Maybe you need something to do during the summer. Perhaps an internship is a requirement for your academic pursuits. People decide to pursue internships for a variety of reasons, some of which are paid, some of which aren’t. Of course, if you’re like most people, you’d prefer a paid internship that helps you along your career path at the same time. If you’d like to get a leg up on the competition, use these tips to help you find the paid internship you’ve been hoping for.

Complete a CIV Analysis

Before you begin your search for a paid internship, complete a CIV analysis. Named so because it encompasses learning more about your competencies, interests, and values, this simple task is one you can do with a simple piece of paper and a pen. Divide your piece of paper into three columns. Under the competencies column, list everything that people tell you you’re good at. Under the interests section, make a list of the things you enjoy the most. Finally, use the values list to name the things you care about. Are there any themes across the paper? Are there things that you’re passionate about and good at? These areas are where you might be happiest in a paid internship.

Gather Your Professional Portfolio

Organizations offering paid internships want to know what you have to offer. Create a “professional portfolio” before you start contacting people. Your professional portfolio should include a high-quality resume, a well-written cover letter that you can tailor to individual organizations, and letters of recommendation from professors, employers, or other influential people. Keep physical copies of these as well as scanned ones. While many businesses now ask interns to apply via email or on their website, some still prefer applications via standard mail.

Start Your Search Early

New tasks can sometimes feel overwhelming, but don’t procrastinate on starting your search for a paid internship. Mark Stevens, co-founder of the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, advises students to start as early as possible. Many paid internships fill up quickly, especially if they are for governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, or other highly sought internships. Most programs also have strict deadlines and won’t consider you if your application is late. The sooner you begin the search, the less pressure you’ll feel.

Know Where to Look

Part of finding paid internships is knowing where to look. During your search, it may help to maintain a spreadsheet that compiles a list of companies and their website information, internship contact, phone number, and internship status. This helps you organize who you already contacted and who you still want to talk to. If you already have places in mind, you can list them right away. If you aren’t sure which businesses or organizations in your preferred industry offer paid internships, try Googling “pain internships in [your industry].” It will be a bit easier if you’re interested in finance or law, since many organizations in these industries have established paid internship programs. Other ways to find programs include networking, attending career fairs, and using job search websites.

Ask for What You Want

If you aren’t finding what you need by searching the internet, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Contact companies or organizations you’re interested in working with and ask what it would take to create a paid internship. If you’re offered an unpaid internship, you might also ask what it would take to start offering a small stipend. If your professional portfolio speaks for itself and you show the company you are serious about the job but are also paying your own tuition and expenses, it may be more likely to create a paid position for you. Remember, if you don’t ask for what you want, you’ll never get it. The worst someone can say is no.

Don’t Give Up

There are many more people hoping to find a paid internship than there are paid positions to go around. Chances are you won’t get your first choice. You may not even get your second or third. Don’t give up, though. The process can be long, but if you stick to your path and keep searching, eventually you’ll find exactly what you need. While searching for the right paid opportunity, consider taking on a part-time job or even an unpaid internship to keep yourself from feeling stagnant or unproductive. Remember, determination is the key to success.

Whether you work at a large law firm or a small fabric company, are paid for your time or do it for free, one thing remains constant. Interning is practically a rite of passage for people in college, not to mention an excellent way to gain experience and confidence in your chosen field. You’ve taken the first step by learning how to find paid internships. Now it’s time to begin your search.