It was late March in the first year of my MBA program at Wharton, and I had been to more crowded information sessions and company visits than I could count.
My fellow b-school students would do whatever it took to get their three minutes with the company representatives. I once got shoved and stepped on (by heels, no less) so hard by an aggressive female classmate desperate to be the first to talk to a hiring manager from a popular company that I had to get an ice pack for my feet and sit out the rest of the event.
In other words, I was nowhere close to my goal of landing a summer internship at a major film studio in LA.
Despite looming finals ahead, I knew I needed a plan. So I decided to head out to LA and set up as many information sessions as possible for what I deemed to be my own “summer internship blitz.” I booked my flight and went in ready and armed with the single goal of leaving with an internship offer.
And by the end of the trip, I had more than one to choose from.
Yes, it was on my own dime, and yes, I had to miss classes, but if you’re in a similar boat, trying to find summer internships across the country and not having much luck, it’s a strategy I’d recommend to anyone. Here’s how I did it.
My Summer Internship Blitz Strategy
Once I had my flight booked, I scoured my college alumni database and reached out to a bunch of people with an email letting them know that I was flying out to LA to learn more about their companies. I added a request for a quick meeting to get their advice on career path options and hear about their experiences—and even though I’d never met most of these people before, the response rate was great. More than half agreed to meet with me, which resulted in six appointments at four studios over the course of two days.
At each meeting, I told the people I met with why I was interested in getting into this field and made sure I had a few questions prepped that were specific to their background, as well as the company they worked for. (Think: “How’d you go about making the transition from banking to content licensing at Disney?” and “Were there specific skills or experiences from your days of consulting that helped you get this role at Fox?”) Each chat was incredibly informative—in fact, it’s amazing how much more info you can glean from one-on-one meetings where you can actually steer the conversation and not be worried about what to say in a group setting that’ll get you remembered.
In addition, I got a glimpse into each office and a feel for the culture of the company—things I would’ve not been exposed to had I continued my internship search from Philadelphia.
At the end of each meeting, I closed by asking my contact there was anyone else I should meet with. Over the course of the two days, the six appointments quickly turned into nine as I got introduced to others’ colleagues and contacts. I actually ended up extending my trip by a half day to make more time.
The best meeting was with my future internship boss, who suggested I should meet his boss (the president of a major division within Warner Brothers at the time). My response: “Sure! I would love to. But I’m leaving later today back to Philly; does he have 10 minutes now?”
Amazingly, he made 20 minutes for me (during his shoe shine appointment in his massive office). He asked me a very simple question: “What do you find so interesting about this industry?” I told him I was interested in the emerging disruptive trends in home entertainment and wanted the opportunity to learn more from the experts (yep, a bit of flattery never hurts). After his shoe shine, he personally escorted me to the HR office and said, “I’m impressed you flew across the country just to see about an internship—shows how serious you are—I’ll see you this summer.”
I was soon presented with internship opportunities in three different groups within the company and left LA feeling totally accomplished. Coming back to Philadelphia and struggling through my finals was not great—but the sacrifice was well worth it.
A key takeaway for me through this experience, which has carried me way beyond the summer internship search: Do what it takes to prove how much you want the job. Show that you are willing to go out of your way to chase your goals. Prove that you have a strong sense of initiative and are not afraid to veer off the usual path. Make your goals and requests clear with a sense of urgency. And make every person you meet with feel special.
It’s a little bit harder than going to those information sessions, but I guarantee it will get you a lot further.
Photo of interview courtesy of Shutterstock.