We’re often told that networking can lead to an internship, but the steps for getting from point A to point B aren’t always that clear. “Go network and get yourself an internship” is an ambiguous directive that can feel overwhelming. Here are some concrete steps that you can take to develop your professional relationships and inquire about summer internship opportunities:
1. Pinpoint your goals
Where might you want to do an internship? In what kinds of industries? Try to hammer out some ideas so that you have a starting point.
2. Identify (or find) your cheerleaders and mentors
There are people out there who want to help you. Think about the relationships you have, and who might be able to give you professional advice. You might reach out to any of the following people: parents, family friends, former/current supervisors, professors, coaches, peers, alumni, or others. Make a targeted list of a few people you want to talk to.
3. Reach out
In whatever way is the most comfortable, reach out to your contacts and ask for a time to talk. Talking on the phone or in person is usually preferable to email, because it gives you a chance to make a more personal connection. Depending on your relationship with this person, you might ask to have lunch/coffee, a phone call, or go to their office hours.
4. Ask for what you need
It’s not always the most comfortable position to be in, but your contacts don’t know how to assist you unless you specifically ask for help. Tell them what you are looking for, and ask if they have any advice or contacts. Here are some ways that you could start the conversation:
- “I’m thinking about summer internship opportunities in Boston, and I’m wondering if you have any advice for me as I start that search.”
- “I’m really interested in doing work with a nonprofit that focuses on women’s health. Do you know of organizations around here that are doing that kind of work, and could you introduce me to people who work there?”
- “I’ve always wanted to work at ECHO, and I know that you worked there last summer. Could you tell me about how you got that internship?”
5. Keep track of referrals and resources
Your contact may give you strategies, websites, or new contacts that you can utilize in this search. Be sure to write them down and use them.
6. Don’t stop here: Expand your network
After thanking them for their time, you should end every conversation with this question:
- “Do you know of any other people or resources that could help me in this search?”
7. Send thank yous and follow up
The person you spoke with is a valuable contact, for both now and in the future. Thank them for taking the time to talk with you by sending a follow-up email.
8. Lather, rinse, repeat
As you expand your network, keep having these kinds of conversations. The more conversations you have, the more likely you are to get important introductions and advice that will help you land that internship.