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.
You have perfected your resume, visited your career center, and made sure everything is formatted perfectly. You’ve made your list of top 20 companies to intern for and gathered everything needed (job descriptions, email addresses, etc.) to begin the application process. Now, finally, you are ready to begin your internship search.
And then… you see on several of internship postings that applicants must have previous experience. Previous internship experience. And you have none. And you ask yourself:
“When did it become necessary to have experience… to get an internship???”
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.
Don’t get caught up in the modern catch-22. Network your way into a great internship… even if you don’t have the “experience required”.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at ComeRecommended!