Internships: Start your summer search now

Students who want a job or internship in June need to start looking in the winter. Those who wait until spring to search set themselves up to be bottom feeders in the job market. The hardest part of a search is starting. Here’s a guide to help you get going sooner.


Internships at popular and prestigious companies are snapped up long before spring. An intern offers free or underpaid labor in exchange for a line on a resume. It's a raw deal, but don't underestimate that line.

At the end of college, students with great summer internships are in a separate category from everyone else. Most companies hire full-time staff from their pool of summer interns. An internship is not a sure route to success, but it's a sure bet that you have a chance to prove yourself in an industry where you think you'll be happy.

Real-Life Jobs

Look, I don't want to be the one spreading this news, but someone has to do it: Unless you're planning to go to grad school or to camp out at your parents' home indefinitely, running an effective job hunt is as important as getting good grades during your last year in college. Hunting for a job is a full-time job. You need to send résumés out regularly, scour job and company listings, and conduct regular soul-searching missions. You also need to leave time and energy to stress about your lack of success in all these areas.

You can take time now, during school, to do this, or you can wait until June. In June, all the good jobs will be taken because the students obsessed with getting a great job start hunting in the winter, and top companies accommodate those students. You're going to have to suffer through a job hunt sooner or later, so why not do it when there are still entry-level jobs to be had?

Your Strategy

Find companies you'd like to work for. Some companies have very structured application processes on their website. Others will have very little. For the latter, find the name of the human resource manager and send a cover letter and resume asking for a summer internship or a job. If you get a job from a mere 40 resumes, you’ll be beating all the odds. You should send out 100, but I don't want to overwhelm you. And hey, don't forget all your parents' friends and your friends' parents' friends.

Most colleges have a career center. Use it.

My 21-year-old brother wrote a letter to his roommate's dad asking for an internship at his pharmaceutical company. My brother ended the letter with, "I look forward to your speedy reply." Quick quiz: What is wrong with his ending? Answer: This is the way you sign a letter to someone who reports to you and is in trouble and needs pushing around. If you did not know that answer, you should never send a letter out without a trained counselor reading it first.

If you did know the answer, you should still go to your career center. The first rule of successes in business is knowing how to leverage available help. The real world is not filled with career centers waiting for your visit. So go there now, while you can.
Penelope Trunk has worked for many businesses and even started a few, and now she's too busy to write her column, so this advice is reprinted from an earlier edition of the Hook.