As an #NDSUintern, a college student, or a college graduate, it can often feel like everyone around you has everything all figured out. And when you start hearing from your peers about the internships they’ve secured, that feeling only gets worse—especially if you’re still searching for an opportunity of your own. 🔎
The reality is you’re not alone, and there’s still time. We promise you: not everyone has it nearly as together as you may think, and it’s possible that the only things standing between you and a great internship are a few well-crafted emails. (The same is true for non-students looking for an internship!)
While job boards and online postings can be useful leads, networking is key. 🤝🏽 Reaching out directly to a recruiter or to people you know can make all the difference in your internship search. Whether you’ve been searching for a while and haven’t had any luck securing interviews or just want to be proactive, take the time to write a personal note to a professor you’d like to work with or an alum of your school who’s currently employed by your dream company. It can really set you apart.
Want to explore internship opportunities? Click here.
Sending an email to ask for an internship might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! In general, people are very open to giving advice and helping out when they can. Not sure where to start? Follow these simple steps for reaching out to different connections. 📝
1. Do Your Research
First, start brainstorming who you might want to reach out to about internship opportunities and keep a running list. Is there a specific company whose work you’re interested in? Use online tools like LinkedIn or NDSU’s CAREERLINK to find connections at your top companies. Are there any professors whose work you particularly admire? Add their names to your list. You can even tap into your family’s network! Does a family friend work for a company you’d be interested in interning for? Their name belongs on your list as well.
Once you’ve mapped out everyone you might want to reach out to, be sure to prioritize and plan out what order you’ll reach out to people in. Use your level of interest in the opportunity or organization and how comfortable you feel connecting with the person as two guiding factors.
As you’re making and refining your list, make sure you know why each person is on it. You’ll want to craft a personalized message every time and have a specific goal for each note. For example, are you looking to land a particular internship or is this more of an exploratory email to see what might be available at a certain company? If you start thinking about these questions early on, you’ll be ready to go when the time comes to sit down and write your emails.
2. Craft Your Emails
Now that you’ve identified a list of people you want to reach out to, it’s time to compose the actual messages. Here’s how to go about writing them:
💡 Use an Appropriate Greeting
Always use an appropriate greeting when reaching out. It’s one of the first things the recipient will see and, let’s face it, first impressions matter.
- If you’re emailing a recruiter or someone who you’ve never met, it’s a safe bet to start with “Dear Mr./Ms./etc. [Last Name].” Just make sure to do your research so you avoid using the wrong honorific or pronoun; if you really can’t tell which you should use, try “Dear [First Name] [Last Name].”
- If you have reason to believe they’d be happy with less formality (e.g. if they work at a startup with a casual culture), you can go with “Dear [First Name].”
- In the case of a professor, writing out “Dear Professor/Prof. [Last Name]” is the proper way to greet someone.
- If you feel more comfortable with the person—if they’re a family friend or mentor, for example—it’s acceptable to start your email with, “Hi [First Name].”
💡 Be Mindful of Your Tone
If you’re cold emailing a recruiter or professor you’ve never spoken to before, it’s better to err on the formal side. When emailing a family friend, it’s okay to follow the lead of your past conversations and be a bit more casual than you’d be with a stranger.
💡 Reference Your Connection
Always make sure you highlight the way you’re connected to this person. Are they an alum of your college? Is this a family friend that you saw at a get-together last month? If you’re emailing a professor, make sure you reference either the classes you’ve taken with them or a way in which you connect to their work. Even when reaching out to a recruiter, mention how you heard about the company or if another connection referred you (just make sure that connection is comfortable with you using their name).
💡 Highlight What Interests You
It’s important to show the person you’re emailing that you’ve done your homework and aren’t simply mass emailing about internship opportunities. The best way to show your interest is to highlight what excites you most about this internship role, research project, or company.
If you’re applying to a specific internship, it’s pretty straightforward: Just make sure you reference certain aspects of the role that you find interesting and exciting to work on.
At times, however, you may be emailing without a specific internship in mind. Maybe the organization doesn’t have a formal internship program, but you’d love to have a chance to be involved with a particular team or project. This is okay, too! But make sure you explain why you’re interested in working with that company or department and be specific. This is essentially your way of asking for an internship to be created, and people are much more likely to want to help
you do that if you come off as genuinely enthusiastic.
When reaching out to a professor about research opportunities or possible lab work, make sure you mention how their work aligns with your academic interests and long-term goals as well as what you’ve already done that sets you up to co
ntribute to their project.
💡 Make a Specific Request
Don’t be vague. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for the person on the other end to understand what you’re looking for and act on your request. Are you asking to meet up and hear more about the organization they work for or for them to put you in touch with the hiring manager? Are you interested in one specific internship posting or is this an inquiry to see if an internship could be created? If you’re emailing regarding a specific internship, include either the reference number or a link to the posting in your note. In any case, you want the reader to know what it is that you hope will happen next, whether it’s a phone call, an email introduction, or a meeting.
💡 Keep It Short
Show that you appreciate people’s time by keeping your email short. Introduce yourself, highlight your interest, insert your ask, and propose a next step quickly and concisely. People often want to help, but they’re also busy—so they’re far more likely to respond to your request if your email is succinct and it’s easy for them to do what you’re asking.
💡 Attach an Updated Resume
Make sure you attach your most up-to-date resume. In some cases you might also choose to attach your cover letter – if, for example, if you’ve applied to a specific posting separately and want to include your letter as an FYI. Your documents should be tailored to the type of internship you’re looking for—or to the exact role you’re applying for, if that’s the case.
It’s impossible to fit all of your credentials into this one short email, so take the opportunity to further demonstrate your interest and qualifications. If these documents align well with the role you’re interested in you’re much more likely to have someone respond or put you in touch with another person.
Especially during this time of COVID-19, you you might feel awkward and nervous about sending these types of emails. But, it’s worth it to try reaching out anyway. Keep in mind that even if an email doesn’t directly result in an internship, each connection you make is still a valuable opportunity to network and learn about potential career paths and internship possibilities. And you never know, someone you connect with now might remember you a few years down the line when another great opportunity comes up!
Remember to stay professional, keep in touch, and follow-up with email communication in a timely manner. Good luck!
(original blog via the muse, edited by us!)