Getting an internship is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It taught me a lot of things about myself that I did not realize before this process. The biggest thing I learned is that I do not really fear rejection. I was rejected to over 25 places! The first couple stung a bit and then I just got used to the emails saying “Sorry but your skills do not match what we are looking for right now”. I didn’t get why I was getting rejected to so many places. I have a pretty good GPA (above 3.5), had a shred of relevant experience (research assistant) and am bilingual. Looking back it is obvious why I was getting rejected everywhere. I put in zero effort into all the places I applied to except for 1 place (which is CampusLIVE where I ultimately winded up getting hired). Lets face it, unless you have a 4.0 GPA and are attending Harvard you cannot get an internship without putting some effort in. Learn from my mistakes and instead of applying to every single place with a internship opening apply to a few places that spur your interest and put 100% of your effort in. Write an awesome cover letter, get it reviewed by peers whom opinions you respect, tailor your resume for the specific internship and most importantly, reach out to the person who you think is responsible for hiring and in a few concise sentences explain why you want this internship.
You might be wondering how to reach out to that person if you have never met them or do not even have their email address. Real easy. Go to the companies website. Find a tab that says “Company”, “Team” or “People”. From there choose the person you feel is most relevant. Applying for a sales internship? Reach out to the VP of sales. Just shooting for any position you can get in the company? Email the CEO. People will respect your initiative and you are not going to bother them (unless once you email them they specifically tell you to never email them again. In that case you did not want to work there anyways). If their email address is not listed on that page most times their email address will be email@example.com. For example my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If they do not respond within a week send them a follow up email. You have to remember these people are dealing with hundreds of emails a day and sometimes emails get overlooked.
So at this point you have written a awesome cover letter and have reached out to the CEO who likes your stuff and he wants to set up an interview. Sit down and study the hell out of the company. Figure out exactly what they do. Read every single article you can find on the company. Find articles on the CEO. Find out who the investors of the company are. Come up with thought provoking questions to ask your interviewer. Think of things that the company can be improve on. Also, note things that the company does very well. You should know the company so well that you should be able to answer any question tossed your way. If you get tossed a question that you do not know or need some time to think about DO NOT PANIC. Rather, just ask for a second to think about the question, calm yourself, and come out with a articulate answer. Your interviewee will not view it as a sign of weakness if you ask for a second (don’t ask for this more than once or twice though) but he will view it negatively if you toss out a completely wrong answer or stupid answer.
You just completed your interview and you are feeling good about your chances. As soon as you get home send an email thanking your interviewee and thanking the person you originally reached out to (if they are not the same person). Now just play the waiting game which in my opinion is the hardest part of this whole process. If you do not get the internship than ask why you did not (politely) and ask how you can improve on those things. Never EVER burn bridges. Then ask if you can just help out for free or if there is anything else you can do. If you got the internship congratulations! Your one step closer towards getting a full time job in this tough job climate.