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

Updated: September 9, 2020

You’ve probably heard all about how to get an internship by now: do your research, perfect your resume, apply again (and again, and again), and nail the interview. For the most part, getting the right internship is a matter of time and persistence. But sometimes, it can get tiring. If you’re fed up with your regular internship application routine, try out these 10 off-the-beaten-path strategies for landing an internship.

You can also check out this video from Lauren Berger, the Intern Queen, on seven out-of-the-box ways to get an internship, based on her personal experience in PR and media.


  • Network up a storm.Spend some time on LinkedIn and connect with other/former interns at the companies you’re interested in. Be sure to personalize your message to increase the odds that they respond! Anyone who interned or worked at a company will know the hiring manager, but you don’t want to be too heavy-handed. Instead, ask if they’d be willing to hop on a short informational call. If they accept, have a series of questions at the ready, and end by asking, “Is there anyone else you think I should connect with?”
  • Craigslist it. If you’re finding it hard to come by a full-time internship, try throwing your hat into the Craigslist ring. Almost every expert 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: Craigslist is Craiglist, so be smart about it and always stay on the lookout for scams!).
  • Take a deep breath and cold call. While it is daunting, cold calling is also one of the most effective ways to get an internship. Reach out to smaller companies and offer to complete a project for them. Figure out what they need ahead of time (a new website? Reinvigorated social media presence?) and offer them that service. Who could say no to that?
  • Talk to your professor(s). Professors want you to succeed, and they might have industry connections they could refer you to. If you have a good relationship with any of your professors, meet with them after class and let them know that you’re in the market for an internship.
  • Try new things. Don’t tie yourself to just one career choice. Unless you have big financial commitments right now, this is your time to explore. And even if you do have to worry about your budget, you can still look for a variety of paid opportunities. Be open to anything and everything. Large corporations will make for an impressive resume, but smaller ones often need you more—and offer less competition and more learning opportunities.
  • Join professional societies. Add a line to your resume and meet like-minded people at the same time. By joining professional associations in your field of study, you’re sure to build your skills and connect with other professionals. If you’re particularly ambitious, you work towards getting a leadership role.
  • Keep applying. If you have an excellent strike rate, you might get one interview from every five applications. At a minimum, you’ll want to have five interviews lined up to have a good shot at actually getting an offer. That means at least 25 applications in total, though often 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. Career fairs are an amazing opportunity to put yourself right in front of recruiters and forge a personal connection. Yes, it will feel awkward the first couple of times, but you’ll get over it quickly. Dress smart, listen carefully, and use what you learn to build and improve your elevator pitch. (That is, your 30-second summary of what you’re looking for and why you’re amazing.)
  • Follow up on everything. Email everyone you meet. Say hi, say thanks, ask for a call or a coffee. When you don’t get an offer, ask how you can do better. And always close by thanking the person for their time.
  • Volunteer. If you don’t have an internship, you can always volunteer—and oftentimes you’ll still learn a ton and make great connections. Check out volunteering websites and apps, and find organizations where you can use your time for the greater good. Another bonus: It never hurts to ask if your volunteer gig can turn into an unpaid internship in the future!