Source Your Own Internship

In times of disruption, one of the most challenging things can be matching up your skills with an employer. And in times of uncertainty, like we’re in right now, that can be one of the biggest challenges for employers to bring someone on with either uncertain skills. Or, just in a time of uncertainty for them, paying someone that they are not sure about. So many firms decided to cancel internships, shorten them, or fundamentally change the way that they operate in order to change the recruitment processes more to be focused on full-time hiring.

However, if you’re a student, or someone who’s in between careers, this leaves you with a gap in your experience at a time that you should be utilizing to build your skills. So we’ve recommended a number of different solutions for this, and one of them is to source your own internship.

Source Your Own Internship

Example Of How To Source Your Own Internship

First of all, let me talk about my experience because back in the dark ages, not in 2020, I sourced my very first internship. And it was one of the most fruitful experiences that I’ve ever had because I gained, through the internship, mentors, skills, and vision for my future. And that’s ultimately a big win when you come to an internship process. This is one of the main reasons why I think that you shouldn’t forgo an opportunity to grab an internship. But, if somebody’s not willing to pay you, or they don’t have a structured program for you, you have to set it up for yourself. We’re going to walk you through the process of how to do that.


  1. I’m going to talk about the reasons why self-sourcing is ideal, perhaps even better than working in a structured program.
  2. I’m going to talk about why companies want you as an intern. I’m going to use you very generally as a group of people that are interested in interning in order to build skills.
  3. I’ll talk about the actual process that you go through. How you build an email, how you reach out, when and to whom, and finally what you propose you actually do. So let’s dive in.

Why Self Sourcing Your Internship Is Ideal

First, there are four reasons why self-sourcing is ideal for your internship.

  1. Unique Network

The first one is that your network is completely unique to other people’s. So you have access, through your network, to opportunities that no one else has access to. Again, self-sourcing means that you’re identifying internships that are not particularly detailed or structured, planned or mentored. And because of that, you’re going to be sourcing a project that someone can work on. Doing so through your own network means that you’re not overlapping with other people that are demanding a core focused set of opportunities and competing for them.

  1. Focus On Your Interests

The second is that your interests are very specific, and so you have the opportunity when self-sourcing to identify a company that maps to your interests. That could be an industry, or a job function or title, or even just a personality. There is much to be gained through working with people who have compelling personalities, even if they’re not what you think is the dream industry of your choice.

  1. Better Feel For The Job

Third, there is no middle person. There is no recruiter, there is no job platform. It’s just you and the opportunity. You get a real sense of who your mentor would be, what it would be like to work with a company, how responsive they are, and how articulate the process is. And that will give you a sense of how the summer opportunity would work.

  1. You Set The Terms

And then finally, you set the terms. When you are coming to an organization, it’s the same as when you call a meeting for something. When you call a meeting, you set the terms of the meeting. When you call the internship, you set the terms of the internship. You can decide how long it should be, how many hours you are interested in working, and what types of roles you want to take on. They want you to do clerical work and you don’t want to, you set the terms. They want you to take a look at something that you have no idea about, you think it’s a great opportunity, you go for it because you set the terms.

So in that situation, there are four main reasons why it’s great to source. Again, your network is unique, your interests are specific, there is no person or platform in the middle of the process, and you get to set the terms.

Why Would A Company Want You?

Now one of the questions that we realize is prominent in a lot of people’s minds is I have no skills, why would someone want me. And so I want to walk through the main reasons why an organization would be lucky to have you, and why they are interested in talking to you about a free internship project.

  1. Build Extra Capacity

First of all, it provides them with the opportunity to build extra capacity on a trial basis. I’ll give you an experience that we’ve had at Management Consulted. We have a corporate training segment of our business. One of the things that we have worked to build is an outbound research platform, where we find companies that might be interested in corporate training and reach out to them. But that’s not something that we necessarily have a clear way to monetize, or want to scale up in. So if someone came to us and asked if they could intern with us, and we thought what an awesome opportunity to test more thoroughly whether or not this is a business line that we would be interested in investing in. So extra capacity on a trial basis, that’s number one.

  1. Grow Your Skill Set

Number two is that you are skilled, but in ways that you might not even recognize. For example, you are skilled with the ability to articulate a problem. You are skilled with some sense of analytic capacity. You have the ability to build something in a spreadsheet, or answer a question using numbers.

  1. Writing Ability

And third, you are great writers. So if you are interested in and eager to do an internship on your own, you are probably skilled more than you believe. The third part is that human interest really is compelled to help. Because you have the opportunity to fill a need for them, and also they have an opportunity to fill a need for you, their hearts are going to go out to you and they are likely to reach out and say yes because they want to help.

  1. Low Risk

And then finally, these are unpaid. So because they are unpaid, they are low risk for the organization. They are also low risk for you because if the opportunity isn’t going well, you are able to just call it together and say thanks so much for the opportunity, I think that was a great experience and I’m going to move on now. So it hedges risk for both parties.

4 Steps To Set Up Your Own Internship

Now it’s a four-part process to set up your own internship.

  1. Define What You Can Do

The first part is that you can define what you can do. What are you able to do, and what do you want to do?

  1. Define Your Time Commitment

The second is that you define your time commitment. How many weeks and how many hours per week are you willing to give?

  1. Share Your Vision For Their Vision

The third is that you reach out to somebody and you share your vision for their vision.

  1. Set Up Next Steps

And the fourth is that you set up the actual next steps to bring the project to fruition.

How To Reach Out To A Company

If you want to reach out, the best way to reach out to somebody in your network, or outside, with an interest in interning with them for free, you’ll walk through an email structure. And you’ll start with a specific pitch, such as I am an unpaid summer intern looking for a four-week project. Or unpaid intern for a two-week project? The intro should be one line where you talk about who you are. For example, you would say I’m a junior at NYU interested in supporting a key initiative for you this summer.

The Pitch

The pitch would be my summer internship at – fill in the blank – was canceled. “My summer internship at PWC was canceled. I’m looking to apply my data analysis skills to a challenging problem for four weeks in July.” And then the ask would be do you have 15 minutes on Friday to connect about the possibility of working with you, or someone on your team, for free this summer.

If you make the ask specific, a specific day and a specific time, they are more likely to respond either yes, or not then, but another time. If you just say would you have time to talk about this in the next two weeks, companies feel like oh, my calendar is super full. So make it a really specific ask. You will get responses if you write this clear and concise email. I would recommend that generally to the first email, you don’t attach your resume, but maybe a LinkedIn profile would be good. You don’t want to make it seem like an interview yet, you just are exploring the opportunity.

Finding Projects

Then, we’ll talk about how to find projects. So where do you source these from? First, you can talk with your friends and family. They often have businesses, or know businesses that could use this kind of help. In addition, maybe not just businesses, but medical clinics, or, for example, nonprofit organizations can be great places to intern. Your local Chamber of Commerce is an awesome resource. They have a lot of interested businesses that are present, and many times they are interested in supporting the business in whatever way they can. So you can reach out to them and find either the business listings or go through the chamber of commerce directly. You can also reach out to dream companies.

Do you have a company that you love their ideology or their product, reach out to them and ask them if you can work. One of my really good friends from business school got her dream job by identifying what her dream company was, reaching out to them, and they ended up creating a position for her. It started off as an internship, and then moved on to full-time.

Use The Marketing Angle

And then finally, service businesses that do B2B, or B2C marketing. B2B or B2C marketing is really useful, and so sometimes if businesses have a standard marketing process through YouTube, or through social media and other forms, then they have less that they need you to do. But if it’s outreach, direct outreach, finding people and reaching out to them, sometimes those can be good strategic opportunities for you to learn. Finally, if you have no idea what to offer, or the company doesn’t know, offer something specific. One of the best opportunities for adding value to a company is to offer a market sizing problem. All companies are interested in growing, and so if they have an area of the business that they don’t fully understand, help identify a growth plan for them, and begin with helping them identify how big the market is. So start with the population or the households that are interested in that product, move to the percentage to own or buy that product. Move to the frequency of purchase, how often people buy the product, and finally end with the weighted average price.

You can build a mini model, draw on some of your research skills, and give them insight into the size of an opportunity that they might be interested in going into. After you size the market, you’ll have a really good platform to then recommend what tactics they should take to enter, if they should enter.

You Can Do It!

Ultimately, sourcing your own internship does require some work from you, but it’s easier than you might think. You’ll have a lot of people that are happy to say yes, I’d love to have you intern, that are happy to provide you with active mentorship, and that are happy to let you build and develop skills over the course of what otherwise seems like a very disrupted time. We are excited to hear about your success stories. So please, reach out to us at And if you want to get placed in an internship, or have help as you go through your internship, we are here to help. Reach out to us at [email protected].

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Filed Under: Consulting Internship, consulting recruiting