saw it/heard about it and that you are excited about the possibilities of working at xyz company. You can state that you’ve submitted your resume to the online applicant system per recommended procedure. [if that is true] or you can state that you are hoping to hear about any possible internship soon. If they can provide insight, it would be appreciated greatly.
- MARCH: If necessary; if no action has taken place. Obviously, if you are in mid-stream of getting the internship, you’ve stopped the regular drip marketing campaign by now and following the company’s requests/directives. But if they are like 50% of companies, an internship job posting hasn’t even happened. Send another more formal letter with resume attached. You might expand who you send it to as well. Go higher in the organization if you can identify the right contacts.
- APRIL: Time for a phone call. Time is running out. At this point you need to talk to someone who knows what is going on. Certainly, you need to call the people you’ve been sending all the other communications to. But ask for and look for others who may be more appropriate or have more decision making authority.
- MAY (twice): Check the job posting site for internships that might have come in late. Make follow up phone calls to all you know in the company.
- Late MAY: Email. Send your contacts a short note saying you haven’t landed that internship at their company yet but remain extremely interested. Tell them that “if an opportunity to job shadow for a week is available, you’d like to talk with the right person to make that happen”.
USPS mailings are low cost. If you have the budget, FedEx envelopes cost more but they are more notable. Remember that for the higher-level executives, there may be a gate keeper opening the mail for them. The more you can be appealing to the gate keeper, the better the chances your material is seen and discussed. Designing all ten communication pieces up front makes it much easier to do the actual design work and follow a theme. Use respectable humor occasionally but also be professional and direct with most of your communications. For example, all of your pieces might open with “From [Name], Your #1 Prospective Intern”.
Don’t forget how to use the phone.
Calling these contacts too often will not be good, however, perfect call timing has to do with one time of the year it is and what time of the day it is. For a summer internship, a first inquiry phone call in September (about 7 months before the actual internship timeframe) is very appropriate and accepted by most. A phone call in December just before the holidays hit is a great time for the second call. People are feeling the giving spirit and starting to wind down from the year. Your purpose of the second call is to ask for career advice (if a line manager, not HR) or, if it is HR you are contacting, you are inquiring about their plans for internships related to your field. Keep in mind you’ve already sent emails and postal mailings to these people. A third call is appropriate around February if you haven’t already been invited to interview.
So, if you really want an internship, move out of your comfort zone, manage yourself like a PR firm would manage you and get proactive in your pursuit.
Good luck next year!
Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works. Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.