How to Land and Make the Most Out of Your Internship
By: Erica Chapman
"What are you studying??" is the common, excited question we all too often receive as college students. It's cute, it's quaint, it lets you know that the asker is actually interested in your life and is curious to know what your young, inquiring mind is up to at your university of higher learning and how you will go out and change the world after you've graduated. As a professional writing student, this question makes me cringe. "Oh," the inquirer responds with a look that screams "your poor parents."
Typically, with just a hint of accusation in their throats, they'll follow up with "So…what do you want to do with that?" Now, from my personal experience, and as a warning to any future writing students, DO NOT respond with "I want to write books." Just don't do it, trust me. Instead try to respond in ways that will make you seem stable and like you know exactly what you're going to do! Spoiler alert: No kid in their early 20's who is on the brink of graduating is stable. This is all a lie. So lie your ass off and with confidence. Say you're interested in publishing or becoming an editor. Or say something that looms away from the arts like, "Every big, important business needs people who can write!" "Studies show…" and then make up some random fact about how more employers are looking for graduates who know how to write above any other skill set.
My point is that it isn't a big secret that we as writers, or as any "non-conventional" career-pathers have seemingly taken the road less traveled and people are going to question it-all the time. This more than likely has and will make you doubt yourself. I'm here to tell you that I get it. Choosing a career that has no distinct or clear-cut path can be daunting at times. However, there are several things you can do now that will massively increase your chances of landing a well paying job in the future. One of the main ones is interning. I don't claim to be an expert on the matter but as someone who has held a few, I do know a thing or two and my goal is to pass on the limited knowledge I have gained in the past few years on to so you can better your chances at not only landing one, but also making the most of it when you're there.
Step 1: The Resume
Your resume is your future. These few sheets of paper will make or break you. Like it or not we are in field where future employers probably don't and won't give to s-words about your grades. Do well in school, graduate, obviously, please graduate. But when it comes to a career in writing, these guys care more about what you did away from the classroom than in it. If you think that A+ you got on that midterm just landed you that job at Rolling Stone, think again. "BUT I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING ON MY RESUME!" might be your next thought. That's okay! We all start with blank resumes but be sure you put ALL your work experience on it, including that one job you had for half a summer scooping ice cream or those few times you babysat. All of these things are important. Also, be sure you make whatever job you had sound way more interesting or intense than it actually was. Instead of saying "people told me what ice cream they wanted and I gave it to them," say "Experienced one-on-one assessments with customers, sharpened skills involving interactivity and team work." We are writers after all, use your artistic license and make yourself sound like a bad ass.
Step 2: Have Writing Samples
One of the best parts about the intro class we are currently in is it forces you to have a blog. I cannot tell you how vital this is. This will be the most important thing you put on your resume. Employers want to see that you can write. When hiring interns this is all they really want to be sure of. You all can write, show them that! Put your blog at the top of your resume if you don't have prior interning experience. So if you're sitting there sweating, thinking about how pathetic your resume is-don't. You HAVE a resume already! Your blog alone has the ability to land you a job. Not to mention we all now have published pieces, which are another thing all hiring employers will ask for. Yay us!
Step 3: Be Proactive
If you want an internship go get one. This is actually probably the best piece of advice I can give you. The reason so many people miss out on them is because they don't even try because they think they can't or whatever. Do your research. Think about what kind of work you want to be involved in and then google companies in your area who do that. If you want to be involved in music journalism, Google music publications. If you're interested in screenwriting, google production companies. Every company, especially ones involving writing are looking for interns. Apply to as many as you can. Contact the employer, send out your resume and repeat. Research daily, keep your resume updated, and be proactive.
Step 4: The internship
I'm going to let you in on a little secret: nine times out of ten interning blows. Congratulations you've landed an internship! Now that you've told all your friends and your mom cried and said she was proud of you it's time for reality to set in. You're working part or full time depending on the season for a company where you are deemed the lowest of the low. You are below entry level. Maybe you're turning a few stories out a week but mostly you're doing the work the regular employees would be doing but don't want to so they toss it on to you. And, oh yeah, you aren't getting a cent for it. Un-paid internships will become your new best friend. If you think ANYONE is going to pay you to come write for them when you haven't even finished your undergrad-think again. Humble yourself a little bit and get in the mindset right now that you're okay with working for free. Slave labor, as I like to call it. Yeah, it sucks. But remember that little guy I talked about earlier, the resume? He is going to love you for it and that's what all this is about, making him look like a beefed up superstar so you won't HAVE to take an unpaid internship out of college! It's also vital that you make really solid connections with your superiors so you can add them to your references list! So, you're not getting paid but the good really does outweigh the bad when you think about what it can do in landing you better jobs and internships in the future.
Okay so I think that's all I have for now! I hope this was mildly helpful! Above everything just know you CAN succeed you just have to make sure you're putting out the effort, it's all up to you!