6 Ways to Find the Perfect Summer Internship

Believe it or not, it is time to start thinking about summer internships. Some of you probably want to, with the mounds of snow swirling around you. 

Before you begin, you need to think about your long-term career goals and what type of summer internship will help put you on the path toward achieving that goal. One summer, I took a low-paying, entry-level internship in advertising because I wanted to move from a career in HR to a career in marketing, and knew that I needed to have marketing experience on my resume before I graduated with an MBA. The same is true whether or not you are finishing your BA or your MBA.

Next, you will need to decide if you can live with an unpaid internship or if you need a paid internship. One summer, I found the internship of my dreams in NYC working for NBC, but it was unpaid. Can you imagine living in NYC with no income for the summer? Some can manage it, but I could not. One other option if you find that great unpaid internship is to tell them you will work fewer hours for them so that you can take a paid job to support yourself. That way, you get the best of both worlds.

Now it is time to look for the internship of your dreams. Here's how to get started.

1. Start with your career services office

That office should have several internships listed. Many companies know to send internship opportunities over to local colleges and universities, so start there.

2. Go to LinkedIn and type "internship" in the jobs section

When I just did that, I found 10 pages of summer internships already in their system.   That proves that companies are already hiring for summer internships which means you should be applying for them. You don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity.

3. Let everyone in your life know that you are looking for a specific type of summer internship

You would be amazed how willing your neighbor, or your friends or your parents’ friends are to help you network with other people once they know specifically how they can help connect you with the right folks.

4. Go to the company or organization website that you are dying to work for and check to see if they are hiring summer interns

Some companies do not place ads for interns other places and believe that the most dedicated and interested folks will come looking at their website. Go there to see what you can find. Apply through the regular channel that they list, but then use your alumni network and LinkedIn network to let others at that company know that you want that internship!

5. Use your professional association to look for internships

I advise the American Marketing Association student chapter at my college, and both the local professional chapter website as well as the national AMA website lists internships.  I’m sure other professional membership organizations such as PRSSA do the same thing.

6. If you are really committed to being an intern at a specific place this summer, seek them out

That organization may not have ever hired an intern or may only hire interns through employees. They might only hire interns who are unusually aggressive in pursuing an opportunity with them. Sometimes, you have to go for what you want. Send them a letter or an email. Follow up with a phone call. Find someone there you can connect with and let them know why you are a great fit and how you can contribute. Amaze them.

The key to finding a summer internship is persistence. A summer internship will not fall in your lap. You will have to go out and find it. When you do find the internship of your dreams, it will open so many doors for you that you will be happy that you worked so hard to find it.

Karen and Aneil Mishra are business school professors and authors of Becoming a Trustworthy Leader (2012).