Trying to find an internship has got to be the most daunting-sounding thing you have to do in your college career. By the time it was over, I loved the process as much as I initially feared it. There was a massive learning curve to the process, so here are a few tips to hopefully help you when the time comes. I made sure to add tips for whatever stage of the process you are in, so to all lowerclassmen, you are not unaccounted for! I am a current junior digital media production major at Kent State with about a semester and a half left, so finding an internship was quite the process, to say the least, but a process that is incredibly rewarding if you do it right, or as best as you can!
Join Anything You Can in Your Field (or Make Them for Yourself)
I remember my freshman year, my First Year Experience teaching assistant gave me the best advice I received throughout that semester: make a position when it does not exist. As I mentioned, I am a digital media production major, so she recommended joining clubs and making videos/fun clips that they could post to social media, so that is definitely something that motivated me to get creative with experience. Getting a position in any program is wonderful, but sometimes they do not exist where you are, which can be a blessing in disguise. If I have learned anything in the past three years in college it is that if you never ask for something the answer will always be no. In my first year, I was pretty nervous to join things. I was excited but I also did not know anyone, so it was a learning experience. Most schools have club/organization festivals where you can sign up to join things; go to these! You can sign up for anything you want with little to no obligation. You can realize you do not like it and not go again, and no one will judge you, but giving it a shot is key.
Career Apps Are That Annoying Friend That You Love
As far as applications go, especially in the wonderful world of digital, the best way to apply to as many jobs as you can is through digital platforms. Having a connection is great, but if you are like me and have lived in the same state your whole life and are a first-generation student, sometimes that advantage is not at your disposal, which is completely fine, you will get there in time. My personal favorite platform is LinkedIn. I really loved their layout and the connections feature, which is ultimately how I found my internship, so I highly recommend at least trying or retrying it if it has been a while. All of the platforms I’m going to mention are free by the way. Handshake and Indeed are two others that I used, however, I found that I often had to apply twice when using them because a lot of the time those companies want you to use their actual website, which makes sense but was tedious when I had to repeat every application twice. Please start early as well! Something I did not know until it was too late was that I could have an internship in my sophomore year. They revamped my program, so credits were called different things, so please check your internship prerequisites! Another tip: follow up after you submit a resume. I know for LinkedIn specifically you have to submit everything the application requires, which is oftentimes just a resume, at least for internships. After a few weeks, unless they have laid out a message of a specific response time/month, if you have not heard anything back, it is not a bad idea to follow up and ask if they have had a chance to review your application. I applied to one company in January, and because I was decently early in the process, they told me to let them know if I am still interested each month as the summer approached. They ended up offering me an internship position a few weeks ago, which I was very excited about and accepted. What I am getting at though is they want you to get back to them, especially if they are interested in you.
Programs that Helped:
–LinkedIn: my personal favorite app that helped me the most and gave me the most information in one place. (free)
–Handshake: this was the first app/program that I used for internships and career information in my freshman year, and I recommend it for introducing you to the career world. I started using LinkedIn most recently and had the most luck, but figuring out the program did take a minute. (free)
–Indeed: Personally, I feel like Indeed is better for finding local, often part-time, jobs, which is what I had the most success with. I feel like this site and Handshake both have the same problem where it is often a tedious process to submit one application when it does not have to be so complex.
–Wix/YouTube: This may be too specific, but it is quite hard to find career apps that allow you to post your work/reel to it. As I mentioned, I am a digital media production major, so submitting content/work that I have made is a pretty important aspect. Wix allows you to make your own website, so this can be a really great tool no matter what major you are.
Fill that Resume
The best advice I have for someone that does not know what to put on your resume is to just google examples of resumes in your field and use trial and error. I work in video production, so making sure I put what programs I was familiar with was something I knew would give me a bit of a leg up. Even personality traits can be very beneficial. If you are a people person or are a professional multitasker, mention that! Especially digitally, giving yourself a personality on paper gives you something to be remembered by when it comes down to interviews. I had a resume from my freshman year that I had made and was editing each semester. I highly recommend you make a new one. My old one was so outdated that I had not even realized half the stuff I still had on there, and making a new one forced me to remember what I have achieved and how to make myself more presentable on paper. Another thing I recommend is to add multiple ways for them to contact you, personality traits, organizations you have been a part of or fields you have even moderately had interest/experience in, academic achievements and anything else you can think of. Force information in their hands. If they do not like your application, they will pass it on, and it just was not a good fit, but make sure the layout reads so they can see your biggest achievements first. If you think you are a good fit for them they will see that.
Be Your Own Hypewoman
I am aware of how cheesy this is, but the amount of times I downplayed myself when it mattered is incredibly unfortunate. I applied for a scholarship once where I made it to the top three, then when it came to the interview process I brought examples of work I had made and forgot to hand them out, then continued to cut my sentences in half because I was so nervous. Nerves mean you care, so do not let them take away your opportunities. Nine times out of ten you will not be the worst interview they have. There is always that one guy that takes one for the team and just does not show up or pulls a Michael Scott in some way. Believe me, you are not nearly as bad as you are thinking you are. They want to hire someone as badly as you want to be hired. You are valuable to them and if you are willing to work your butt off and learn, that is the best thing you can do. Do not be too afraid to brag a bit either! Obviously do not lie, but saying things that you have done and are proud of is the reason you are applying, and honestly having someone be excited and willing to be in a position has to feel good as an employer as well.
Getting a Paid Internship is Great, but Don’t Let it Change Your Experience (if possible)
Before I started applying, I promised myself I would avoid non-paid internships as much as I could. The really unfortunate thing about this is I am finding an internship in a time when it is not only very virtual but it is still all the more competitive and financially detrimental. I am lucky to have quite a bit of experience in my field before I leave college, which is why I recommend it so heavily if it is possible for you. There were a few weeks where I started only searching internships that were paid, and I would follow up every few weeks with the same results, which were very few opportunities and often ones that I just was not interested in. Mind you, I was only looking at ones near my childhood home so I could still work my other job. If you are able to travel or intern in various places or are flexible in any way, by all means, go for it, but I knew from the start I needed to work a real job at the same time I had an internship. At the end of the day, do what feels right. If you cannot afford an unpaid internship, there are still opportunities and people that really want to help you. If you can work another job during your internship, do that. If you are able to just focus on an internship, only you will know what will completely work for you, and that is the biggest focus.
The Pandemic Part
The current elephant in the room is Covid-19, and although an internship in the middle of a pandemic was not my first choice, we are working with what we have! I did not personally choose a remote internship, but I honestly did not look too far into them. If there is a company you really love, look to see if they are doing remote internships. My motto for this experience has been “you really have nothing to lose.” Obviously, there is a learning curve to that and it is not always that simple, however, I have lost too much this past year to believe I do not deserve anything good at some point. By the time I graduate, I will have gone through more time in college in a pandemic than I would have in pre-covid schooling. With all that we have lost in the past year, we deserve to feel at least somewhat reassured about our futures. If you are really a go-getter, you could even spend a semester doing a remote internship, possibly while in school, then you could always do another later on to test the waters in a few different areas, especially for all you double majors out there!
Deciding on the “Right” One
The biggest takeaway I wanted from my internship was learning as much as I could. I cannot emphasize enough how much I would love to get a job right out of college, and I still think I may after the year is over…so keep your fingers crossed for me. However, when you are picking your internship I think the best thing you can get from it is learning what you like and what you want to like. The first internship I interviewed for was the one I ended up deciding on, but the reason I chose them was because they told me the layout for their program was very diverse and you have a lot of room to learn. The company I chose is called Blue Ridge Media Company, so feel free to look them up if you wish! They have dogs that just hang out there while you work, and that may or may not have been one of the main reasons I chose them. Non dog-related, the other companies I interviewed for were all great but I felt like I could see myself working for the company I chose, and that was something that really influenced my final decision. Even if you do not end up working for the company you intern for, envisioning yourself in that position or a position similar to what they are offering can be a great determining factor in if you think you will like it. I shadowed a journalism position when I was in high school, and that was what made me end up changing my major. Experience really is key, and there are so many parts to every major, so if you find out you really are not a fan of one, it is okay to move on! I had to take a sound class that really was not my jam, but the next semester I took on a digital content producing position and videography role that I really enjoyed much more and decided to focus on. Odds are you fell in love with something for a reason, and it is okay if you do not love all parts or do not love it as much as you did before. Going back to the making your own jobs tip I mentioned earlier, taking any classes that you love can play a role in your internship. I am taking a few non-profit management classes that I am really enjoying, and started applying to videography and social media positions for non-profits. Internships are very flexible if you put just a bit more effort into them.
At the end of the day, as grueling a process finding an internship can be, it has a really cool and rewarding experience at the end of it. Please do as much research as you can on the companies you are applying to because it can really only help you in the end! Best of luck and happy interning.