Spring break is over, finals are looming and your best friend just told you about the awesome summer internship he lined up, so you might feel the unavoidable panic spreading. You may think everyone around you is put together, but don’t let them fool you into thinking you’re too late. While many large or high-profile companies begin their search for a summer intern in the fall (they obviously have their planners in order), it’s not impossible to find summer internships or jobs, even if you think it’s too late.
Expand Your Options
Accept that you might not get an internship at a well-known corporation, so you’ll need a new list of companies. If your dream internship closed applications in the fall, write a reminder in your Passion Planner for those deadlines for the next summer and move on for this one; in fact, don’t forget to add your dream internship to your Passion Roadmap. In the meantime, check out startups, nonprofit organizations or smaller-sized companies that would love, and maybe even be desperate, to have you as an intern. Spring is actually a perfect time to look for these small companies because they likely don’t think as far ahead as do larger corporations. Check aggregator websites to find the most recently posted internships. Don’t just peruse job boards to which everyone has online access—rather, check with your school’s career office, alumni office, or ask friends and relatives if they know of a small- or medium-sized company that might be interested in your skills. Don’t add opportunities to your list that you’re not particularly interested in just to say you got an internship; instead, pick those you feel you would enjoy or that would contribute to your professional growth.
In addition to broadening your search beyond online job boards, consider who you reach out to at a given company. Look online to find the head of HR and give her a call! Cold-calling might seem intimidating, and if you can’t find a phone number, it’s okay to send an email instead. Give her your 30-second “elevator pitch,” or a quick advertisement of yourself, and ask if they’re looking for students for their summer internships. Since it is likely they’ve already filled the position, ask if you can shadow an employee for a few days. In some spare time, find some white space in your Passion Planner and jot down your elevator pitch, and practice saying it out loud.
Get a Meeting
Maybe you’re not finding an opportunity that speaks to you or your top choices are already full—don’t just throw in the towel and pray for another chance next summer. Sometimes interns that did land a job early drop out at the last minute, or some interns lose opportunities for various reasons. Anticipate such instances by asking for an informational interview, which can be just 15 minutes and gives you face-to-face time with a company. Check LinkedIn for HR team members or recruiters, shoot them an email, and ask for the chance to introduce yourself over a coffee, explain that you want to learn more about the industry and ask a few specific questions about their business. If you can’t meet in person, even a phone call might be enough to get in their heads, so you might be the first person they think to call when their other internship plans go awry.
Use Your Summer Wisely
Maybe you couldn’t land paid internships even with the tips above, or maybe you’re just volunteering and not getting paid—but, maybe it’s even better because you have more time to build your skills and make yourself a valuable future employee. If you have an unpaid internship (most pay at least minimum wage unless they meet criteria for an unpaid position), get part-time jobs for summer to build up that bank account. Pick up some freelance work related to your field of study. Take a look at your resume and make notes of any gaps you might have. Take the extra time in the summer to learn a new computer program or a language. Go to the library and read a lot of books—some for fun and some related to your major. Use the monthly and weekly layouts to schedule your time so you can be as efficient as possible.
Even though you might not get the most coveted internship, it’s not too late to use your summer wisely. You can still apply for summer internships, and if nothing pans out, you can snag a job or use time to build skills for your resume. Next time, don’t wait so long (use those monthly and weekly layouts to plan in advance!) but this summer is not a lost cause.
Cara Batema is a freelance writer and musician based in Los Angeles. She likes to write about the arts and psychology.