What It Takes to Get a Great Job or Internship Today

Recently I interviewed someone, a member of Gen Y I’ll call Adam, about his job search.

What struck me about his incredible story was that in a terrible economy, with the highest unemployment we’ve experienced in decades, this young man was able to choose among six excellent job offers after interviewing full-time for three months.

How did he do it?

Well, for one thing, Adam interviewed with 125 people. That’s right… 125.

Not every meeting was a formal job interview, of course. But each meeting served a purpose, whether it was to understand more about a particular job sector or industry, or fill in some holes in his fact-finding mission. Often the person with whom he was meeting would refer him to the next person – and the number of meetings began to snowball. Finally, on several occasions, Adam found himself sitting across the table from the person who could hire him.

Here’s a recap of the lessons Adam learned during his excellent adventure…and job search.

Tell Everybody You’re Looking

Before you start making contacts, create a spreadsheet and data enter everyone you can think of—both inside and out of your field of interest. Most people find internships or jobs through someone outside their closest network, so think creatively. Code contacts according to relationship, since you will be emailing and calling each of them with a slightly different message.

Make sure that you decide what, specifically, you will ask each person, (e.g., Do you know someone who works in advertising and can you introduce me?). Record every interaction and follow-up dates. Be very organized;  as your information intake grows, things can get confusing and a lot can fall through the cracks.

Play the Numbers Game… Then Be Patient

Remember: Finding an internship is part preparation, part a numbers game – and part patience. So make the time to do it right, but also give yourself permission to turn it off. There is an element of letting things come to you, but you have to sow the seeds first.

Your Sense of Urgency isn’t Universal

It’s important to be assertive in trying to get interviews, but remember that while your internship search is your top priority… it probably isn’t the highest priority of others. It’s okay to follow up in a week – but don’t harass people! It also helps to make yourself available to meet in person or by phone, whichever they prefer. Also, if the meeting is more informational in nature, and not a genuine job interview, do make it clear that you respect the time of the interviewer and plan to be brief.

You Never Know Where the Lead Will Come From

Adam spoke with anyone who was recommended, since he found that an important lead could come from virtually any conversation. There is always an element of serendipity in a job or internship search, and you have to put in the time to let that happen. Also, be sure you always have a couple of good questions prepared for each meeting so you can better “lead the witness” – and show enough passion you’ll be referred to more people that may be able to help your efforts to land a great job or internship.

We hope these lessons learned from “Adam” helps your job or internship search. For even more details on Adam’s job search, check out the piece I wrote for Forbes.


About the Author: Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career advisor who works with mid-career executives and young adults to help them identify their unique value in the marketplace and explore alternative careers. Allison is the author of an upcoming book In the Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigation Skills for Young Adults, to help young adults from late high school through college develop strengths and interests and match them to internships, coursework and, ultimately, the right job.

Cheston blogs frequently on career issues for young adults at her own blog, In the Driver’s Seat as well as at Forbes. She also blogs for mid-career professionals at The Examiner. You can reach Allison on Twitter.

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