My college friends are all struggling to find good internships. We know that work experience is as important, if not more important than a good GPA. We know that an internship inspires confidence that you can get things done beyond passing an exam – that you can work with others to solve real problems in industry.
Finding that first internship is tough, especially for students entering their Junior year. Many of my Chemical Engineering and Chemistry colleagues are taking summer jobs as laboratory assistants cleaning glassware.
I had a better outcome. I used LinkedIn to land a promising internship without prior work experience in the field. Now I want to share advice to help you.
1. Start early and cast a wide net
I started a year ago, looking for internships in a wide range of chemical engineering fields, from bio applications to petroleum engineering. I searched for relevant companies everywhere in the United States. I cross-referenced the names of company executives, listed on company websites, with their LinkedIn profiles, and I sent nearly 50 different tailored inMails to company CEOs and heads of R&D, asking for their consideration of me as an intern. Having a LinkedIn Premium subscription really helped me to find and contact the right people. It gave me the opportunity to reach out to professionals I was not connected to and access to everyone who had viewed my profile.
2. Craft a specific message
Don’t send a generic InMail. I would research each company carefully, read their publications and learn about their business and technology. I tried to keep my message short, introducing myself, demonstrating excitement about the company and technology, and describing how my background would prepare me to contribute as an intern. I would end each inMail with a request for a phone call, and provide my contact details.
3. Be persistent
I got more responses after I refined and sent follow-up inMails. This was key. People respond when you demonstrate persistent interest. I got responses from, and followed up with roughly 10 CEOs to chat with them about their work. From these discussions I narrowed my interest to electrochemistry and battery technology.
4. Tailor your education
Having surfaced my passion for battery technology, I tailored my UCSD classes and sought out a graduate-level course in electrochemistry. That definitely helped to boost my credibility with prospective employers.
5. Respond timely and be available
My internship opportunities were heating up during a busy time for me at school. I was able to respond timely using the LinkedIn mobile app. This worked so much better than blindly submitting a resume and cover letter to an opening on a job board.
I hope this approach helps you as it helped me in networking with industry professionals and presenting yourself as a persistent qualified candidate. I’m thrilled to have landed my dream internship at a leading edge technology company called Imprint Energy. I don’t know how I could have landed this great opportunity without LinkedIn.