Over the weekend, I was thinking about the fact that it’s been nearly five (!) years since I first moved to the city for a the summer to intern in college. Back then, I had no idea what to expect. I was going into my junior year, so I didn’t have a ton of other friends in the city, the way I did the next summer — it’s practically a rite of passage to intern in NYC before your senior year at Syracuse. I had applied to dozens of internships (over 40, for sure) in both Chicago and New York, hoping I’d get just one offer. I remember on my way home from spring break, I looked at the magazine stand at the airport, and told my friend I’d applied to the vast majority of the titles up there! And then the very next day, I got an email about an interview for the internship I ended up taking that summer.
Long story short, it ended up being one of the best summers of my life. I had an amazing internship, with bosses who were super supportive, kind and eager to let me get my feet wet in the magazine world. I lived in an NYU dorm with four random roommates, and we all ended up getting along really well. Plus, the dorm was in amazing location (right on Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.) I’ll literally never have such a prestigious address again in NYC, unless I marry an actual billionaire. (With a B!) It was an incredible 10 weeks.
Interning is such a part of the college culture nowadays, and thankfully, more and more companies are abandoning the unpaid model in favor of paying their interns, which make them more obtainable to a greater number of people. As that season is in full swing, I thought I’d do a post on what I learned from my experiences, and how you can try to ensure you get the perfect internship for you this summer.
Also, I realize that for business internships, a lot of the process is done back in the fall, not to mention, on campus. So for the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus a more on creative fields, which is more up my alley anyways!
1. There’s no such thing as too many applications.
Until you get an internship, you don’t have an internship. So as tedious as it can get, you’ve got to just keep on applying. Casting a wide net when it comes to the number of applications you submit will only up your chances of getting more interviews, and therefore, more offers (or an offer!). Especially for your first internship, when you’re really going in blind, it’s important to have a large and wide variety in the mix. Internships can be hard and this is an easy way to up the likelihood of you getting one.
2. Reach out to your alumni network.
We all know that knowing people in your chosen industry undeniably gives you a leg up in the internship process. But not knowing anyone doesn’t mean you’re destined for failure! Instead, try to make your own connections by reaching out to people who went to your school who work in your industry. You already have common ground, and more often than not, people want to help. Especially for those who aren’t too far out of school, they remember what it was like to be in college and searching for a summer internship. And once you have that face to face meeting (or over the phone, if that’s all location allows) you’ll have another friendly face in your field. Also, if they’re hiring an intern, having someone land in their inbox who they know is getting a good education is an easy-to-choose applicant — and that’s what they’re looking for. People don’t want to spend a ton of time searching for an intern. This makes it easier on them.
One thing to note: Don’t be annoying when it comes to this. Respect people’s time — to follow up, send an email updating on what you’re doing once or twice during the school year. I also think it’s best to do this when you’re a little older — think junior or senior year. That’s when internships are most important, and when “real” jobs will start to be on the horizon and having someone on your side is even more important.
A really easy way to get yourself moved from the maybe pile to the no pile is a typo or glaring mistake on your resume or cover letter. For many internships, there are hundreds of applicants with similar experience levels and education. That means a hiring manager is looking for anything to set a strong (or weak!) applicant apart. Have someone you trust — your mom, your best friend, a classmate with impeccable work — read over your resume and cover letter before you turn it in. And of course, you should do it yourself, too. Don’t let a silly mistake keep you from an incredible opportunity.
4. Be open to all sorts of opportunities.
This goes beyond just being open — but also seeking other opportunities out. Though prestigious companies sound nice, and yes, prestigious, sometimes smaller companies allow you to get more hands-on experience. Of course, they likely get less applicants as well. That raises your chances of getting an interview and later on, getting hired. While you shouldn’t apply for something that holds absolutely no interest for you, at the same time, you can’t be picky. And who knows? Something that might not have originally been your top choice could be the perfect fit, or could expose you to something new that you may end up loving.
5. Expect lots of rejection — but don’t let it kill your morale.
Internships are tough. Especially if you’ve never had one, you’re just inevitably going to end up with more emails telling you no in your inbox than yes. It’s so important to remember that this isn’t about you. Companies get hundreds of applicants (maybe even thousands, in some cases!) and not every opportunity is going to work out. It doesn’t mean they hate you. It doesn’t mean you weren’t qualified. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get another great internship. You never know why these things happen. Maybe the CEO’s niece ended up with the job. Maybe it went to a former intern who came back for another summer. Don’t stress, don’t take it personally, move on, and look towards the future. The right opportunity is out there — do everything you can to take advantage when it comes around.