Externships: Unlocking the Back Door to an Internship–Job Search Tips


Today we have a special guest post from Ahmed Abdalla.  Ahmed is a junior at The Pennsylvania State University, majoring in Electrical Engineering. He loves meeting new people and continuously learning new things. Catch him on Twitter @ahmad19526 or check out his LinkedIn page: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ahmedonline .

Unlock the Back Door to an InternshipWhat I’m going to tell you is a method that I think can help you get into any or at least one company of your choice! I’m not going to tell you the idea straight away, though. First, I want to remind you of an age-old secret to success and then tell you a story.

Have you ever wondered what kind of students do and don’t get internships? Are the people that land internships super amazing with obnoxiously cool accomplishments on their resume? Did they save the Amazon forest, find a cure for cancer, or create artificial ozone in their basement during high school?

No – they’ve done none of that. But, how is it that there’s a few lucky college students that are making serious dough with essentially the same education and skills as everyone else? The answer is simple and it comes down to something you’ve known about all your life – the secret is in connections and good networks. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, this probably isn’t news to you.  So let’s keep moving.

During the summer after my freshman year, I had an internship at GE Transportation and I was walking with my manager from one building to another on the way to a meeting.  We started talking about how people get into large corporations whose headquarters are the size of campuses (like GE). My manager, Todd Kindel, told me that the Human Resource team hires people who have a champion.

What? I was confused. A champion? Yes, he explained. A champion is someone inside the corporation who promotes the potential hire’s application to the company. That is, a champion is a connection of the potential hire. This person could be a family relative, friend, or old acquaintance. Someone who’ll go up to bat for you; they’ll tell HR that they’re willing to take a bullet for you and you should really get hired!

But most students don’t know people inside of the companies that they want to work at. How can you solve this problem?

My former manager told me that HR doesn’t like to just pull resumes off the Internet and call people cold. Think about it. With the millions of people searching for jobs online and an endless sea of resumes out there, it’s often too hard and unrealistic for HR teams to reach out and interview someone on the mere basis that their application on Monster.com looks flat out amazing. Who knows if this person is even real?

So, what’s the trick?

When I was a senior in high school I shadowed an engineer at Lords. It was mostly set up by my high school – one of those opportunities structured by the school for you to find your field of interest, and blah blah blah. My suggestion? Go out and shadow a worker at a company that interests you!

Shadowing (sometimes called an externship) in your field of interest is the easiest and friendliest way to get into a company. Just call up/email their HR department and with lots of innocence and serenity, tell them that you’re interested in pursuing this career path and ask if their company might be able to give you the opportunity to shadow a person in the same job position so you can learn about what you want to get yourself into.

Trying this method gives you several advantages.

  1. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll get into a company on a friendly basis. The people will be welcoming and intrigued – why there’s a guest in the office place!
  2. You’ll have a warm relationship with HR. HR people usually meet outsiders in times of tension – heavy paperwork, interviews, busy schedules, positions needing filled – meeting a person outside of these modes is only a good thing!
  3. You get inside the company – HR connects you with someone – you can make a connection! This is when you use your people skills.

Connect with the employee your assigned to shadow, create a good rapport with them, try hard to establish meaningful connection, and then afterwards follow up to make it more solid – email, phone call – update them on you and how much of a good time you had, all the stuff you learned.  Make them remember you!

Of course, I can’t guarantee it’ll work, but your chances are a lot better than submitting your resume to databases and waiting for the responses that may not come. The toughest part is getting inside a company. No company has any reason to help you learn about them. You’ll most likely get rejected from shadowing from companies due to company rules, busy schedules, or information privacy, etc. But you can try to grease your way in – tell the company you’ll write about your time with them in to your college/local newspaper, blog, or whatever. Use your creativity here!  If you have something to offer them, it is much more likely that they will want to help you.

If you’re looking for an internship and don’t believe there are a lot of opportunities out there for you, I want you to try this out! Whatever your major – engineering, business, meteorology, sports broadcasting – I want you to call a company in your career field and tell them you want to shadow someone, even if they don’t offer internships. You never know, they might make an exception for you!

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