Landing your first internship or a job could be extremely competitive if you do what everybody else is doing, such as updating your resume, even tailoring it to specific job descriptions, or applying for as many jobs as you can and not being discouraged by getting rejected. I’m not going to explain those ways to get an internship or a job because you would be competing with at least 200 other candidates if you take that path. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, I’ve done it myself 3 times, and it worked. However, it took me so long to be able to find one. I probably applied for at least 100 internships in order to find one which I think was a waste of time. These steps will help you take another route to find your first job.
1. Build a strong relationship with one or two professors.
I can’t stress this first step enough. In my opinion, this is the most effective way to find an internship or a job while you are still in school. I’ve seen an example where building a strong relationship with a professor benefits you big time. A close friend of mine, we were in the same school back then, and his accounting teacher were like buddies. I asked him how that happened. First of all, the class was my friend’s favorite one. He was curious about the subject in general, and he paid a visit to the professor to ask questions and discuss related topics. That professor was also the advisor professor of the club he was in, which helped them with getting closer as well.
The professor literally got my friend an internship. Well, he still had to go through the interview process, but he didn’t have to spend a lot of time applying for a bunch of internships and hope to hear back from them. His professor had a friend who owned a small company and they needed an Accounting intern, and he recommended my friend as a good candidate and he got in. I’m not taking anything away from my friend here. He was a straight-A student, but one thing he did better than almost everyone is to keep in touch with his professors, which helped him in his transfer process as well. So I would suggest that you build a strong and close relationship with your favorite professor.
2. Find a professional that works in the same field that you want to work in.
This step is similar to the first one. Instead of building a relationship with your professor, you find a person who is where you want to be if that makes sense. If the person is in your community such as your dad’s friend or member of a club you are a member of etc., that would make your life a lot easier. The point of reaching out to those people and building a relationship is, first of all, you would know exactly how that professional’s day at work looks like. Another reason is the professional might refer to you to the company he/she is working at, which is the most guaranteed way of getting an interview at the company. According to Matt Youngquist, president of Career Horizons: “At least %70, if not %80 percent of jobs are not published”. Which means employers prefer asking for referrals instead of posting job openings because they can trust an employee referral rather than a person that nobody knows in the company.
3. Show your work.
Show Your Work is a term I picked up from a book by Austin Kleon. The main idea in this book is putting yourself out there through platforms like YouTube, personal blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, or even Medium, sharing your work and getting discovered. We can tailor that in terms of getting recognized, and discovered by employers as well. Employers like to see if you can really do the tasks they will assign you with. That’s why the bullet points under each experience are usually more important than the experience itself. Even well-described bullet points are not as effective as showing your work. Show your work might be your portfolio regardless of your major. It also might be solving a problem for a company before getting a job there, which will be our last step.
4. Work for your dream company before getting hired.
This step is also connected to the previous one. Working for a company before actually working in the company is simply finding a problem that you think they have, small or big, and try fixing it with the tools and techniques you have. For instance, let’s take Airbnb as an example. If you think the user interface of the Airbnb website is not practical, or it has some holes in it, try to make it the way it should be in a simulation environment. That would be your personal project. It shows that you are passionate about the company you want to work for. It also proves that you will add value to the company if you work there. This step does not only work for software development or design fields, you can adapt it to your specific field as well such as sales, finance, or accounting using their datasets.
If those steps did not make sense to you, or you are not comfortable with building close relationships and reaching out to people, and you want to take the route that most people take, I have another suggestion for you. Instead of searching and applying for a lot of jobs/internships, I would say hire 1 or 2 people on Upwork or Fiver and make sure they are not in the United States. Countries like India or the Philippines would be better financially for both parties. Those people that you hired would create a list of companies and positions and apply for as many of them as they can. They also update the application process as they apply and hear back from employers. If the employer requires a technical assessment test before the interview, obviously you are going to take it yourself. I’m not suggesting to cheat here, you are hiring people for the unnecessary time-consuming parts of the process. I would prefer Google Sheets for the application process management because you would see the changes as your ‘employees’ update it.
This one might be controversial and I haven’t tried it myself, but I believe it would work well, save you time to focus on more important things such as getting ready for the interviews and expanding your toolbox. I hope these steps help you land an internship or a job. Let me know if it helped.