Summer internships are coming.
That might mean that all of your friends are posting humble-brags about their crazy, awesome opportunities on social media right about now.
And meanwhile, you're sitting in bed eating chips and dying inside because you've got nothing lined up and it's already April. It's been a rough semester, and you just haven't had the time to really dedicate yourself to seeking out the best opportunities.
Well, Mark Babbitt, the CEO and founder of internship site Youtern, has some advice if you're struggling right now.
He told Business Insider that many large and high-profile companies have likely already selected most of their summer interns at this point.
However, that doesn't mean you're out of luck. You've just got to work hard and keep an open mind about what you're going to get at this point.
Here are Babbitt's two main tips for finding a great summer internship late in the game:
1. Broaden your search
You want to find a good fit, but now is not the time to be super picky about superficial things like brand recognition.
"Expand your target company list past the high-profile names and Fortune 100 companies," Babbitt said. "Deliberately seek out up-and-coming startups, for-profit corporations, or established nonprofits. Also, look at small-to-medium-sized businesses where you could make an immediate impact."
But you still want to choose companies you're genuinely interested in. Look into companies that you feel could benefit from your contribution. Babbitt advises doing your research and creating three separate lists — one for small-to-medium-sized businesses, one for nonprofits, and one for startups. On each list, include 10 target organizations. Do your homework on each institution and only apply to places you're actually interested in. Potential employers will most likely pick up on it if you see them as a last resort.
"Then begin looking for first, second, and third degree contacts within your LinkedIn profile who work at those companies," Babbitt said. "They are your best possible chance at gaining an inside track to an internship within those companies."
Babbitt recommends against applying cold through job boards or company websites.
"Instead, work hard to get to know those contacts who already work at the company," he said. "It doesn't necessarily need to be the hiring manager or intern supervisor. But it should be someone with influence within the company who could, under the right conditions, serve as an enthusiastic referral for your candidacy."
2. Reach out to everyone you can think of
The thing is, you're not going to land anything just by making a diverse list of potential employers. You've got to put yourself out there too.
"Turn into a networking machine," Babbitt said. "Through LinkedIn and Twitter, reach out to people already working at those companies. Build a one-on-one relationship — perhaps through an informational interview or at a local meet-up. Earn their trust to the point they might introduce you to HR or a hiring manager. Then — and only then — inquire about potential internship opportunities."
And don't just reach out to strangers. Put your existing network to work.
"With summer almost here, now is the time to connect — or reconnect — with everyone in your personal network who might have a lead on an internship," he said.
In order to expedite the process, prioritize your contacts.
"For your 'Grade A' contacts (those who may be able to refer you to an internship relatively soon), reach out via email or phone right away," Babbitt said. "But don't just settle for a conversation; invite them to an informational interview at a local coffee shop or diner. Buy them a cup of coffee or a meal — then ask them about their industry, their employer and their current mission. Go a little further and ask them about the kind of people they hire as interns — and ask how you could best fit into their existing process. Learn as much as you can — without being overly sales-y or directly asking for an offer. Remember, this is an informational interview — not a job interview. So act accordingly, and do everything you can to make a great impression."
Once you've burned through all those priority connections, move on to the rest of the contacts you're still in touch with.
"Reach out via email, phone, or social media and let them know you're actively looking for an internship," he said. "Ask them, specifically, if they know of anyone hiring interns this summer — then ask them for an introduction to the person who may be doing the hiring."
Lastly, you can attempt to rekindle things with the connections you've lost touch with.
"Let them know what you've been up to since you last spoke," he said. "And, of course, ask them questions about their work. Do not ask about a potential internship yet."
Instead, wait till you've resuscitated the relationship before asking. You don't want to become what Babbitt called an "ask-hole" — or someone who prematurely asks for personal favors.
"Your only job at this point: get to know that person well enough to build a mutually beneficial, personal relationship," he said.
In fact, even if you don't end up getting an internship, you'll have still done yourself a favor by revitalizing your professional network.
3. Remember that failing to snag an internship isn't the end of the world
Seriously. Internships aren't everything. Your career won't falter and wither away just because you spend a summer lifeguarding or mowing lawns instead of working in an office. In fact, summer jobs are a great way to make a bit of extra cash.
"A paid summer job is a terrific alternative to an internship," Babbitt said.
That being said, if you're really worried about your professional development, there are other alternatives to consider.
"Food service, retail, and seasonal positions certainly help pay the bills and can fill a gap in a résumé, but they aren't exactly eye-openers for potential employers," he said. "So instead of taking that job that isn't relevant to your career path, hold out for a position — either a traditional summer job or contract or freelance — that helps you gain new skills and experience."
Babbitt said to try to find a smaller organization that you'd like to work for and ask to speak with the general manager or owner. Babbitt even provided a template for a potential pitch:
"This summer, here's what I can do to help you be successful:
- Share three well-researched value points to back yourself up.
"I know you don't have a job posted for this kind of help. But here I am, ready to help solve some of your existing problems with [whatever area the organization may need help with]. And at $10 per hour, I am a steal."
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