What is the secret to getting an internship? Create value.
No, not the value of low, low prices like a discount retailer. Value as in the contribution you will make to the company. What will you improve? Who will you help? How can you make their work easier, faster, better?
Know what the company needs
Do your research. Find information on companies in the usual places: their website, your friendly search engine, and the job description. But go deeper. Look up their competitors, scour their social media accounts, actually read (ok, skim) their annual report, and get your hands on their product(s) or try their service(s).
Share your ideas
Clearly articulate your skills and how you can APPLY them. Employers don’t just want you to have skills, they need you to know what to do with them in real work situations. If you don’t have those work experiences, create them by doing small projects before you get hired. Write proposals that share what you can do and how you’re thinking about their business and send them via email or bring to the interview. Get creative and be bold.
- Marketing — write a sample blog post or follow their social media and draft suggestions for reaching their audience.
- Sales — listen to their pitch (by going to their store or calling them on the phone) and give them feedback on how to improve it.
- Non-profit — generate list of potential funders who are giving to similar organizations but not them or create a list of potential grants that they may qualify for.
If you can’t think of a proposal that makes sense, go back to the job description. What are they asking you to do in the role? How can you demonstrate that you know how to do that? What small part of the role can you start and share with them at the interview?
It’s OK to be wrong
You may be absolutely wrong in your analysis, but the effort will be respected. It creates an opportunity for the hiring manager to get inside your head a bit and have a meaningful conversation at the interview.
Show them that you are creative and open to discussing your ideas. If you are off the mark or they have good reasons why your suggestions haven’t worked, don’t be defensive. Demonstrate that you can take constructive feedback and incorporate it to improve your ideas.
Hiring an intern is an arduous process. Because most interns lack work experience, supervisors often have to hire someone who is unproven in professional environments. They know that they have to invest in helping you learn the basics of the company, but they really need someone who can make their lives easier and pay dividends quickly.
Show them you’re a self-starter who can contribute immediately, and you’ll be very valuable.