How to get an internship

Published Jan. 29, 2019

In many cases, when starting or changing careers, it can be a good idea to look for internships to experience the daily life in a job, make first industry connections and get hands-on experience in a topic. However, getting internships in the first place can be hard. Our mentors share some insights on what to do.

How to get an internship

While unpaid internships start fading away due to most companies offering a small starting salary, you’ll have to think about what you’re looking for before reaching out to companies. Are you ready to do an unpaid internship? How long would you like the internship to last? Are there opportunities nearby? Are you looking for a full-time position after?

All these questions will determine what to look out for.

  • If you are looking for paid positions only, it can be hard for managers to allocate budgets for unplanned internships, so cold emailing will get more difficult.
  • While most internships are three months long, many companies will extend it to six months if you are doing a good job. Everything over that is usually too long.
  • Most managers won’t bother talking about relocation and visa sponsorships for internships. If you can, look for something nearby or something you can get to in a acceptable commute.
  • Be sure to make clear that you are available after the internship for a full-time position, but don’t expect them to hire you.

Looking in the open

Now you know what you are looking for, so it’s time to get looking. Apply to publicly announced positions with your CV. This is a time where quantity might count over quality: Get your name out as much and fast as possible. You should apply to every suiting internship around you.

Speaking about getting your name out: Search publicly. Post on LinkedIn and other social networks that you are looking and what your terms are. You’ll be surprised about how many companies could use an intern.

Need help with your CV or career development? Feel free to reach out to one of our mentors

If you’re lucky, you might already be close to getting an internship

Cold Emailing

Against popular belief, cold emailing to ask for internships can work - especially at big companies. But you need to find the right contact person.

Try to find a manager, hiring contact or HR person of a company near you and reach out to them directly. You really need to refine your message before you click send. Be sure that your mail is properly formatted, free of typos, respectful and explains exactly who you are.

For reference, this message was sent from our Founder to a Vice President at NVIDIA. Just weeks later, he got an internship there.

Hey [redacted], I was wondering if there are any internship positions open at your Zurich offices? I’m currently doing Udacity’s SDCND and DLFND [info: contact new about these programs], as well as mentoring new students there, and looking for an opportunity to work in Deep Learning after this summer.

Not a perfect message by any means, but short, casual and sympathetic.

Interviewing & Offers

Let’s assume the previous steps worked out perfectly. What now? Chances are, that you might need to decide between multiple interviews and offers. When making an internship decision, keep these pointers in mind.

  • When it comes to money vs. learning, try to tend towards learning. It’ll pay off later on a lot more!
  • Try to choose a company with a known name - it’ll open doors after.
  • It’s only temporary - so don’t turn things down due to organizational things (e.g. a long commute)
  • Put in extra effort - you’ll get to work on more projects and do more exciting things.

We hope that this guide can help you with your internship search. Good luck!