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How to Cold Email for an Internship

Many students struggle with cold emailing for internships. Some may not know that cold emailing can be an effective way of networking, especially in non-urban schools. That’s not what intuition tells us – after all, we tend to get annoyed by emails from relative strangers asking us for favors. They may even end up in the spam folder.

But, when written thoughtfully, cold emails can be quite effective for your purpose.

Why would you want to cold email someone for an internship? Perhaps you don’t have any i-banks near you or your school is not in the city. In that case, you can’t really set up a coffee meeting with someone you think can help you land a position.

Here are some tips to help you go about cold-emailing the right way.


Finding the Right Contact

The first thing you need to do is to find a contact. The best contacts would be alumni from your school. Alumni who see their school in the subject line are more likely to actually read your email when it hits their inbox. They are also usually ready to help students.

You also want to look for a connection that will help you get to the professional you’re interested to speak to. In other words, look for a second-degree connection on LinkedIn.

You don’t have to know them personally to cold email them. If you’ve heard that an alumnus works in a certain company you’re interested in, use LinkedIn searches to find them. On the flip side, you can search LinkedIn for the company you’re interested in, and look for alumni who work there.

What you want is to make them your first point of contact, not your only contact. After you’ve spoken to them on a phone call, you should always ask whether there is anyone they recommend you speak to. Speak to as many people as possible, even if they are junior people. They will help you develop talking points about your target firm.


Should you Target Juniors or Seniors?

It’s also good to think about the positions that make the most sense to cold email. If you’re targeting small firms, you may want to cold email MDs and VPs for internship offers, since they will have the authority to help you out during recruitment.

When you’re targeting financial institutions or banks, you may want to speak to junior bankers first, since they can help you get your foot in the door. Don’t forget that anyone you speak to could put in a good word for you at the firm, which could affect your hiring chances.

But don’t be afraid to cold email individuals in senior positions. They’ve been in your place and they’ll appreciate anyone who is ready to hustle.

When you have the names of the people you want to email, you’re ready to start drafting your mail.

How to Cold Email for an Internship

Sample Email

Here’s a sample email to help as a launching pad for your own cold emails for internships. Note that you want to strike a balance between sounding enthusiastic and passionate, and determined without sounding desperate.

If you’re from the same school, make sure your subject includes the name of the school. You could make it as simple as Your full name| Your Common School.

Then start by introducing yourself and explain how you got that person’s contact or any mutual connections between you. Then go ahead and discuss your interest in the portfolio company that person was looking at, or space they were interested in. Mention any experience you may have to add value. Finally, ask that person for a meeting or a phone call so you can discuss opportunities in their firm.

Sample Email:

Hello John,

I hope you are well. My name is Harriet and I am a senior at ABC university this fall. I met Shawn Duff, an advisor at your boutique, at an IT conclave last week, and he spoke about how you are looking for a programmer for your unique project.

I am interested in fashion technology and it was great hearing his thoughts about working in the apparel industry that is seeing such innovation today. I was hoping to set a time to talk to you over the phone to ask you about your take as a small business operator in the apparel industry and learn about your experience.

To give you a little more background about myself, I have a great interest in projects that bring technology to the clothing industry. I am also working on a program to help small businesses through better market provisioning, and also on a project of commerce through social media.

Please let me know a time that works best for you this week.



 Points to Note

To make your cold email even more effective and impactful, here are some things to note:

  • Always specify clearly whether you want to schedule a phone call or a meeting. It’s also wise to give a timeline for the meeting or phone call. You could suggest a day and time and ask if it works for the individual. Just make sure not to sound presumptuous or pushy.
  • Keep the email short and dive right in. Keep it to-the-point and gracious. It shouldn’t take a lot of time to read and respond to.
  • If you’re suggesting a meeting, offer to buy them a beverage or a meal, to show that you respect their time.
  • Follow up in a week, if you don’t hear from them. Restate your interest for them to talk. If they don’t respond to your second email, don’t email anymore.
  • If you’re sending out a lot of cold emails (ideally, not using templates!) you could create a spreadsheet to help you keep track. Put down the date of contact, whether or not they replied, whether or not you need to follow up, etc.
  • The best time to send a cold email is usually right before lunch or early in the morning. That’s when most people tend to read emails, not between 2 to 5 pm in the afternoon. It’s also better to email earlier in the work, such as Tuesday. Try to avoid Mondays because inboxes are full on Mondays. Fridays are also best avoided, since people are thinking of getting out of office, and you’re not high on their priority list.

How to Cold Email for an Internship

The Bottom-line

A well-written cold email that is not written from a cringe-worthy template will be well worth your time. It’s best not to include your resume on the first message, as that can seem too aggressive.

Even if you don’t land an internship with your first cold email, it could help you expand your network, learn more about the industry and practice your interview skills. The people you reach out to may often introduce you to others. Talk to enough people and you’ll find something in the end!