3 Steps to Discovering Hidden Internships

Not all open internships are advertised publicly. Apply speculatively, and you may just get what you seek!
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

When it comes to advertising work experience opportunities, some smaller-sized employers may not have the budget for it. It may also be the case that some employers simply do not need to take in big numbers of students as interns.

However, this doesn’t mean such employers will reject the idea of having interns on board. They may be amenable to taking on one or two interns for a short period of time. They could also be open to the idea of having students on board for work shadowing or volunteering.

As these opportunities may not be advertised, the onus is on you to ferret them out through research, and by sending in speculative applications. Here’s how you can get started.

Step 1: Identify prospective employers

Start by shortlisting employers in the area of work or industry you are interested in. Google and LinkedIn should be your two primary tools to help you in your search.

You can use search engines to learn more about the employers, through online press releases and news portals. Fully utilise LinkedIn by looking up department heads or managers working in the company on your shortlist. You can connect with them to ask about possible internship opportunities.

Alternatively, you may speak to your seniors who have graduated before you, and who are currently working in the industry that you are interested in. You can get in touch with them to ask if their employers are open to taking in interns.

Step 2: Write your speculative application

If you are not sure if the employee you’ve connected on LinkedIn is someone who makes hiring decisions, you can always drop him/her a professional message to ask for the specific department head’s or the hiring manager’s email address. 

Before initiating contact with the person in charge, you should have your résumé updated and cover letter customised to the specific employer so that you can attach them in your first email to him or her.

You can use the content of your cover letter as the body of your email or message. Here are some tips on how to craft one:

  • Address the recipient by name, instead of using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. If you were asked to send your application to an email address, make sure to also ask for the name of the person who will read your email. Otherwise, you can call the organisation to find out who is the best person to address your application to.
  • State your objective of finding work experience opportunities clearly, and how long you are able to commit.
  • Show that you’ve done some research on the employer by highlighting why you chose to apply to this company in particular. Showcase your knowledge on what the organisation does in its specific market, and what about its business that interests you.
  • Mention your skills and knowledge which you can bring to the table. Emphasise on how you can contribute.
  • Don’t forget to attach your internship résumé.

Step 3: Follow up on your application

If you haven’t heard back from the employer for about a week or so after submitting your application, give them a call. Considering that speculative applications are made to opportunities that aren’t advertised, chances are there is no urgent need for the employer to have interns on board.

Hence, it is wise to call them directly to get the recruiter’s or manager’s attention. If they haven’t decided on whether to recruit you as an intern, the call will remind them to expedite the decision-making process.