Why Having a Dream Internship Doesn’t Mean Success Searching for One

Last summer, when my friend got an internship out in California for the fall (of 2014) with a fast-growing start-up, I began to believe that I could one day land an internship in Silicon Valley too. I had my eyes on the Greater San Francisco Area since the end of my freshman year, and after talking to my friend who went out there for his internship, I began to search for summer internships at start-ups, (as well as the larger, powerhouse technology companies). From finding a list that had hundreds of start-ups, to joining AngelList (a platform for start-ups) and The Muse (a career advice website), I was confident everything was in my favor; however, little did I know that I would fail, harder than ever, at securing a summer internship on the West Coast.

Why I Failed

  1. I did not utilize my school’s online job and internship listing platform. I was foolish for thinking that I could go around applying for internships via my school’s career development website. Because start-ups with the number of employees typically in the single digits, there is usually no one person dedicated to recruiting, especially for interns; therefore, these start-ups do not usually approach the career development offices at colleges, asking them to list internships students can apply for. These start-ups frequently don’t have such time for that.
  2. I did not attend my school’s internship fair. As I previously mentioned, it is uncommon for a start-up (with a handful of employees) to be in attendance at an internship fair; however, one may ask the following: if looking to intern for a start-up, why bother attending an internship fair if start-ups are not present anyways? According to students that went to this year’s fair, I could have at least learned about the different internship offerings from these different companies, even though that may not be exactly what I wanted from the get go. I could have also used the internship fair to network and keep my options open for the future. I did not give the fair any benefit of the doubt.
  3. AngelList is not a substitute for a school’s listings of internship opportunities. AngelList may list ten times the number of job and internship listings than a school’s job and internship platform, but there is one difference: AngelList, from what I have learned, is a place where start-ups promote themselves and list the different job openings they have; you can write a message to express interest to someone on AngelList that someone might see. On the other hand, my school’s platform for jobs and internships contains direct links to applications. Schools provide a platform that students can access because the career development offices know that someone from Company X asked the school to post jobs on their website, hence why in my opinion, a school’s platform is better than AngelList. I could have also looked to apply for small companies on my school’s internship listing site, as well look to apply to companies I share similar values with.
  4. Overall, I did not talk to enough people; rather, I applied online and wished for the best. One can hope that they are contacted after submitting an online application or letter of interest to a company, but this is almost never guaranteed. That is where AngelList falls short of a school’s internship and job listing platform; a message expressing interest in a job is never going to replace the conventional application process, or an email that is directly sent to a recruiter or employee of a company. I hardly talked to any professionals in my field of interest (sustainability) or recruiters about my interest in getting an internship for this summer, which is probably one of my biggest downfalls in my entire internship search.

Final Thoughts: Although I have an internship that is much more along the lines of what industry I want to go into and I want to do for a career (something with sustainability), I believe this reflection on my failures will help me propel to success in my search for an internship next summer. Whether I work in a role that focuses sustainability, or work for a company that as a whole is driven by sustainability, I have learned what to avoid (and what to do) in order to make my search more successful.