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Three golden rules for starting your internship hunt

April 6, 2011

Alise Fisher (@alisefisher on Twitter) is a sophomore public relations and Spanish student at Syracuse University. She shares some excellent tips for beginning an internship search below.

Syracuse University PR student

Alise Fisher (@alisefisher)

For me, the most daunting part of the internship search is always getting started. Putting together a list of the right places to apply can be pretty overwhelming, thanks to Google and social media gone wild. Luckily, my previous quests for internship glory have taught me a thing or two about how to kick start the process without experiencing information overload.

Rule 1: Ask and you shall receive

The first step is to write down the places you would LOVE to intern — the ideal companies that come to mind immediately.  If any of those places list internship opportunities on their website, congratulations! You’re halfway there. But if they don’t, or if their job listings haven’t been updated since 1998, don’t despair.  Just ask.

This seems pretty obvious, but a lot of internship seekers hesitate here. It never, ever hurts to reach out and ask if a company is looking for interns, ever. The worst they can do is say no, but a surprising number of businesses are willing to consider someone who takes the initiative and shows interest, even if they aren’t actively looking for interns. Plus, what company can resist a little unpaid labor? Ask.

Rule 2: A little help from your friends

Next, think about your network. And by ‘network,’ I mean every Tom, Dick, Harry, parent, cousin, friend’s uncle, acquaintance and Twitter follower. I know people who have gotten internships through the person who sat next to them in class, through Twitter, or through that guy their dad had a beer with that one time. Seriously, get the word out that you’re looking, both in person and online. The people you know are your most valuable resource, and they’ll often come through for you.

Rule 3: Good things come in small packages

Don’t rule out potential places to intern just because they aren’t JP Morgan, MTV or Vogue.  Intern hopefuls tend to “go big or go home,” but smaller, lesser-known companies actually have a lot to offer. When I interned at a small marketing firm, I was given opportunities and responsibilities far beyond my lowly position, simply because they had a small staff and I was there. Their company name may not ring a bell with prospective employers, but instead of asking my bosses how they take their coffee, I was getting some serious hands-on experience. My point is, rather than scoff at John Doe, Inc., throw a couple of underdogs on your list.

Hopefully, working along these lines can help you start to put together a solid list of internship leads.  From there, the idea is just to apply your little heart out. And let me know if any of these tactics have ever landed you an internship! Good luck!

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