Crush the Rush: Your 5-point Cheat Sheet to Landing a Last-Minute Internship

Published: March 2019

Can you believe it’s almost April already? Watching the sun stream through the blinds this morning, it struck me: hiring for this year’s summer internships is already almost over.

It’s true that a bunch of big names exit the employers’ pool at the end of February; equally true is the fact that most applicants (graduates and students) do not even start applying until well into March. You’re definitely not alone.

Now, getting an internship at this stage is not impossible. In fact, your chances are still pretty good - especially if you build some strategy into your execution:

1. Call in those favors (or start a new tab!)

Several career consultants will tell you that 60% (some say 80%) of all jobs are never advertised or posted online. Just like this hidden job market, it might make sense to assume there’s a hidden internships market out there - and try to tap into it as well. One of the ways to do that is to make a list of employers you’re interested in and look at the companies’ web portals for listings. If you have access to your college’s career office, check in with them regularly. Talk to your current or former professors and see if they’d be willing to tap their industry connections for you. Find someone in your school’s alumni network who might be willing to ask on your behalf. Start with making a list of all of these people and resources and systematically work your way down.

2. Save time on applications

Not every opportunity is the right fit for you. Even if it is in the same field, that internship you are coveting might be better suited to a graduate or a junior rather than a sophomore. So read the job description carefully and save your time and application mojo for other opportunities.

Another great time to save time? Look at ‘date posted’. Internships.com puts this information front and center, as do some other job boards. If it’s been more than a couple weeks, chances are, it’s gone. If you don’t see when the position was posted or are not sure of its availability, don’t be afraid to Google the company, call them, and check with HR/recruiting.

3. Spend time on *some* applications

All that time you saved not applying to irrelevant postings? Use it to customize your application for those you do apply to. Obviously, you don’t have a ton of time and not a lot of work experience either, so one of the simpler ways to do this is to incorporate some of the language from the job posting into your application.

4. Will it into being!

Okay, that might sound too kooky, but the idea here is to figure out a place that could use your talents and make them aware of that fact. That tiny creative studio whose work you so admire? Check whether they have an internship program and if they don’t (very likely if it’s a startup or a small enterprise), reach out to a manager on LinkedIn and (respectfully!) request an informational interview. Ask them whether they have considered hiring an intern and listen to what they have to say. Do your research beforehand and identify a project you could assist on. A small company, for example, may not have the time to keep their website updated. Or they might have a blog they haven’t posted to in a while. If you have the skills to take on these tasks, let them know. Help them see how you can add value, and they might just let you!

5. Internship ≠ cheap labor

The whole point of an internship is that it’s supposed to be a learning opportunity for you, preferably one that’s closely aligned to your college major/choice of career. Don’t lose sight of this when you’re feeling desperate and ready to FCFS any old offer of internship. The truth is, some employers aren’t as interested in your professional development as they are in cheap labor. Look at the role that’s on offer, use LinkedIn to research the background and skills of the team(s) you will be working with, and evaluate what you stand to gain. A new set of skills? Professional growth and networking opportunities? An understanding of potential careers in that organization? Accept only if it makes sense from a career standpoint. If not, go back to points #1 through #4 and try again!