Most students these days are required to find at least one internship before graduating. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. It’s a fantastic opportunity to apply the knowledge you’ve gathered at school to a real life situation, it significantly increases your employability, you get to meet (hopefully) inspiring professionals and to learn from them to kickstart your professional life. Great.
But finding the graal might be tricky. Sourcing the right companies, standing out from the crowd, rocking the interview(s), etc. is no easy task. Trust me, I’ve been there (I’ve done 4 internships during my studies #ouch).
Now that I’ve seen the other side (aka, recruiting #duh) I know for a fact it can be a nightmare to find the right recruit for your startup or business. Managers are too busy, understaffed, with urgent needs, and quite frankly tend to half-a*s recruiting. That’s pretty bad.
TL;DR, recruiting and being recruited are equally hard. Here’s a 10 step process to cure the manager’s headache, by making the intern stand out. Win-win.
Step 0. Define your project.
This step should be implied, but not enough people have this in mind: know what you want (what you really really want) beforehand. “I am looking for something in Marketing” doesn’t cut it any more. You need to have a clear idea of three things: (1) the kind of position you’re hoping for, (2) the industry you want to get into and (3) the citi(es) where you are considering getting the internship. You need to be able to say the following sentence.
I’m looking for an internship as a [Position] in the [Industry] in [City].
Yes, it reduces significantly the scope of all the companies that could be hiring you. Congrats, your logic is sound. However, it gives you the chance to craft your applications specifically for a certain position, and it will make your profile stand out for sure. Maybe even bypass the entire hiring process.
If you don’t know what you want, put your big girl/boy pants on and make up your mind. What’s the worst that can happen? you’ll know for sure if you like a position/industry for your future career. Valuable information, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Step 1. Be online.
A few ideas:
– For crying out loud, get a LinkedIn account already.
– A simple website firstnamelastname.com wouldn’t hurt either.
– Make sure to comment something relevant on blog articles in your industry.
– Answer a couple of questions on Quora about your industry.
– Do a little personal branding
There are tons of (smart) ways to associate your name with something you want to leverage. Please go ahead and find more.
The idea is that your instagram bikini/frat party pictures should NOT be the first search engine result when someone googles your name.
Also, should you have a homonym, it’s a good way to make sure you rank first in search engine result pages. Take that, Vivian Garnes, my old Norge homonymic nemesis! That’ll show her.
Step 2. Shortlist ideal companies.
Now it’s time to start sourcing the most relevant companies. Please keep in mind you now know what to look for, as you made up your mind on a specific industry, and a specific city.
What’s an ideal company you ask? Well, the idea is to shortlist eligible businesses to whom you want to give the chance to hire you (see what I did there?). Those businesses need to fit a set of criteria.
– The right industry,
– The right city,
– With the financial capability to hire you (In this economy, you want to be hired at the end of your internship, right?)
– In the specific field that you are looking for.
Here are two (that I know of, probably more depending on which country you are from) options to do that.
Linkedin, the universal truth.
You can make a filtered search using the variables you shortlisted. Let us pretend, I am looking for companies in the clothing & cosmetics industry in the wonderful city of Lyon, France.
Time to list them in a spreadsheet (I’m dead serious about the spreadsheet).
FirmAPI, (for you lucky french kids)
FirmAPI is a API (#noway) from France, with love (#cocorico) allowing you to search through each and every registered french company. Using the NAF code(s) of the industry, and the post code(s) of the city you are looking for, you will get a few relevant results that might not have a company page on Linkedin. Cool.
Add those to your spreadsheet, and you should get a pretty nice list already. 136+36, that should be around 172. Not too shabby.
Step 3. Identify the right person.
Now, let’s sum it up. You now
– Know what you want,
– Are easy to find online,
– and have shortlisted many companies to approach.
Great job, pat yourself on the back. Not too long though, we still have some work to do. You now need to identify who to approach in the company. That’s pretty critical.
It is now time to make a google search, limited to Linkedin (site:linkedin.com), to identify professionals working for the company you’ve shortlisted, in the field you’ve chosen, in the city you are looking to find your internship. But wait, what if I have shortlisted +100 companies, wouldn’t that be too long?
Fear not, young one, here is a tip to make your burden slightly easier.
Here’s the formula, now go crazy ☺
(See? I was NOT kidding about the spreadsheet!)
Now, be a star and clic those links.
If there’s any LinkedIn member with those keywords in his profile, you’ll find him/her for sure as the first/second result for sure. In some cases, with tricky job titles, you might have to tweak it a little bit. Now write his/her name in your spreadsheet (still not kidding about the spreadsheet), as well as the company name and position (you’ll need this later).
Step 4: Get their email address.
To do that, you’ll need the first and last name (which you already have) and you’ll need the domain name of the company. A simple google query with the company name should do the trick. However, some cases can be complicated.
A few examples :
– An international company has different domain name extensions for different countries? (.fr in France, .co.uk in England, etc.) Make sure to try them all.
– Company name is not the ‘business’ name. In which case, make sure to find the actual business website, and/or company products if they have standalone websites,
Then, head to thrust.io, and enter the information for each recipient you’ve shortlisted.
It’s pretty simple. They automatically try all possible combinations (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.) until they identify the addresses that work. Pretty cool tool to tell the truth.
You also might want to try your luck with emailhunter.co (again, #cocorico), or any software of this kind.
Report it all to your spreadsheet, and you got yourself a nice mailing list.
But wait up, it’s not quite yet time to send emails.
Step 5. Choose your approach.
I have personally experimented with two methods : the consultant, and the flatterer. They both work. You might come up with smarter approaches, please make sure to let me know, I’ll update the article accordingly.
In order to pull off the consultant method, you need to know about something. This “something” can be anything, preferably to the position you’re interested in. It can be design, SEO, finance, branding, exports, etc.
I can already hear some of you say ‘but I don’t know anything’. Let me stop you right there. You do, you’re simply not giving yourself enough credit for it. If you are not confident enough in your skill, let me share something with you: by thoroughly reading one (I do mean “1”) book on any topic, you’ll know more than 90% of your peers on that specific topic. Buy a bunch of books on amazon on a certain topic and congratulations, you’ve just become some kind of an expert in that field. BOOM.
The idea is to identify an area for which you can help the companies you’ve shortlisted. Maybe their website is plain ugly, maybe their SEO sucks, maybe they don’t sell well abroad, etc. Once you’ve spotted it, figure out how to fix it. Can you imagine as a manager if someone was bringing to your attention a problem AND the solution? I’d hire the hell out of that person.
The idea here is to leverage the selfishness of people. Sounds easy enough right?
People LOVE to talk about themselves. Especially in a work environment. So can you imagine how good they feel when a bright 20-something year old comes up to them asking about what they do, how they did it, and asking relevant questions that make them appear very smart and skilled professionals full of potential? You guessed right. They love it, and they’ll love you for it.
Turns out it’s a pretty good idea to be loved by someone who might be hiring in your field. Who would have known?
Now choose which ever solution you like best.
Or come up with your own. Do whatever you want, I’m not your Dad.
Step 6. Do your homework.
You read that right. Basically, you need to stalk them like a crazy ex boy/girlfriend (craziness knows no genders).
- Follow them on twitter,
- Create a free mention alert on their name, so you can be notified when they (or their company) appear anywhere on the internet,
- Read their recommendations on LinkedIn, etc.
- If you go to industry events, feel free to ask around about the business, you might find out some cool information.
- Chances are the company books are public (at least to some extend). Feel free to have a look at the balance sheet, so you can get an idea of how the company is doing.
- See on job boards if they are hiring.
- There are definitely some resources about the industry that you need to read.
- Know the competition inside out.
- Get a glimpse of what it’s like to work there (ask people, see on Facebook or Glassdoor, etc.)
- Prepare some great questions to ask which will make you look smart (you ARE smart, aren’t you? then that shouldn’t be too hard).
… Long story short, get ALL the information you can, and be ready.
I don’t think anyone ever suffered from knowing too much. Except maybe spies being tortured, and all, but that’s not exactly relevant here.
TL;DR. Be prepared.
Step 7. Send the best cold email of the history of all times.
Your cold email has one goal: inviting someone for coffee.
Plain and simple.
However, before that, you need to carry out three objectives:
- You want your recipients to notice your emails in their very crowded inbox.
- You want your recipients to open your emails.
- You want your recipients to reply to your emails.
In order to complete these three objectives, there are five things to spend time on.
- What time are you sending the email?
- What is the subject line?
- How is your email worded?
- What’s the call to action?
- When/How to follow up?
In terms of sending time, even though there are some best practices, keep in mind what industry you are willing to work for. For instance, if the company is based in Europe, and the biggest customer is based in Asia, they are more likely too busy in the mornings. Make an educated guess. After all, you’ve done your homework, haven’t you?
Regarding the subject line, feel free to personalise it as much as possible. Adding the name of company or the name of the recipient will definitely make your email stand out in a crowded mailbox. If the company just won a big client, a subject line like “congrats on signing [NewClientName]” will surely make an impression.
Now writing the body of the email can be tricky. You need to introduce yourself briefly, and to explain your predicament, in the least possible number of words. Less is more. People are busy, they don’t have time to read long emails from someone they don’t know. Again, some personnalisation can be a nice touch.
Do not end your email without a call to action. It is extremely important that you. Preferably, ask an opened question, rather than a closed one (yes or no question). If you ask “would you have time to meet for coffee?” you expose yourself to a “no”. On the other hand, if you ask “when would you have time to meet for coffee?” it is no longer a binary option. It’s no longer whether or not, it’s when: a complete different psychological process.
As such, it might perform better.
Last but not least, you need to follow up. The sad truth is that most managers will not read your emails. But if you do follow up efficiently 3 to 7 days later, and a few times, you are a lot more likely to get responses. You can either to that manually like most people, or automate the process so you no longer have to worry about it. If so, you might want to checkquickmail.io. Swiss made. Pretty cool tool.
Here’s a cold email suggestion (there are many many other possibilities)
Hello [FirstName] [LastName],
My name is [FirstName], I’m a student at [UniversityName] University.
I stumbled upon your [CompanyName] website, and I noticed it didn’t rank well for [keywords], compared to [Competitor1] and [Competitor2]. As I’m sure you know, it represents [SearchVolume] monthly queries, so I came up with ways to help you get on top of search results, and bring in more business.
I’d love to tell you all about it over coffee (I’m in [City] too).
When would you be available to chat?
Step 8. Coffee time.
Chances are you are living the crazy busy student lifestyle (netflix, classes, parties, campus life, out of state family, netflix, friends, sports, dissertation, being hungover, netflix, etc.), and if there is ONE SKILL that you’ve mastered, it’s drinking coffee. Yeah, quite possibly other things as well, but let’s talk about coffee.
That’s convenient, because you are going to invite someone for coffee. Chances are there’s a starbucks, or any other local coffee shop nearby the office, where you could treat your guest.
Be assertive, introduce yourself, explain why you’ve asked for this meeting, ask questions, listen more than you speak, take notes, be polite, yet be confident. You got this, champ. No need to be stressed, after all, remember it’s just coffee, not a job interview 😉
You don’t necessarily have to mention that you are looking for an internship, unless:
- You are being asked this very question by your guest,
- Your guest mentions he’ll be recruiting,
- You are applying this awesome method very late in the year, and you basically need to start next week.
Step 9. Follow up like a boss.
So coffee time went great because you are a charming & smart young fellow, nicely done. Still, the job’s not over yet.
The following day, make sure to send a nice “thank you” email, or even a note. After all, a professional dedicated 20 minutes of his/her precious time. This shouldn’t go unthanked & unappreciated, you ungrateful little sh*t.
Chances are you discussed a number of things. Articles/books that you’ve read, tools that you use, tips and tricks, etc. Make sure to include the links in the email.
In case you came up with a couple of extra ideas to help out that professional, make sure to insert those as well.
Finally, plant the seed.
PS. I happen to be looking for an internship in [Month Year]. If anyone in your [industry] network mentions hiring a [position] intern, please feel free to let me know, I’d love to meet them. ☺
That should do the trick.
But please, don’t stop this soon. Do something worth sharing (write a post on medium about the industry, for instance), so you can follow up a month later with a short email “hey, just wrote this, I thought it might of interest to you. Best”.
Keep doing that on a regular basis, and you’ll be top of mind.
Step 10. Get the internship.
After all of this work… There’s a chance you’ll be offered an internship then. Happened to me in the past.
There’s also a chance you’ll be recommended to someone else. That’s nice. Happened to me in the past too.
Then, there’s a chance you’ve made a long-lasting impression, and when that manager will be hiring (weeks? months from now?) you’ll be one of the first people he/she will have in mind, and will give you a call then.
Last, there’s a chance nothing will happen. Here’s why it’s not big deal:
- You’ve contacted a bunch of people, so everything’s not lost, one of them will bite the bait.
- You’ll get better overtime, basically every time you do this exercise.
- But more importantly, you’ll grow your network. And that’s very precious for your long career ahead of you. Make sure you properly leverage that. Grow your network. Follow up with your network. Bring them value. They’ll love you for it, and they’ll give in back tenfold in time.
No matter what happens, this will not be a waste of time. Invest in your network. Prove your worth. Gain a deeper knowledge of a specific position or industry, and you’ll get the chance to leverage this to your advantage sooner or later.