No Experience? How to Dismantle the Internship Catch-22

You have spent weeks perfecting your resume, visiting your career center, and making sure that everything is formatted perfectly — and spent equal amounts of time learning the proper way to write a cover letter. Now, you are ready to begin your internship search.

You’ve made your list of top 20 companies to intern for and gathered all the appropriate materials (resume paper, envelopes, etc.) to begin the application process. You see on several of the applications that a requirement is that all applicants have previous internship experience, but you do not have any. You see this is a common requirement for all of the internships you want to apply to.

Catch- 22: A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.

The above definition can be applied to the dilemma many eager and hopeful interns approach daily: To get an internship, one must have previous intern experience.

Here are a few strategies to use to solve this dilemma and land your first internship:

Use Your Network

Reach out to your family members, friends, neighbors, etc. and let them know that you are looking for an internship. When you do, make sure to specify the field or industry you wish to intern in and when you’d like to intern (summer, fall semester, spring semester). It may feel awkward reaching out to these people as you are trying to be independent and in control of your career path, but this is imperative to landing that first internship. You never know, Aunt Sue’s co-worker’s spouse may work for your dream company and can be your “in” into interviewing with them.

See if Aunt Sue can set up an informational interview with the co-worker’s spouse, where you can find out important information relating to the company (always make sure to come prepared with your own knowledge of the company), as well as ask any questions you have relating to that industry and what role interns have within the company. This informational interview (conducted in person or via phone/e-mail) can serve as a necessary pre-screening for said spouse, which will make him/her more comfortable and likely to give you a recommendation for the position. Companies are much more willing to overlook your lack of internship experience if you have a current employee recommending you for the position.

Sell Your Capabilities

If you have reached out to your network and have had little success, make sure that you are selling yourself effectively to employers. Continue to send out applications, but make sure you are catering each resume and cover letter specifically for each employer.

If you have been doing that and still have not received any calls or e-mails back, revisit your resume. Here, make sure that you are really selling yourself in the very best way possible based off your previous job experiences, club involvement, community involvement and related college course work.

Once you’ve reviewed that, it is time to show your persistence. Always make sure to follow-up each application with a phone call, e-mail, or both after one week of submitting your application materials. By doing all of these things, you should at least land an interview with one or more of the many companies you applied to.

Here is where the real work comes in. Often times, in the interview they will ask about your previous experiences. Here you must be creative, you will have to explain to the employer how your previous experience as a bagger at the local supermarket, a nanny, a Wendy’s fry cook, etc. applies to the qualifications and responsibilities of an intern at the employer’s company. Never lie, but always make sure to present your lack of experience in a better light by explaining to the interviewer that you will be willing to work that much harder and will be more dedicated than all of the other applicants in order to make up for it.

Create an Opportunity

Another way to land an internship is to create one. Find a company that is in your desired field that does not provide any information regarding interns. After contacting the company and discovering that they do not hire interns, ask if there is a possibility to create an opportunity for one. The HR departments of these companies might be a little skeptical, so try approaching members within the company itself rather than the HR department to create your internship.

Once you’ve found an employee who is interested in your labor, make sure to establish what responsibilities and expectations would be as well as dates of availability, etc. Swallow your pride and accept that a lot of what you may do will be mindless organizational tasks like filing and shredding paperwork, but make sure that in return the employer will take time to teach you about their job, let you sit in during phone calls, meetings etc. Ensure that it will be a mutually benefiting experience for both parties.

Creating an internship may be more difficult with larger employers and companies as they will have more red tape to cut to get interns into their offices, instead reach out to smaller companies or start-ups where there is a greater need for extra help.

What strategies did you employ to dismantle the internship dilemma and land your first internship?

This post was originally posted by our friends at ComeRecommended!

About the Author: Melanie J. Marx is a rising junior at the University of Georgia pursuing dual majors in Mass Media Arts and Film Studies and an interdisciplinary certificate in Music Business. Through various internships, Melanie has gained diverse experience and knowledge in media communications. Melanie is an active member of the University of Georgia’s Di Gamma Kappa broadcasting society and enjoys balancing her time between various campus organizations, her studies, and supporting her fellow Grady students, the Department of Theater and the Georgia Bulldogs.

This entry was posted in Internships and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.