#74 TRENDING IN Student Life 🔥

How to Get Top Internships Without Being a Nepo Baby

Student Life

November 24, 2023

The job market is getting increasingly competitive. Whether you’re in high school, undergraduate, or post-grad, applying to internships can be daunting, especially when you’re constantly hearing about others applying to hundreds of internships and getting rejected from all of them. Granted, you’re competing against so many applicants.

Some have years of experience under their belt, but even with all that, they're not necessarily guaranteed to get an internship either. Why? Probably because of the common saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While it does sound discouraging, it’s, unfortunately, how the cookie crumbles.

The timeline for applications varies from industry to industry. Still, it doesn’t change that knowing someone on the inside gives you a huge leg up against other competitors regarding having an offer or receiving a rejection letter. It’s especially easier for those with family members or friends willing to offer them opportunities without hearing everyone else out.

Sometimes, the position you’re looking for will be filled before the interview process starts. So, here are the best tips and tricks for how to get that dream internship without having to be the daughter/son of the CEO.


Believe it or not, LinkedIn will be your best friend when finding people who work in your relevant field. To kick off your internship search, start by pinpointing companies that align with your goals. Think about the industry, where they're located, and the vibe of the company culture.

Once you've got a list, hop on LinkedIn and dive into the company's employees. Use filters like location, job titles, or departments to find folks in your field. Take a peek at their profiles—check out what they've done, their roles, and any shared connections or interests. When you're ready to reach out, craft a tailored message for each person. Introduce yourself, express why their journey caught your eye, and ask for advice. Sprinkle in your interest in a specific aspect of their company or industry. Be yourself!

After hitting send, give it a bit of time. A friendly follow-up nudging isn't a bad idea if there's no response. When the conversation's rolling and you've built a bit of a connection, don't hesitate to ask about internships.

Express your enthusiasm and interest, and if things flow naturally, see if they'd be cool with referring you or linking you up with their HR crew. Remember, keep it genuine and engaging. When you first talk to this person, your goal isn’t to get a letter of recommendation or referral from them but to spark a proper conversation and establish a connection. Here are some message templates to get you started:

Subject: Exploring Opportunities in [Industry/Field] - Seeking Advice

Hey [Name],

I hope you're doing well! Your journey at [Company] really got me thinking. I'm studying [your field or major] over at [Your University/College] and diving headfirst into a career in [specific industry/area]. Your experiences in [specific role or department] piqued my interest, and I'd love to pick your brain about your career path and get some guidance for someone walking a similar path.

I've got my eyes set on [specific aspect of the company or industry], and the work you all are doing at [Company] is pretty inspiring. Your insights would be invaluable as I navigate this field and look for internship opportunities. Would you be up for a quick chat or coffee (virtually or in person) whenever suits you? Any advice or tips you could share would be fantastic.

Thanks a bunch for considering this. I'm excited about the chance to connect and learn from your experiences!


[Your Name]


Subject: Exploring Common Interests at [Company Name]

Hi [Name], I hope this message finds you well! I came across your profile while researching [Company Name], and I'm impressed by your background in [specific area, project, or skill they highlight on their profile].

As someone enthusiastic about [industry/field], I'm always keen on connecting with professionals with similar interests or experiences. We might have some common ground, especially in [mention a common interest or skill].

I'm curious about your journey at [Company Name]. It's a company I've been following for its innovative approaches in [specific industry/area] and its commitment to [mention a recent achievement, initiative, or news about the company].

I'd love to learn more about your experiences and insights. Perhaps we could exchange thoughts over a virtual coffee or have a quick chat to discuss our shared interests and experiences in [industry/field].

Looking forward to the possibility of connecting and sharing thoughts!

Best regards,

[Your Name]


Sometimes, it’s not all about the solid skills that will score you an internship but also your mindset. When you approach the internship hunt with a proactive and growth-oriented mindset, you're more likely to focus on building your skills, networking genuinely, and seeking opportunities that align with your interests and strengths. Instead of feeling discouraged by the idea of nepotism, a positive mindset empowers you to showcase your unique value.

You'll be driven to research companies, tailor your applications, and contact professionals for informational interviews or mentorship. This mindset shift helps you highlight your passion and determination, making you stand out based on your merits rather than connections alone. It's about believing in your abilities, leveraging your strengths, and demonstrating your enthusiasm for the role you're pursuing.

Utilizing your University’s Resources

Now, this one might be a little more subjective, considering that sometimes your school may not have the strongest alumni network or the best resources. If you’re coming from a T20 school or a school known for a particular field than others, then it’s assumed that those students have a slight advantage due to prestige and recognition. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of what you have and making the best of it.

First up, there's the goldmine that is Career Services. They're like your personal squad for job-hunting. Think resume touch-ups, killer interview tips, and hooking you up with potential employers. They've got connections with companies looking for interns, which is a big win.

Then, there are these cool networking events the university throws - career fairs, industry meetups, you name it. Rubbing elbows with pros in your field, discovering internship openings, and making those oh-so-crucial connections all happen here. Let's not forget about your university’s alumni network.

Those folks maintain a soft spot for their old stomping grounds. Some networks dish out mentorship, job leads, and, yes, even internship gigs. Bonding with these alums can give you a sneaky advantage. Some universities run their own internship programs or partner with companies. These gigs can be top-notch—structured internships with respected organizations that give you great experience.

Don't forget your professors—they're not just there to teach. They could have contacts in your industry, hook you up with opportunities, or give advice based on what they've seen. You'll probably get access to exclusive job boards or databases through your university.

They list internships, some specifically for students from your school. Workshops and seminars happen a lot. They cover things like making your resume shine, acing interviews, and focusing on your industry. Taking part can really amp up your chances of getting hired. Faculty-led research projects or grants can sometimes lead to internships or experience related to your studies.

Polish Your Profile

This one might be a given, but for those who haven’t focused on this important aspect of internship searching, then this is for you. Focus on what matters most to make your resume stand out for your desired internship. Match your skills and experiences to what they're looking for in the job.

Look at their description and use similar words to show you're a great fit. Make your achievements clearer by adding numbers or facts when you can. It helps to show how well you've done in the past. Even if you haven't done this job before, highlight skills like teamwork, problem-solving, or communicating well. Explain how these skills would help in this internship.

When you write your cover letter, show them why you're excited about their company and this role. Make each cover letter fit the company and job. Let your enthusiasm for the industry or company shine through.

Talk about any projects, volunteer work, or things you do outside of school that show your passion and dedication. Check your work carefully for mistakes. Typos can make a bad impression, so having someone else look over everything is smart. Keep your online profiles, like LinkedIn, updated with your skills and experiences. Recruiters might check these after they get your application. By ensuring your application shows off your strengths, you'll grab the attention of recruiters for all the right reasons.

There you have it—the path to securing top internships without relying on connections or family ties. By emphasizing your skills, building a robust network, and showcasing your passion and dedication, you can break through barriers and pave your way to the opportunities you deserve. It's not just about what you know but how you demonstrate it.

With these strategies in your arsenal, you're well-equipped to chase after the internships that align with your ambitions and talents. Now, go out there and make it happen!

Williana Serve
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Williana is currently a freshman in college. She likes to learn new things especially involving Law & Advocacy. When she’s not doing schoolwork, she can be found watching TikTok, YouTube, or reading.