How To Get An Internship At A Startup

So, you are a college student, and you want to get your foot in the door at a start-up. Maybe you like the smaller-business culture, or maybe you see a better chance to make an impact.

But whatever your motivation, there are some key steps which you can take to give yourself the best chance of landing that intern position at a start-up that interests you.

We put together this guide to give you the exact steps that you can take to achieve this. So read on, and you will be confident about what you need to do to get that start-up internship!

Steps To Get An Internship At A Startup

Landing an internship at a start-up is not as daunting as you might think, and by doing it you will become a more confident person.

So, follow these steps, and you will have the best chance of getting the internship position that you want.

1. See What Internships Are Available

Ok, so you probably did not need us to tell you this, but the first thing that you need to do is spend a little time seeing what is out there. The internet is obviously the best place to do this.

And Websites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and YCombinator are your best bets. LinkedIn and lndeed are the leading job hunt websites, but they also advertise startup internship positions.

And YCombinator is the leading job hunt website specifically for start-up positions. It is a good idea to use all three of these sites so you can play the field, and get a good idea of what internships are going.

Depending on what you are searching for, you might not find as many as you would like. This is because not all startups are in a financial position to take on a paid internship.

Along with this, recruitment teams need to ensure that the right full-time staff are brought onboard during this critical period.

At this point in a business’ life, resources are tighter, and so an intern will only be brought into the team if it is seen as beneficial to growth at this point.

But despite there being websites to find positions, a lot of startups will not actually advertise them. So this is your opportunity to be proactive and show some get-up-and-go!

You can be proactive and reach out to startups you like the look of — it does not matter if they have no internships advertised on their website.

Or you can be reactive and only find ones which are advertised. The choice is yours…

2. When To Reach Out

Startup internships do not usually follow the same system as a large corporate firm. If you go for a corporate internship, you might start your internship hunt well in advance, sometimes up to 6 months before the start date.

But, for start-ups, the road is windier at this point, so it is hard for them to know what staff members they will need 6 months beforehand. So, for many, it is unrealistic to advertise an internship this far in advance.

This does not mean that you should leave it until a few weeks before to start looking. That would significantly reduce your chances.

But giving yourself 2-3 months is a good idea. And for the startups to see you as worthy of taking a chance on, you need to be able to commit to a minimum of ideally 2 months.

If you only have a couple of weeks during your summer break that you can give to a start-up, then they probably will not see you as worth the effort.

It will take time for you to get up to speed with their processes, and then you will leave before making an impact.

Ensuring that you have the time to give to an internship is key, and cannot be stressed enough. Why waste your time searching and applying for positions, when you will not be there long enough to develop your skills?

3. Make A Startup List

Now it is time to start listing the start-ups that you want to apply for internships at. You will want to list a few; 30 is a good number.

It might seem like a lot, but when you think about how many other people are the same thing as you, then it makes sense. Taking this proactive approach will increase your chance of getting a response.

However, it is not purely a numbers game. Look for companies which genuinely interest you. Remember that an internship is a chance to show your worth, and make a name for yourself.

So, if you end up in a position which you find really boring, then you might lack the motivation to make an impact. So do not sell yourself short, and list start-ups with interest in mind.

The size of the firm will also play a role in your success. So, list startups which not only interest you, but are small in size.

These sorts of companies are a little more relaxed when it comes to hiring, so there may be fewer rigid requirements.

4. Message The Right Person

After completing your list, it is time to start contact hunting. For the smallest start-ups, ones with less than 50 employees, go directly to the founders or CEO.

At this early stage of a start-up’s life, the founders are still responsible for recruiting. So, speaking directly with them is your best shot at leaving a lasting impression.

For larger companies, up to 200 staff members, you are best off contacting the recruitment team. Search for a hiring manager’s details, and get in touch with them.

The hiring manager that you contact depends on the department that you want to intern within.

So, look for the person who heads recruitment within those departments, or alternatively, the department manager. The idea is to speak with somebody in a senior position, but strive for the hiring manager.

Once you have found the right person, reach out via email or LinkedIn. Email is more reliable because people do not spend that much time on LinkedIn.

At the end of the day, it is another form of social media, so focus on email, and you should get more replies.

And if all else fails, then you can always send an email to the general contact address of that start-up. But always strive to find the right person because a, it shows that you dig a little deeper, and b, you are personable.

5. Write Your Email

Let’s put pen to paper and get an email crafted. The key here is to keep it nice and concise. So, say what you mean in a few words.

The last thing anybody wants is to see an essay in their inbox. In this case, the only thing that will happen is that they will not even open it. But follow this email guidance and you will be okay.

Introduce Yourself, And Why You Are Contacting Them

Write a brief bio. What you study or where you currently work is always good information. Along with these, tell them your availability.

Why You Want An Internship At This Company

This is the key part of the email. It shows the employer that you have actually done some research, and builds a connection between you and them.

Think about it like this, would you appreciate somebody who knows nothing about you turning up unannounced to your party? Probably not, right? So, learn a little about the companies you apply to.

How Can You Help

Obviously, they are not expecting you to be an expert, but make it clear where you want to apply yourself, and how it will benefit the company.

To arcuately do this, look at the departments within the company. Find the one that best suits you, and match your skills and interests to those of working in said department.

For example, if you like web design, and have personal projects and experience working in a team, then tell the hiring manager this.

The final piece of email advice is to write quality emails. It may be tempting to write a generic one and reel it off to all of the start-ups. But this is a recipe for no responses.

And, the time you save by not writing quality emails will only end up being spent on having to apply to more companies. So, write a quality, tailored email to each company, and you will get more responses.

6. Sending You Email And Following Up

So, you are now ready to actually send your emails. Send it off in the morning after people have had a chance to get a coffee down them, and perk up a little.

And if a reply does not come back the first time, follow up with a short email to restate how much you want to intern there, and that you are keen to have a chat.

But send follow-up emails at a different time, as it could be that the original email caught them at a bad time. 

Final Thoughts

Truth be told, you will be lucky if even half of the people you email get back to you, but that is normal. You just need to remain positive and confident in your approach.

So, follow the steps that we outlined, make sure your email is cell crafted and tailored, and do not take no as a knockdown. You will land that internship with these steps, so keep at it!

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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