5 creative ways to find the internship you need to get ahead

Martin Astbury
7 min readOct 11, 2017

In this post, we explain what the hidden job market is and offer 5 practical ways that you can access it to land the internship you want.

Have you been spending hours applying for internships online only to get no response? Or maybe you’re searching jobs platforms for the perfect opportunity and wondering why you can’t find what you’re looking for. Finding the experience you need to get ahead is frustrating for many students, but there is a better way.

If you’re taking the traditional approach to finding that internship, you’re making it extra hard for yourself. Did you know that only 20% of job opportunities are ever advertised to the public?! That leaves a massive 80% of the market that you’re missing out on.

This phenomenon is known as the hidden job market, which are all the vacant opportunities that are never advertised to the public. If you’re new to the job searching process then you’ve probably never heard of it before. Learning how to tap into this market can be your secret weapon to finding the career that you want. In this blog, you’re going to get 5 actionable tips that you can use to tap this incredible resource.

What is the hidden job market and why does it exist?

Before we get into those tips I’m sure you’re scratching your head wondering why the hidden market exists, to begin with?! Let me give you the short version of why this is the case.

The simple reason is that job seekers and employers approach the hiring process differently. Job seekers are looking to maximise the use of their time, so they favour the jobs that are easiest to apply (e.g those advertised online). Employers are looking to minimise the risk of hiring the wrong person. This is why they favour hiring people who they can trust (e.g not people they’ve never met before who sent a CV via a Seek.)

The result of this interesting anomaly is that most job seekers are competing for the smallest pool of jobs. Hence, why the hidden job market exists! If you want more information about the hidden job market I’d recommend reading the book,what colour is your parachute? Don’t have time to read? Neither do I! That’s why you should check out Blinklist for a 20 minute audio summary of this book.

The first thing you need to do to access this market is changing your mindset. Rather than looking for jobs and trying to adapt yourself to the role, think about the job that you would be best suited for? Then go out and find that job!

It might sound simple enough, but putting that into practice can be very challenging. But don’t worry! The rest of this blog is all about giving you some actionable ways that you can apply this theory to find yourself an internship!

1. Leverage your personal network and their network.

We all know a lot of people. In fact, according to research by Columbia University, we each have 600 personal connections at any one time. Of course, those 600 people could help us find a job but what about all the people they know? Not to get technical but 600 x 600 = 360,000 — that’s a lot of people who could help you find that job!

How do you leverage this huge database of people who are keen to help you out?! Well, first things first you need to tell them what you want.

Now, I know you might be thinking that you don’t want to bother all these nice people. Well, you should! In fact, you’re doing them a favour by asking for help because people like to help other people. Think if you could help someone get into the career they’re really passionate about, I’m sure you would (unless you’re a terrible person or something?).

So, people want to help other people out, that’s great. But, people are still busy so we need to keep that in mind when we’re asking for favours. Basically, we want to make it as easy as possible for people to help us out, which means:

- Being clear about what we’re asking for;

- Not giving them too much information;

- Telling them exactly how they can help us.

For an example of an email, you can send to people that you know, see below.

2. Build a jobs pipeline

Okay, so now that you’ve decided exactly what you’re looking for, what next? Well if you’re serious about getting that job, it’s time to get serious about the process we take to get there.

A ‘sales pipeline’ is the systematic process that salespeople use to explore new business opportunities. We can apply the same process to our job search, in what I like to call the ‘jobs pipeline’ (very creative, I know!). This involves building a long list of companies that we could work for and then apply a pragmatic approach to reaching out.

Two tools that can help you with this process are:

- LinkedIn Sales Navigator: which you can access on a free 30-day trial of LinkedIn premium. With this tool, you can use the advanced search feature to track down the people that you need to speak with. You can also use the research features to learn about these people and help plan your approach.

- Hunter: which allows you to gather work emails straight from a business website (I know, it should be illegal but it’s not!). Using this tool, you can collect 150 emails each month for free and build a database of people to contact. For a quick tutorial on how to use this tool, check out this video.

Finally, when implementing this strategy you want to approach these contacts in the right way. Basically, you want to avoid coming across as SPAMMY = someone sending the same message to hundreds of people hoping for a response.

To avoid being known as a SPAMMER check out an example of an email you can send below.

Keep in mind that not everyone is going to say yes, in fact, if 20% of people respond you’re doing well for yourself! But, you shouldn’t worry about people saying no and if you are, remember this:

- How hard is it to say no to someone via email? answer = not very.

- Would you be any worse off than you are now if every single person says no? answer = no.

3. Record a personal video

A video is a much more personal form of communication and it will also set you apart from the other job seekers.

You can’t gain an advantage by doing the same thing as everyone else. That’s not an opinion, it’s a proven fact! The only way to gain any kind of advantage is by taking a different approach to the traditional.

A creative way to be different is through a personalised video message to the company where you’re interested in working. The vast majority of job seekers won’t do this, so you will instantly put yourself ahead of the pack. And on top of that, you’re demonstrating you’re proactive and know how to communicate.

You should customise your video based on the company that you’re targeting. Here’s a rough script that you might want to follow:

4. Target Facebook ads to your company

Okay, I’ll admit that this one is a bit out of the box but it could be your ticket to your dream job (and after all the title does say CREATIVE ways to find an internship!)

So, Facebook Ads allow you to get very specific with your target audience. In fact, you can target an audience of 1 if you’d like. Therefore, if you know the specific person in a company that makes the hiring decisions you could send Facebook Ads directly to them….

Now, this approach is not suited for every situation. In fact, there are some prerequisites for attempting this strategy:

- You’ve met the person who you’re targeting and they’ll remember you;

- The job is related to digital marketing in some vague way (so they’ll appreciate your Facebook ads skills);

- The person you’re targeting has a sense of humour!

5. Create your own project

You can use this strategy with one or even all of the above suggestions.

Rather than waiting for work to open up for you, why don’t you create a project that you can deliver for the company? This is the whole premise of what we do at the Upstart Academy, which is why we know that this process works. Essentially, you want to create a way that you can offer some value to their business whilst you demonstrate the fact that you’ve got the skills they need.

When creating these projects there is a simple formula you need to follow:

- The project can offer some value to their business (otherwise it’s not worth their time).

- The project holds no risk to their business if it fails (e.g don’t offer to do their tax return).

This strategy is a sure fire way to reduce the risk of hiring you by showing you can add real value to their organisation.

6. Sign up for the Upstart Academy (bonus tip!!)

At the Upstart Academy, we match students with innovative companies for online projects so you can get the experience you need to get ahead. We have new projects launching all the time and you can register here for your chance to take part!



Martin Astbury

Founder of the Upstart Academy: reinventing internships to make them accessible for all students.