“Nine Paths to Locating Internships”

Question: I have recently graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management in India, and am currently looking for an internship in management consulting. I view management consulting to be a career of great promise, because as a management consultant there is a very challenging work culture and a potential strong compensation.

However, I am clueless regarding how to start getting internships. Sending my resume to the Big Five consulting firms does not seem fruitful, although I have not tried that yet. Any help you can offer? 

New Delhi, India

Answer: Dear Loden: Your quest for “a toe in the door,” which is what I call internships, is perhaps the most common quest among soon-to-be or recent college graduates. Like so many (mostly) young folks without any experience, the question is “How do I get some?” Here are a few suggestions:         

1. Visit Your University’s “Career Services” Office –  Nearly every college and university has its own “Career Services” office to assist its graduates in finding internships and jobs. One secret to getting internships this way: get in there as early as possible, and keep going back often. You want to be there two minutes after an internship in your area becomes known as available. I know one student who visited her college’s Career Services office so often, she believes they found an internship for her just to put an end to her constant visits. Make yourself and your goals known, known often, and to all in the Career Services office.

You are only limited by your persistence.

2. Search out Alumni of Your University in Your Field – A variation of the Career Services path to an internship is to search out alumni of your college or university who work in your chosen field, and ask them to consider you as an intern. While there is no concrete reason alumni should offer a helping hand to a student or recent graduate, they often do offer internships for a variety of reasons. Some like to speak of it to their classmates. Some do it out of a sense of duty or allegiance to their alma mater. I believe, too, that it reminds them of their own quest for a “toe in the door” way back when they were just starting out, in your circumstances. Some, too, enjoy being mentors. Who knows? You may just find a mentor-for-life.

You can do this by doing a Google search (or using another search engine) of companies you’d like to intern with, and searching the educational backgrounds of senior people there. You can also do this by going to your school’s alumni office or alumni directory to see if any of the listed alumni are working for companies in your area. You might also ask professors in your major area of interest if they know of any alumni who went on to success in your chosen field.

You are only limited by your imagination and determination.

3. Online “Intern-Locating” Companies – These days there are many companies and agencies online that assist people searching for internships. Some charge a fee, while others do not, or charge a fee to the employer. From what I have heard, people have both good and bad experiences with companies and agencies that locate internships.

If you are considering using such a company or agency, you might ask for names and emails of satisfied customers, and the names of the companies in your chosen field at which they have placed interns. Before engaging any fee-based services, make sure you fully understand the amount of the fee charged, and whether it is charged even if you do not accept the internships offered to you.

In this, you are only limited by the size of your – or your parents’ – wallet.   

4. Distribute Multiple Resumes – This is also known as “the old fashioned way.” In my early days as an attorney – as my son, Sam, says, “before electricity” – there was a time I sent out 200 resumes seeking an entry-level position. It resulted in seven interviews, and three job offers. While employers seeking interns are often near-buried with resumes, someone is going to be hired; it might just be you.

There is an old saying that I think applies to this possible path to an internship: “When your chances are either ‘slim’ or ‘none,’ go with ‘slim.’”

You are only limited by your budget for postage stamps.

5. Consider also looking to smaller “Mom-and-Pop” firms to get that crucial first internship experience – I am often surprised that so many people who want a “toe in the door” insist that the “door” they put their “toe” into be a top-tier firm in their industry. It is nothing less than foolish to do. One young woman I know who wanted to be a part of the music industry couldn’t get a first job, but did get a chance to be an intern for one man who did some work in the field. She impressed so many people with her hard work and positive attitude that, before long, she had offers from major firms in the industry. Know what? To this day she believes she learned so much in her first internship about so many aspects of her industry, that she credits that first internship with her rise to success.

In this important path to internships, you are only limited by your humility.

6. Network to Everyone You Ever Met –  Have a list of everyone who attended your eighth birthday party? Members of your baseball team in grade school? How about attendees of your Bar Mitzvah?  Well, each of them may be the key to your getting your coveted internship. Or, maybe one of their sisters or brothers may be a great contact. Don’t be shy. There is an old proverb that says, “A bashful beggar always has empty pockets.”

You are only limited by the size of our electronic rolodex, and the electronic rolodex of your family and friends.

7. Write an Interesting Article – If you are interested in management consulting, surely there is at least one part of management consulting that you find fascinating, changing, and possibly headed in a certain direction. Well, then, try your hand in writing a cogent article about it, say, two or three typewritten pages. Once written and, of course, proofread by someone you trust, (a) submit it to trade journals, and (b) attach it to each resume you send out.

Readers of your article – even those who give it just a brief perusal – will be impressed, by (i) your thoughts, (ii) your ability to think, analyze and express yourself, and (iii) your extraordinary initiative.  Sure, almost nobody who is inexperienced writes articles; that’s the point: you will stand out from the crowd.   

You are only limited by your creativity, observations, imagination and ability to express your ideas.

8. Attend Industry Conferences – Locating and attending trade or industry conferences in your chosen field will (a) keep you abreast of current trends and developments, (b) make you that much more interesting to speak with during interviews, and (c) put you in close proximity to those who may be willing to provide you with an intern position.  It will put in front of you people who are successful in your chosen field and, thus, potential candidates as your role models going forward.

You are only limited by your travel budget.

9. Choose a Model and then Target That Model –  There is no better way to propel yourself to the top of your chosen field than to model yourself after a person who has done so already. For those seeking internships, I have heard that some are successful in an unusual but audacious means to securing an internship by: (a) choosing a role model, and then (b) targeting that role model, for an internship with his or her company. The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears are words of appreciation, admiration, and even adoration.  You’d be amazed at how far flattery will take you.

This process – though time-consuming and with limited odds of success – is available to everyone but tried by only a few. But success, too, is available to everyone and enjoyed by only a few. The late actor Paul Newman always said, “Give yourself the gift of possibility.” That is how I’d describe this means of obtaining a first-experience internship.

You are only limited by your audacity.

Loden, as you can see, you quest for internships really knows no limits. Seeking an internship in your chosen field is surely not easy, but I hope no one ever told you success would be easy. From my perspective – a person in his 60’s – you have such a great potential, it is almost hard to describe. I am totally confident that, if you just choose a goal and what seems like a path to that goal, with hard work, a sense of humility, a sense of wonder, and a sense of possibility, so long as you work pretty hard, success will truly be yours. Just “Give yourself the gift of limitless possibility.”

Thanks for writing in from India. Now get busy – there are an unlimited number of management consultant internships out there that are just dying to be filled!!

Al Sklover

P.S.: Don’t know what to say, or how to say it? We offer Two Best-Ever Sample “Internship Wanted” Cover Letters. To get your copies, just [click here.] Delivered Instantly to Your Printer. 

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© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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