I landed my dream internship. And I want to help you land yours.
341 applications, 103 one-to-one conversations, 25 networking events and more than 23 interviews across 6 industries later, I am ‘lucky’ enough to kick off my consulting career as a Summer Associate at Simon-Kucher and Partners (starting May).
I want to express my sincere gratitude to all those who shared their experiences with me, critiqued and course corrected me and helped me craft my story. A special thanks to Susan Lemke for polishing a rough diamond like me and to Madhavan Ramanujan for giving me that one chance I pleaded for.
This 5-month long hunt has taught me a lot and here are a few relevant takeaways for those who are looking for a meaningful internship.
1. The only thing separating you from your internship is a job.
A full time job of seeking one. So set schedules, deadlines and milestones and give it your everything, everyday. It has to be on your mind 24*7. Discuss it with executives at a spotlight or random students at a party. You must know that this is going to shape your career significantly. Give it that importance.
2. Look back and connect the dots.
No past is irrelevant. It could be from work, school or a trip with your friends. Just genuinely connect the dots and tell people why you were meant to be here and what makes you want to go where you’re headed. Stories can intrigue, impress and inspire people. Make one before you go out there.
3. You’re a student. Leverage it.
Every executive/entrepreneur was once a student. They know about the debt, confusion, aspirations, hustle and pressure that you are faced with. They empathize with you and are open to discourse. That’s your foot in the door. Use it. Admit that you don’t know it all, seek guidance and then…
4. Develop a meaningful bond.
By far the most important step. Don’t treat networking an act of using people to get referred. Networking is about having a thought provoking conversation, bringing value to the table and seeking knowledge at the same time. When you meet someone, ask for their story, their plans and experiences. Develop a bond that will stay irrespective of the outcome of that conversation. Do your homework and learn about their interests. Be specific, people have no time for generic and pretentious conversations.
Throughout the process, learn. Learn about yourself, what you really want to do, what skills will are valuable for your target employers and also about where the world is headed (through news, thought pieces, etc). This will not only help you add value to conversations, but also make the process much more valuable than the outcome. Moreover, this will open up a world of opportunities you may have never considered.
In the end, it’ll come down to those select few opportunities that you HAVE to make most of. So give it your all. Before an interview, read. Read about your interviewers, the company, its people, the industry and anything and everything around it. Don’t enter the interview without feeling part of that space. You’ve got one shot at turning your dream into a reality, work hard.
An internship is just a platform to prove yourself and test your passion for the work. But it can be an uphill task getting there. So use every resource at your disposal and immerse yourself in the process while being organic (really important). This isn’t a magic wand for all, but I hope some elements help you make the cut. Good luck!
I hope you go out there and make a positive difference, every day.