Internships give new graduates direct exposure to many of the skills and experiences sought after by recruiters. They allow for 'real life' experience of a work place, and give students a great chunk of transferrable skills to take into the market for permanent jobs. Naturally, finding an internship is a competitive process, made more so by the fact that many internships aren't openly advertised. Something in the region of 60% of permanent jobs never get advertised, and internships follow a similar pattern. Some businesses find interns through word of mouth or contacts, and therefore never openly advertise their opportunities, and others might consider offering an internship position for the right candidate but lack the time or resources to openly advertise and seek out candidates.
With so many internship opportunities going unadvertised, read on to see how you can set yourself up for success and tap into this hidden market?
It feels unfair that many potential intern roles never get publicly advertised, but as with so much in career and personal development, landing an unadvertised internship will be as much about who you know as what you know.
Don't be put off by the negative connotations of 'networking'. Start with friends and family, ex colleagues and bosses, and your university career service. Talk to them about your summer plans, and share the fact that you're looking for an internship. Be clear about what you can offer and what would suit your skills and interests. Don't be afraid to ask for help, either directly in arranging an internship, or in connecting you with others who can. For more ideas on how to become a networking superstar check out this article.
Applying speculatively can feel like sending your perfectly crafted CV into a black hole. But don't lose hope - there really are companies out there who might consider offering an intern opportunity, but choose not to advertise this fact.
Use your network and company websites, along with LinkedIn to find the right person to address your application to. Look for resourcing managers, HR leaders and project managers who might need additional resources on a short term basis. Keep your application fairly open, explaining the area in which you are interested in developing your skills, rather than naming a specific role. Target medium sized businesses and make your cover letter compelling by telling them how you might be able to help them during your internship.
At worst your letter should be kept on file, but with a confidently worded offer of help, you might strike lucky. Follow up your letter with a call if you don't hear back in a couple of weeks, and you can also build your network for the future and ask for feedback about your application.
Get a Referral
If you're applying speculatively for internship positions, it can be a huge advantage to have a referral from someone already working at the business. You can then include in your cover letter reference to the person who suggested you apply, and ask your contact to also pass on your application.
Start from your current contacts - do you already know anybody who can help you connect with your chosen business? If there's nobody in your network already then search the company website and use LinkedIn to find people who could support you. Call them and ask for their insights into the business. Explain your interest and ask if you can mention your conversation in your application. And if that fails (and you have the confidence to pull it off), call the CEO. Chances are you won't get to speak to them in person but ask their PA who you should send your application to, and you can include in your cover letter the artistically phrased statement that, "<insert name of CEO> advised I address my application to you".
Find a Problem You Can Fix
Increase your chances of securing an unadvertised internship by showing your target business exactly the problem they currently have and how you could fix it. If you are already established as a subject matter expert, for example with a blog or social media presence talking about your subject of choice, use this route to share your ideas. Create a white paper document to explain your thinking. Or you could write a short presentation outlining your thoughts and put them on an online slide sharing site. If you have the skills and confidence, you might even create a short five minute video showcasing you, your abilities and ideas, and place it on YouTube.
Contact the business and share your suggestion. Use social media to reach the relevant decision makers in the business you are interested in. Make your application into a business case that they can't ignore, showing the improvement you could bring them from an internship opportunity.
And if these ideas fail, there are some great stories of people taking drastic action to find an internship or even permanent position. Hire a billboard offering your services, wear a placard detailing your skills, or hand out your CV to commuters passing through the city station. Send a coffee mug to your chosen recruiter and follow up with a call offering to buy them something to put in it in exchange for a meeting. Print your CV on a pizza box and deliver it to the office you're aiming for. Taking ideas from the world of guerrilla marketing can help you sell yourself to a business - do something eye catching and at least you will have a story to tell!
And if these outlandish ideas don't appeal, then make sure you're using all the routes available to you to find a position, advertised or not. Don't limit yourself unnecessarily - you can even seek out volunteer opportunities or charitable work, or start your own business during your summer holiday. Grab those skills while you can, any way you can, and it will stand you in great stead when it comes to finding a permanent position after graduation. Give your future a boost now, and you won't regret it.