I have always been a proponent of creating your own job—it’s the one way to truly put yourself in the driver’s seat of your own destiny. It involves a lot of market research—identifying market need and where you fit, deciding on your role and ideal organizations and then pitching yourself.
This works equally well with internships. Pick an interest area, do your research to identify organizations and people who might hire you as an intern, and find a way to contact them directly. Pitch them by sharing your compelling story of why you’re interested in their business or cause, and what you have to offer. This is a marketing exercise, make no mistake.
Summer is coming and I am finding that many college students and new grads have not yet secured an internship. The deadline has passed for most of the larger, more formal internship programs, but many organizations hire students in the summer months in a less formal way. And I am not only talking about unpaid internships—you can still develop paid internship opportunities.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts for creating your own internship:
Do Your Research.
Canvas your friends, parents, friends of friends…anyone you can think of who might know someone in a position to hire you as an intern in your area of interest. Create a LinkedIn profile and of course a resume, if you don’t already have one. LinkedIn is the best possible research tool for finding organizations and people to contact.
It’s Not About You.
Do not focus on what the organization can do for you, ie. what you want to learn and what you think they can provide you. If you can, identify a problem or issue you believe the organization has that dovetails with your interest area, and try and relate it to your studies and other background.
This one’s a biggie, and an opportunity killer. As a student or new grad, you don’t have a lot to offer aside from the ability to think, the desire to dig in and work hard and perhaps a few skills like writing, quantitative, social media, organizational and leadership skills, etc.
In last year’s commencement speech at Wellesley High School, the commencement speaker told the audience “You’re not special.”
He’s right. Unfortunately many young people still expect that employers should be lucky to have them.
Make It Count.
Once you get the internship, be helpful to your boss and ask for new projects you’ve identified the need for. In an unstructured internship setting, nobody has time to train interns, but if you can identify stuff that needs doing, you can gain invaluable experience.
Get recommendations from everyone you can, to help tee up your next internship or future job. LinkedIn is a great way to get recommendations now—don’t wait until you need references later on.
Don’t make the mistake of neglecting to get work experience during your precious college summers. There are plenty of places amenable to hiring interns—it’s just a matter of doing your research and marketing yourself cleverly. Let me know how you fare!