Why can't I get a summer internship?

What’s wrong with me? :smack:

It seems that I can’t even get a reply to my job applications. I’m a third year business student at one of Canada’s top 3 universities with a GPA way over 3.7 and a long list of volunteering experience, awards, and relevant unpaid internships. Now 40 job applications to all the companies with relevant positions later and 3 months to go before summer break starts, no company has yet even contacted me for an interview. I had a good, but unpaid, internship last summer and I worked at McDonald’s the summer before that. Now it seems that I’ll have to go be a cashier at WalMart or something this summer. It’s not that the money is too important as minimum wage here is $10.25, but all my friends seem to be succeeding. Is this the situation that I can expect after I graduate next year? Is my cover letter and resume really that bad to warrant universal rejection or is there just that much competition?

As backward as it seems, try toning DOWN your resume to appear more of a regular guy / regular gal. Cut out the awards & stuff and see what happens. The working world is loaded with insecure folks who don’t want to share their space with a hotshot young overachiever. Sad but true.

Do you have an ethnic looking name?

How many of the 40 applications were to positions you found on a job board / college recruitment listing and how many were to positions a professor, family friend or relative introduced you to?

70-80% of jobs are found through personal networking. I doubt the % is drastically different for internships. So ideally about 8-10 of those applications would’ve been things you found online, and the rest were positions you found through networking.

I don’t ask everybody - I probably know some salesmen who love networking - but pretty much everyone I’ve asked hates that networking is so much more of an effective way to find work. But you can’t ignore reality - focus on what works.

My older son was a mechanical engineering major at a Big Ten school, Honors College member and on the Dean’s list every semester.

After all the career fairs, intern bulletin boards, etc. he found no internships to follow his sophomore year (summer 2011 - poor job market), and one reason given was “we’re looking for Juniors with more classwork completed.”

The next year, he also could not find placement, this time because “we want Sophomores so they can come back next year.” He did finally get an internship - through his older cousin, a mechanical engineer at a auto/aviation parts marker.
We do not live in a meritocracy, which never ceases to frustrate me. Ask school staff, family, friends, random people on the street if you must, because doing it “by the book” doesn’t work as well as networking.

Does your university have a career services office? If so, ask them to look over your resume and cover letter, if you haven’t already. One typo on the resume’s first page could torpedo your chances at getting anything.

This. A network doesn’t mean that a friend works there, but you have some connection (were in the same club at school, same university, your favorite professor’s former protege now works there). Look through the alumni directory at your school and find out how you might appeal or relate to a person who nows works at the company and then apply.

Quite simply, I had a great resume with awards coming out of college, but I got into 5 graduate schools based 99% on a single letter of recommendation from a professor that I had worked with as an undergrad to 5 of his networked colleagues at my graduate schools of choice. I then got 3 post-doc offers on the same basis. I started a company and hired 12 people- only 1 of which was a truly unknown or “unvouched for” applicant. One of the things that you will learn is that if you go to a conference/association meeting and you spend all of your time listening to presentations, you missed out on the most important events. Talking in the lobbies and hallways and meeting for meals is far more important (especially to your future) than what happens on stage.

Now don’t just throw out that “I found you in the alumni directory and wanted you to turn in my resume for this job.” You have to do 30 minutes of research and write them an intelligent letter asking for their advice, etc. But most importantly, grow your network. Get on LinkedIn. Go to the young alumni social events etc. Beginning in May your GPA means almost nothing.

I am going to put my second point as a second post to not bog down the separate ideas.

I know that this is a message board and you were venting, but one possibility based on your post is your writing style. One additional suggestion I have is to clean up your writing. Read a book on grammar and style (Strunk and White, Chicago Manual of Style) and apply it to your writing.

In reading your post, you are inconsistent with how to represent numbers. Your use of commas is awkward and incorrect [’, but unpaid, internship last summer and’]. The biggest concern is your overuse of awkward phrases that are just not necessary and add no information:

It seems that
can’t even
Now 40 job applications to all the companies with relevant positions later
and 3 months to go before summer break starts
no company has yet even contacted me for an interview.
summer before that.
Now it seems that I’ll have to go be a cashier at WalMart or something this summer.
It’s not that the money is too important as minimum wage here is $10.25 -this is just awkward. Also if you are scoffing at jobs that only offer $10.25, I suspect that you are applying at jobs far beyond your experience and pay scale. Even after you graduate you may be looking at minimum wage jobs.
friends seem to be succeeding.
Is this the situation that I can expect after I graduate next year?

I was extremely nitpicky, but your sentences should have one thought or split them into two and don’t use passive words (seem, hope, imagine, expect, believe) or do nothing adverbs and adjectives (very, really, good, pretty). You need to sell yourself- you don’t need to say the internship was unpaid- don’t lie about it, but don’t highlight that fact either. Everyone has jobs as WalMart, McDonald’s, etc. in the past. What you need to do is tell an employer what you learned from the experience. “While at McDonald’s, I learned that having an efficient and fun/social team make a great work environment.” “My time at WalMart was a learning experience as I was responsible for a cash register with over $1,000 worth of cash and $10,000 in revenues daily. Additionally, the information on how to keep our customers happy (so that they will return in the future) was very insightful and came from a team leader, Max Headroom, whom I really admired.”

I apologize if you think that my informal writing is an annoyance. I believe that I write much better in formal situations, but could the style of my cover letter be a major reason for why I haven’t heard back? But what is wrong with “seem to be succeeding”? The subject-verb agreement is correct and I used “seem” as I am not sure of the specifics of their offers (e.g., an unpaid internship at KPMG isn’t that attractive). In any case, I’m not scoffing at jobs such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. It’s just that I’ve already worked so much there, and I usually worked them part-time on weekends during the summer anyways. In fact, I actually like working there as you can learn a lot about issues such as how to handle staff turnover among other things. I’m mostly frustrated that I can’t get a full-time summer position in a relevant field. Of course, I’m not overly concerned as I’m still a sophomore but my mother is quite aggrieved as she had always believed that high grades + top university = internship at top firm. On the other hand, $10.25/hour, or about $21,000/year, after graduation would truly be an awful shock. The average graduation salary for my program/degree is nearly $50,000 per year with a range of $35,000-$90,000 and a median of $45,000.

Anyways, thanks for the tips about networking. I’m actually attending a few events at a few large firms this month. However, my opportunities are a bit limited as I can’t speak the dominant language here (guess where my university is?). Also my university does have a career office so I guess I’ll submit my resume for feedback in the next month.

Don’t “submit your resume for review next month.” Make an appointment with them NOW to sit down and hash out a plan. Career counselors have the connections you are looking for. They know who gives internships to people like you, and how to get your resume in the right hands. You need to use them.

Likewise your professors. Go to office hours, get to know them, and eventually mention that you are looking for internship ideas. Hopefully they’ll know someone who knows someone. That’s how the game is played. Just sending out resumes is worse than nothing, you pretty much have to know someone.

It’s tough, and it may not work. It’s a tough world. You will likely spend some period of your life broke, working for peanuts, and living in squalor. You do it for a while, and eventually work your way up to something better. Most people do it, and it’s not a big deal.

Thirded. I hire interns, and two of the past three have come from professor friends of mine - and the one for this summer is also. We mostly hire grad students though. It is very competitive.

I look for people we can hire when they finish. I’d much rather hire someone on the basis of a three month interview versus a 3 hour interview.

I guess I’ll do it after this weekend then. A major problem is that I cannot speak French very well and so that rules out any connections in the city I’m studying in. However, it may be possible to try to get a posting in an office in my home city.

Wait, you aren’t French speaking and you live in a French speaking area? Are all the internships you’ve applied to in the same French speaking area as your University? Do your friends who have gotten calls speak French?

I was under the impression that most businessed are run in a bilingual manner in Quebec and not speaking French would be a severe limitation, but I have to admit, I don’t know that much about it.

I’m originally from near Toronto and only moved here for university. I have worked part-time jobs here that don’t really require French, but there’s little chance that my French qualifies as “fluently bilingual” as required by most postings. And of course not, all the offers I applied to were in Ontario. The friends that I’m talking about were mostly from high school.

Ok, sorry if I’m being dense, but is this correct?

  1. Many postings require “fluently bilingual” and you aren’t.
  2. You’ve only applied to positions that don’t require “fluently bilingual”
  3. Your friends who have gotten jobs also aren’t bilingual and have also applied to jobs that don’t require it.
  4. But, even though you’re similar in most respects, and have applied to similar jobs they have jobs lined up and you haven’t even gotten a call back.

In that situation, I would compare my resume (CV?) and cover letter with theirs and see if I can spot any significant differences.

Also, read your letter carefully for equivocal statements. It’s all very reasonable to have some doubts or hesitations about certain aspects of a position, but it’s not proper to communicate that in a cover letter, even obliquely through word choice.

98% of jobs in Toronto only require English. I’ve never applied for a summer position locally as I doubt I’d get it. All my applications were to jobs in the Toronto area. As well, would it be acceptable to describe myself as “functionally bilingual” if I can converse decently in French? It seems like an often misused word as I’ve seen examples where it is placed higher than “fluently bilingual”.