The marketing world is a place driven by the bottom line. “It’s all a numbers game!” marketing types like to say, sweat beading on their brows, “Just hit up enough people, and eventually, you’ll make a sale!” I’m telling you now that this is not entirely true. And that’s a good thing!
Think of yourself as a commodity and the world of summer internships as the market within which you must be sold. In ways, it is a numbers game; the more places you apply, the greater your odds of securing a “buyer.” But the game isn’t just about volume, it’s about skill and it’s about strategy.
Collegiettes, shoot for Park Place and begin marketing yourself now to secure your dream summer internship. Don’t roll the dice and cross your fingers for lucky number seven. Follow this game plan and leave chance to Monopoly.
1. Meet with the internship coordinator at your school
Your school employs internship coordinators specifically to ensure you internships, so take advantage of them! If someone offers you Free Parking, you move your piece to Free Parking, right? An internship coordinator is around for the sole purpose of providing you access to valuable internship opportunities worth something far beyond the realm of board game riches.
Call the career services office at your school and set up an appointment with your internship coordinator. Remember, however, that these coordinators, while certainly vested in your internship interests, are also providing help to a lot of students. Come prepared for your meeting with a set of questions so you don’t flounder when the focus is on you.
2. Enlist some help from the fam
Who better to speak in your favor than the two people in the world who love you more than Kanye West loves Kanye West? If your mom and dad are anything like my mom and dad, they would start an (insert your name here) fan club if you didn’t put a stop to it. It’s a fact that parents are naturally biased in favor of their own kids, but why not swing this truth to your advantage?
Even if your parents don’t work in the field you want to pursue, they probably have some amazing untapped connections lying within their friend group. Who knows? Maybe your dad’s poker buddy, Rob, is a financial analyst at an impressive consulting firm. Maybe your mom’s book club friend, Beth, is an arts editor at a cool independent magazine.
The exact occupation of your second cousin, Mark, is probably not something you’ve taken special note of since he left Harvard a few years ago but if you’re too modest to ask, you may miss out on an internship at the social media empire (or something like that) he’s created since your family’s last reunion.
3. Network with alumni
Networking among alumni gives you the home-field advantage, and while I don’t know much about sport metaphors, I do know that a player is better positioned for a win on their own pitch, diamond or ball court. Seek out notable alumni from your college succeeding in a field of your interest through your school’s career office or alumni association and get in touch with them. Make a pointed note of your scholarly connection and wait for the team spirit to kick in.
Ashlee, a recent grad of Hollins University, says, “When I got back from my recent internship I started contacting New York area alumni for help. I know I want to do another internship in New York over the summer and who better to contact than alumni in that area?”
Simmone, a junior at Tufts University, agrees: “I look into the companies where alumni work to see if they have internship programs. Alumni at the company can help to secure me a position and often wantto. I find that personal connections are the best route to take.”
Remember to make a personal connection and not just assume that because you paint your face the same colors and scream for the same team, you’re entitled to a piece of somebody’s post-grad success.
4. Create a LinkedIn page
Google your name. Open up a new tab and do it right now. What comes up? When I Google my name, for example, one of the top results is a local paper’s review of the high school musical I starred in freshman year. It’s interesting, but it doesn’t give a comprehensive sense of who I am as an internship candidate.
Before hiring, potential employers are going to search your name to corroborate the claims on your résumé, (and make sure you aren’t covering up a brief cameo in College Girls Gone Wild Cancun from spring break ’12). They want to know you can sing and dance in the workplace, to be sure, but even your riveting onstage performance as Teen Girl #3 in Bye Bye Birdie five years ago isn’t going to prove it to them. So give the crowd what they want.
Your professional experience is not likely to show up on Google unless you put it there and LinkedIn makes it totally painless. Not having a LinkedIn profile in the career world is like not having Facebook in the social world. Not sure where to start? Check out “The Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn Etiquette” (and use that new tab you opened to copy this URL: www.linkedin.com).
5. Perfect your resume and cover letter
Creating a perfect resume is a delicate and precise art; this is not the place to channel your inner Pollock. Avoid these dastardly resume don’ts, and take to the process of resume-writing as you would a course paper worth 100 percent of your final grade.
Arthur D. Rosenberg, author of The Resume Handbook, advises, “Think of your resume as a special tool with one specific purpose: winning an interview... [It] is a wedge designed to get your foot inside the doors of companies where you might like to work.”
Whether you’re putting together your first, second or hundredth resume it can be easy to get lost in formatting and forget to put the same emphasis on writing the all-important cover letter. The harsh reality is that your resume and cover letter are in competition with hundreds, maybe thousands of others, and to ensure they’re the best make them a dynamic duo to rival Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, themselves.
6. Don’t be afraid to go abroad!
Many collegiettes’ first instincts when scoping out summer internships are to apply for openings that lay close to home, but limiting yourself to a certain mile radius from your locality will also seriously limit your opportunities!
Alexa, a collegiette at James Madison University, can attest to this difficulty: “It is hard because I want something close to home and though I am relatively close to NYC where all the ‘good’ ones are, it's way more expensive to intern there!”
While the prospect may at first seem daunting, consider the possibility of moving your search overseas! Some internships provide stipends for accommodation and the value of experiencing life and work in a foreign country will more than outweigh the cost of missing out on a couple family barbecues-(admit it, your dad always over-sauces the burgers, anyway).
Of course, making the leap (and the lengthy flight), to work abroad will require some seriously detailed additional planning, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, the outcome can only be exotic, educational, and like, everything-you-could-ever-want: an amazing internship in an amazing locale.
7. Prepare for your interview
So you’ve made it through the rounds of applications and landed an interview. Well done! But now is not the time to fall into a mindset of, “interview, shminterview” and lose all the precious yards you’ve just gained!
This isn’t football; you don’t have four tries to score a touchdown. You have one attempt to nail your interview and if your interviewer is anywhere near as merciless as Tom Brady facing Tim Tebow, you need to arm your defenses well in advance.
Know what to wear and what to bring, and prepare yourself for even the most grueling of interviews with a little game of 20 Questions. Get your roommate to play the role of demanding employer and grill you ahead of time on common interview queries. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Why do you want to intern for this company? Know the answer to these inquiries!
Is your interview taking place over the phone? Do your research ahead of time to ensure you ace it!
8. Stay organized!
It’s a chance higher than an intern making coffee runs that somewhere on your resume or cover letter, you declare supreme organizational skills. As a brilliant collegiette, (and potential intern), prodigious organization is a requisite and expected trait. Put these skills into practice when on the internship hunt to ensure you keep proper track of your progress.
Alexa has the right idea: “I've been hunting all over the place to find an awesome summer internship in fashion PR or magazines! I have a bookmarks folder on my browser where I save every appealing internship [and] I scan my favorite internship listing websites every day (freefashioninternships.com, InternQueen.com, etc.) to see if a new post comes up.”
Create a spreadsheet to track prospects, deadlines, the status of each application, and anything else you can think of that will ease thetedious (but necessary) process! Google Docs offers a great, easy-to-use spreadsheet format that will ensure your attempt at organization doesn’t end up just complicating the whole operation!
9. Be a face, not just a name
Sometimes it feels hard enough to be a name and not a number, let alone a face, not just a name.
But as Sidney, a student at Hofstra University, knows, giving potential employers a face to a name will secure you an invaluable advantage: “I attend a lot of journalism events on my campus to meet professionals and always emphasize to them that I genuinely know who they are and how much I respect the success and quality of their publications. Putting in the extra effort pays off.”
Kelsey, a collegiette from Boston University, advises meeting potential employers for the first time prior to submitting your bid for an internship: “Set up informational meetings with people you admire ASAP. Not only will you get some great insight into your dream job, but you'll be adding a face to your resume and cover letter.”
Disclaimer: do not interpret this step literally and attach a headshot to the back of your resume- (sure you’re gorgeous, but leave your CV face-free).
10. Just do it!
If Nike says it, it must be true right? Sometimes after all the research, and the applications, and the cover letter writing, and the follow-up phone calls, snagging your dream internship can seem like a road fraught with more obstacles than a 500-meter hurdles race. If you really admire a particular organization or company, it may be worth it to just throw caution to the wind and contact them directly!
Nicole, a student at McGill University, says, “I emailed one of my favorite NGOs asking if I could get involved in any way. I was expecting to get a volunteer opportunity at best, but to my surprise they emailed back asking if I was interested in applying to be a summer intern! An application, cover letter, and Skype interview later, I had scored my dream internship at a literacy nonprofit in New York City!”
They say that where there’s a will there’s a way and if collegiettes have anything, it’s a will to succeed! And hey, even if all that will amounts to a limited response, if you’ve got the willpowerto see an incredibly trying process through to the end, you’re on the right track!
Whereas in Monopoly, you get the lucky break of a Get Out of Jail Free card, in the game of life, you often get only one shot. In the search for that dream internship, the pressure and competition can sometimes make you feel like folding now and saving yourself the trouble of playing your hand. But while it may be easier to spend the summer reading magazines on the hammock in your backyard as opposed to actually interning at one, that’s not the kind of girl you are, is it, collegiettes?