If your dream job is at a startup, you should not wait until you graduate college or finish your bootcamp before starting to think about making that dream a reality. We have helped many people find great startup internships and jobs and these are our recommended steps for making connections and finding great opportunities.
1. Make connections through informational interviews
If you are in school, you might think that there is nothing you can do during your freshman and sophomore years because you might not have enough experience to intern at startups or tech companies.
If that is the case, you should still reach out to people for informational interviews and coffee chats so that you can establish connections. Typically, you should be looking for alumni from your school or student organizations, or someone who has similar industry interests. You can use LinkedIn to find these connections and then send compelling cold emails that briefly explain your connection and interest in learning more about their startup through an informational interview or coffee chat.
The sweet spots for startups are not too early to hire and not too late-stage to be too busy (headcount size around 10-100). Smaller team sizes also mean you have a better chance of chatting with someone higher up. When you are still in school, founders and early employees feel more comfortable taking 15-30 minute informational calls or coffee chats because they remember what it was like to be in your shoes. Check out our informational interview guide, which includes questions to ask in the sessions, for more help.
2. Nurture these relationships
As you move through your degree or bootcamp program, keep these relationships going by checking in once a quarter or so. Create a Google alert for any news about the startup and if you see an article, send a quick email to congratulate your contact, which will keep a live relationship with them. These contacts that you build will be helpful in many ways beyond just an internship or job – they can be mentors and referrals in the future whether you are looking to transition companies or start your own thing.
3. Reach out when you see internship openings
Now that you have established a relationship with your connection at the startup, you can check out their careers page to see if they have any open internships. When you see that they have opened their internship program, you should send an email to your contact and ask them to refer you for the opportunity.
You can adapt this template for one of those emails:
Hope you’re doing well!
I wanted to reach out because I saw in [Techcrunch] that [Company] raised an impressive Series B and I wanted to congratulate you and the team. What a milestone! It looks like the product team will be growing in the future, which must be really exciting for you.
On my end, I’ve been flexing my product manager muscles as part of the Tech committee for Northwestern University Dance Marathon, working on an app that will be used during the 30-hour event to help students get a better sense of the schedule while they are dancing and reduce stress amongst the already tired dancers. We’re expecting that this will increase dancer NPS by at least 30%. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on our progress.
I’m really excited to see [Company] continue to grow in the near future towards the mission of [company mission]. I noticed on the Careers page that the internship program has opened. I’d love to chat with you to see if I could be a fit. Please let me know if you are free at any of the following times: [timeframe 1] and [timeframe 2].
All the best,
4. Politely follow up
Never underestimate a kind follow up email, both to bring your email about the internship opening back to the top of their inbox and/or to thank people for their time after you’ve met with them for informational interviews, coffee chats, or behavioral/technical interviews. These should be short, polite, and personalized based on what was discussed.
Following the above steps, you should find yourself in a good position to secure startup internships during college or after your bootcamp program that will help kickstart your career in tech.
Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. If you want to work with any of our mentors to get help with your job search, become a Pathrise fellow.