Internship Searching the Wayne Gretzky Way

by on March 16, 2009


Wayne Gretzky, one of the greatest hockey players to ever live, once said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” That’s great advice for just about anything in life, but figuring out where that puck is going to be is a lot easier said than done.

What if you always had a way of knowing where the puck was going to be?

Well, you probably wouldn’t be looking for an internship. Instead you’d be playing postseason college hockey (Go Big Red!) and preparing yourself for a six-figure job/NHL contract when you graduate.

The game of hockey is extremely unpredictable when it comes to where the puck is going to be, that’s why Gretzky was such a great talent. He had an inherent ability to anticipate what would happen next. Luckily, you don’t need natural talent to be like Gretzky when it comes to your internship search.

Gretzky on Internships

The world of internships may be very different from the world of hockey (except of course when you’re looking at hockey internships), but Gretzky’s insight still applies. Being able to anticipate where the internships will be can give you a huge advantage over other internship seekers. While trying to figure out where a puck is going to be after it bounces off boards, sticks, and pads while sliding across a slick surface is tough, guessing where internships are going to posted is ridiculously easy.

It’s easy because internships, unlike hockey pucks, are usually going to be where they have already been. Companies that hire interns are creatures of habit – they tend to do the same thing year after year. Now, I haven’t done any empirical research on this, but I’d wager that there’s an extremely high correlation (in terms of who, what, when, and where) between last year’s internship offerings and this year’s internship offerings for a given company.

What does this mean?

Stop waiting for companies to post their internships!

Anticipating the Need

If you were an internship coordinator (or whoever is in charge of hiring interns), would you rather hire the kid who e-mailed you and said something like:

Hi Internship Recruiter,

My name is Joe Smith. I am a huge fan of your products; in fact, I have been using them since I was 12 when I did science projects with my Dad. I even tied your newly released widget into a research paper that I’m writing for one of my classes in Industrial Design. I saw that your company offered internships last year, but I haven’t seen them posted yet this year. I’m trying to make plans for the Summer, and I actually already have two internship offers, but an internship with XYZ Industries would be a dream come true for me. If you will be announcing internships in the coming weeks, please consider this my application if it is appropriate. (I have attached a cover letter and resume below). If you have more specific application needs, please let me know what they are and I will get an application to you as quickly possible. Finally, if you aren’t planning on hiring interns this year, I hope that you will reconsider. I am truly excited about the prospect of working at XYZ Industries, and I know that I can make a great Summer addition to your Industrial Design team.


Joe Smith

Or would you take the kid who waited until the day of the application deadline?

It may not be a clear cut decision (or maybe it is?), but you have to think that Joe Smith has an edge over all of the other candidates.

That’s what it takes to land the internship of your dreams. An edge.

How To Anticipate

This approach not only works for internships that haven’t been posted yet, but it also works for internships that don’t exist. Anticipating a need is the best way to get a company to create an internship for you, but that’s a different article.

So, how do you figure out which companies are going to be posting internships in the future?

You look for old internship postings and references to internship programs that may not be accepting applications right now.

You can get extremely advanced with the tactics of anticipating internshps, but simply using some Google search tricks and plugging companies’ Internships pages into is a great start. I wish that there was more to tell you, but it’s really that easy.

Here’s an example: Gossip blog Valleywag posted an internship in June last year. They may or may not be taking interns this year, but waiting until June to find out probably isn’t in your best interest. If you anticipate a need and act on it right now, there’s a decent chance that Valleywag won’t post internships this year because they already hired you.

Once you get a hang of the research techniques, anticipating where the internships are going to be is simple.

The most important part is crafting your pitch, and that takes a lot of work. It’s not something that I’m going to cover in this article, but I will advise you that instead of sending an e-mail asking whether a company is offering internships and making it easy for them to say no, you should just apply right off the bat like I demonstrated in the sample e-mail above. It shows a ton of initiative.

Now, if you’re looking for a place to get started, why don’t you check out our internship archives. There are nearly 400 companies and organizations who have hired interns in the past. You have to think that most of them will be hiring interns in the future too.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Seabamirum

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ted March 19, 2009 at 10:16 am

Great Advice. The goal in any internship hunt is to get out of the stack of resumes (or an “edge” as you described it). I agree with you that the best way to do this is before the internship is posted.

Also, if you want to work for a small company or startup, don’t send a fluffy email or resume. Solve a problem they have and tell them specifically how you are going to do it.


Brian Vandeputte March 25, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Excellent post. Internship hunting can almost qualify as a 3 credit course. With the economy in a slump, most companies are on a hiring freeze and less likely to provide paid internships. This all makes finding an internship even harder.

It’s like a numbers game; the more you apply, the better chance you have of getting an interested response back. You’re smart in saying that it’s better to get ahead of the game. With internships getting harder to find, there will obviously be more competition for the internship that you want.


Ethan April 2, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I would also suggest that if your college schedule ever allows it, to intern during the semester instead of just during the summer. What I did since I was interested in the music industry was to contact record labels before the beginning of my Senior year when I knew my schedule looking for an internship on Tuesday and Thursday (my off days; yeah, school was sweet) during the school year.

Internships ROCK and students should do everything they can to build their resume BEFORE graduation. Great post.


Brandon Garcia September 14, 2011 at 3:17 am

You gave a very unique perspective in what you said. Internships, especially in my field of broadcast journalism, are very competitive. So it’s important to be able to market yourself. The more internship opportunities you get, the more experience you throw on your resume. I like the way you explained internships with hockey. It’s very true, you just never know when people are going to be hiring, but it doesn’t hurt to try. It’s a good skill to practice that may come in handy when it comes time to find a real job, not just an internship. Good work!


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