Stop Competing, Start Interning: 10 Unconventional Ways to Land an Internship

Rounding off your college education with an internship is one of the best career moves you’ll ever make. But landing the right internship takes time and persistence - just ask those rare unicorns who manage to list not one, not two, but 15 internships on their resume (true story!).

So, in the interest of getting things moving for you, check out this list of some pretty awesome - and offbeat - tips from those who’ve experienced extraordinary success at this:

  • Networking: Scope out profiles on LinkedIn and connect with other/former interns at the companies you want to intern at. If they interned there, they are guaranteed to have been in touch with the hiring manager and could connect you with them. Same goes for employees. Ask them whether they’d be open to speaking with you on the phone. Some will accept. During the course of that call, ask them: “Is there someone else you think I should connect with?”

  • Craiglist it: If a full summer internship is hard to come by, try throwing your hat into the Craigslist ring. Almost every ‘expert intern’ swears by the idea of using the site to find project work that can help bolster your portfolio. Now, a Craigslist gig will likely not pay top dollar. So instead, see if they’d be willing to write you a glowing review on professional sites such as LinkedIn. (PSA: Just be smart about it and always stay on the lookout for scamsters).

  • Cold calling: Perhaps the most daunting option of all, but often the most effective. Reach out to smaller companies and offer to complete a project for them over the summer. Figure out what they need (a new website? Reinvigorated social media presence?) and offer them that service.

  • Tell your professor(s): They might have industry connections they could refer you to.

  • Try new things: Don’t tie yourself down to just one career choice. If you have no big financial commitments right now, this is your time to explore. So be open to all sorts of opportunities. Large corporations add brands to your resume, but smaller ones often need you more and thus, offer more learning opportunities.

  • Resume hacks:

    • Make sure your resume does not exceed one page
    • Write concise points, not full sentences
    • Wherever possible, back up your claims with hard data (Example: ‘Increased sales of cold brew coffee by 13% y-o-y’; not: ‘Increased sales of cold brew coffee’)
    • Don’t list every achievement, just the really big/relevant (to the role) ones. Winning the Dean’s Award stays out, but landing a scholarship that 500 people applied to, is in
    • List your GPA only if it’s 3 or higher
    • Include all previous experience, even part-time jobs. It shows your ability to hustle
    • Augment your resume by participating in collaborative projects. Schools have an interest in building their reputation so if the project is prestigious enough, your school might be willing to fund your participation in it
    • Join professional societies in your field of study and work towards getting leadership roles there. It shows you have initiative and that people trust you to be a leader. 
  • Keep applying: If you have an excellent strike rate, you will probably get one interview call out of every five applications. And you want at least four or five interviews to have a good shot at converting one. That means at least 20 to 25 applications, though many people apply to as many as 50 internships. Start applying early, as early as freshman year, so you begin to develop a feel for what skillsets employers look for in your field and can use this knowledge to help you do better in subsequent applications.

  • Go to career fairs: Great opportunity to put yourself in front of recruiters! Yes, it’ll feel awkward the first couple of times but the whole point is to learn to get over that phase. Wear business casual or business professional and, even if inexpensive, make sure your clothes fit well. Listen and absorb information and use that to build and improve your elevator pitch.
  • Write emails: Follow-up emails all around. Email everyone you meet with. Ask them how you can do better, and close by thanking them for their time.

  • Volunteer: Check out volunteer connect platforms and find organizations where you can use your time for the greater good. It’s a great way to sharpen your skills - and to make some valuable additions to your resume.