Some time around mid June, I found myself contemplating on what I was doing with my time outside of classes for the upcoming semester. I told myself that I wouldn’t intern at a company until my sophomore year, just so I could have a strong foundation on my academics and extracurricular involvements. I knew that I wanted to intern, but I didn’t know where to start. I had spent the entire year networking with professionals in the industry and asking them about what they looked for in an intern, why their company was great, and what advice they had to give to someone like me, just starting out in the industry sans a Bachelor’s degree.
So the hunt for a fall internship began. I first narrowed it down to a list of what I wanted out of the internship.
1. The opportunity to learn from (a) supervisor(s) that are willing to allow me to do more than clerical work
2. Decent pay, or at least a gas stipend
3. Not too far from campus
4. Flexible with student interns, as far as work hours go
5. Future opportunities with the company or networking opportunity through company cliental
Narrowing down what you want in an internship is one of the most basic steps that some forget to consider before hysterically applying to every internship. Know your options based on your own experience. I never want to intern for company that only has me getting coffee or doing only clerical work. Yes, I am aware the life of an intern is not glamorous and sometimes it is necessary to do the dirty work. Consider your background; if you have interned previously and have some experience, don’t settle for an unpaid internship. I previously held two internship positions, neither of which were paid, but I did them because I knew I needed a strong foundation. If this is your first internship, considering an unpaid position is just fine if you can at least file for class credit.
With the list of “wants” in mind I went on my hunt for the perfect fall internship. Now, the question was where to look first to find adequate internships that actually want college sophomore level interns. There is a misconception at the university that the only career service office that offers phenomenal career searches is the one through the business school that is exclusive to declared business majors. However, I have found that regardless of the college, one should stop the complaining and utilize one’s own college services first. I headed straight to the online Career Source website for the College of Communication and began browsing.
Key words I looked for: public relations, marketing, advertising, communications, branding, business, consumer relations, and anything similar. Basically, I sat down for about an hour simply browsing through the pages of job postings and opening a tab for each one that caught my attention. I then proceeded to read through the descriptions of each of these tabs.
Things to consider while looking at descriptions of job/internship postings:
1. Read the description thoroughly
2. Notice who the key contact in the posting is, this is who you will probably address your Cover Letter to & e-mail
3. Find the actual company website
4. Browse the company website and make sure you actually know what the company does
5. Research their current and a few previous projects that you find interesting – these are good topics to mention in the e-mail/interview
6. Check to see what they require for the application: resume, cover letter, recommendations, design/writing samples, etc.
Whatever you do, don’t just apply for one internship. As the saying goes: do not put all your eggs in one basket; have options.
After hours of researching and narrowing down the companies I could actually see myself working for and promoting, I began filling out the applications. The application process varies depending on the job posting. Some will require only a resume, some a resume and cover letter, some will want samples. Regardless of the combination, double check to see how they want it presents; the majority will for it via e-mail.
The cover letter was by far the most difficult aspect about the application process in my opinion. I never fully learned how to write a cover letter, and I basically “wing it” every time. But the following format has seemed to work pretty well for me so far:
Paragraph I: Introduce yourself, who you are, why you’re writing the letter, and how you found this job posting. This is a great place to “name drop” if you know anyone in the company of pertinence or a former intern that enjoyed working for the company. Note: make sure the former intern was actually liked by the company.
Paragraph 2: State your credentials, briefly. Do not go into too much detail, that’s what your resume is for and you don’t want to simply repeat yourself. State why you want to work for the company and how you would grow from having the internship.
Paragraph 3: Inform that you would like the opportunity to interview for the position. Usually this is where I state when I want to intern – i.e. fall 2012, spring 2013, etc. Then I end it by saying I will gladly provide any additional documents needed such as writing samples, design samples, recommendations, etc.
After the cover letter, we have the resume. The one thing I have learned about resumes in this industry is that it does not necessarily have to be black and white. However, one must consider the type of company applying to. For example, when applying to an agency (generally), overly creative resumes are praised. The majority of companies I applied for were technology companies, so I kept my resume slightly creative to show my personality, but still professional with easy-to-read bullets and virtually no extra graphics. To make my resume still stand out, I added color.
Now that we have a resume and cover letter, the final step is to send it. Do not, for any reason, only attach your resume and cover letter and then proceed to write an e-mail stating “I have attached my resume and cover letter. Thank you.” An e-mail should read something along the lines of a mini cover letter. Have a greeting, state how you found the internship, briefly say you want an interview whenever the company is available, and what interests you about the company. Then state that your resume and cover letter are attached. End it with something along the lines of “Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!” And a “Sincerely” “Best” or “Thank you” closing. From what I have learned so far, employers will judge your e-mail just as much as your resume and cover letter.
After sending off your information to various companies. Take a deep breath, and wait for them to respond. Some may only take a day or two, others a few weeks, some up to a month. If you haven’t heard from a company after several months, don’t be disappointed. Finding a great internship is like finding your significant other – there are plenty of fish in the sea.