08/15/2012 11:51 am ET Updated Oct 15, 2012

How to Land a Great Internship Next Summer

It would be cool to get an internship at one of the tens of thousands of start-ups that are creating amazing products. But it's more than just cool -- it's profitable. Working as an intern at a startup is the fast track to an awesome job, because an internship with a superb recommendation puts you ahead of everyone else. Do a good job and you'll have a job waiting when you graduate -- guaranteed.

So how do you get that great summer internship? Simple: Get an internship during the year in the city where you are going to school.

Start-ups don't exist only in Silicon Valley. They're all over the country. And not only do they offer paid internships, but there are often more openings than students applying. You can easily find one that's a good fit for you. (And if you go to the University of Colorado, please consider Windward -- the coolest software company in Boulder.)

To find a local internship, start by checking the school job board. In many areas there are more internships than qualified students. Next talk to everyone you can. Your professors. Other students. Alums working for local startups. Even people you might think have no contacts in your field can be incredibly valuable resources.

And do it quickly, because you'll be applying for summer internships in February and need enough of a work history to get a recommendation.

Ok, sounds great. But what if you don't have the time for that work on top of your schoolwork? Make the time. Start-ups need people who are smart, can create amazing things, and are incredibly productive. Have you heard how start-ups only hire from the top 10 percent? A big part of putting yourself in that top 10 percent is how much you can accomplish in a day.

Take it from me -- if you apply for a summer internship and say you did not have an internship during the school year because you needed all your time just for your classes, the start-up world is not for you. (The one exception to this is students in ROTC. That takes a ton of time on top of regular schoolwork -- and is very important.)

Even better, if you're really good the company will offer you a summer position. And then for your reference letter they'll write exactly that -- that you are so good the company wants you to stay.

What, you're still here? Stop reading and go find that local internship.