How to land a viable first internship (or any job) when you have no experience

Securing that first internship as an undergrad could be one of the biggest conundrums undergraduate students face in today’s academic and working world. I know for me it was. It is the definition of a catch 22. Employers require experience straight out of the gate, yet as undergraduates we don’t have any viable experience and thus can’t land any viable internships! The path to land that dream internship that actually builds your resume while giving you tangible skills and experience can be difficult to find. In this article, I hope to provide you with the tools and verbage to land said internship with absolutely NO experience.
First and foremost, both you and your employer know you don’t have any “real life working skills”. So, don’t embellish or exaggerate. Instead, be forthcoming with your experience. In interviews and applications, focus on what projects or leadership positions you have had that may relate to the job. Most important, it is absolutely critical to verbalize the fact that you are a quick and eager learner. The below verbage is what I use in my interviews:                   
“I recognize I have no real working experience. However, what I do bring to the table is experience managing teams (leadership example) and experience tackling unique problems (school project example). Above all, I see my lack of experience as an opportunity. I am a driven and quick learner who is passionate about everything with which I am involved.”
Above, you have acknowledged your lack of experience, but twisted it in such a way that exemplifies your past experiences and portrays you as an individual who can adapt to new and important situations. Sounds like a dual threat!
Bonus tip: Actually, say you want the job! Very few interviewees express their actual desire for the position, they just drone on and on about their qualifications. Every workplace wants employees who are excited to come to work each day. So, be that person!
My next tip is something that can’t be taught; hustle. In the second semester of my Freshman year, knowing I wanted a viable summer internship, I applied on average to two internship positions a day. In total, I applied to close to 100 job positions. Why? Well, first, there is security in numbers. Simply put, the more jobs you apply to, the more chances you have at landing an interview and securing the job. Yes, that first internship should involve something you are passionate about and interested in but ultimately, it’s a numbers game and getting your foot in the door in any way is impressive and will pay dividends in the future. You will definitely receive a lot of “No’s” and be ghosted, but you will also be overjoyed by the number of positive responses you get.
Second, the sheer process of applying and interviewing is free practice. You are only going to become stronger as an applicant and interviewee by practicing. Thus, I never turn down any type of interview, even if I’m not 100% interested in the position; I suggest you do the same. The ultimate goal: be comfortable enough through sheer quantity of practice to nail any interview.
Last, I turn to the follow up. I know this is preached across every university and recruiter across the nation and for good purpose; it works. However, I use a unique touch that separates my follow up letter from others. There are two major questions undergrads face when writing that follow up email. First, timing. It will always be a mystery on when and where an employer/recruiter will be looking at their inbox and if your letter will even make it to their inbox at all. With that being said, I prefer to send my follow up email between one and two days after the meeting or interview. This allows for the employer/recruiter to digest the information you gave them while not being creepy by following up immediately after the meeting (yes, it is strange and a bit creepy to send an email to an employer less than ten minutes after an interview). Shoot for sending the email between 7am and 10am, this falls in the morning hours when professionals are usually checking their emails received the previous night. By sending your email in this time slot it will hopefully fall at the top of their inbox!
Now, most important in the follow up email is the content. What should I say? How should I say it? How long should it be? Fear no more… use the below template for a killer follow up email!
Employer/Recruiter Name,
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me the other day. It was an absolute pleasure talking to you about <position name> and the responsibilities that come with the position. I enjoyed learning about your company and greatly related with <key takeaway/memory from interview>. I firmly believe that I can add value and passion to your team at <company name>. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at <contact info> for any follow up questions or comments. It truly was a pleasure.
<your name>
The above follow up letter is a quick and simple way to let your desired employer know that you appreciated the meeting and look forward to connecting again. Further, it exemplifies your professional behavior even as an undergraduate and demonstrates your initiative.
I agree, the system is unfair, yet it is beatable. As undergrads, we are put in a position where the only way to land an internship is through experience, but very few companies are willing to take a chance on someone without experience, no matter how intelligent or driven the person may be. The above tips and tools helped me secure a great paying internship in a field about which I am passionate and excited. I hope, with the help of this article, you too find the same. Happy hunting!
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