The Long and Shaky Internship Hunt of a Writer

Like many other people, my internship search took a ridiculous amount of time. I started looking around online in December of 2017, but back then, not many employers were putting up job openings for summer internships quite yet. I checked again around the second week of January, and slowly but surely, the internships began popping up. 

The search for a summer internship has been so stressful, grueling and nerve-wracking that I started referring to it as an “internship hunt.” I felt like a wolf hunting for prey: hungry, desperate and trying my best not to mess up, just in case at the end of it, I came out with nothing. It’s startling how fitting the metaphor is, but it perfectly describes how I felt as an English major in a sea of STEM majors. 

How do I stand out as a liberal arts major? Do people even need English majors anymore? Are my skills valuable to companies? I considered questions like these before I started my freshman year in this major, but as I looked for an internship, they began to run through my mind endlessly again. 

The basic documents for most job applications are a resume and a cover letter. I modeled the formats for both after samples in the career guide that I got from the UCLA Career Center. They also recommended changing some aspects of both to fit specific job openings. It took a good hour to change them each time I applied to a new position, but it was worth that time and effort. 

Other documents to give potential employers are reference lists, transcripts and letters of recommendations. One special requirement found for writers is writing samples—the more you have, the better, so that you have a collection to choose from when sending out your applications. 

My biggest piece of advice is to stay organized! I labeled each new file I made very specifically in case I sent an employer the wrong document. I also stored all my internship hunt documents in a separate folder on my computer so that they wouldn’t get mixed up in my school documents. 

The search really started around February when I attended a career fair. The weekend before the fair, I went home just to buy an interview suit. The time crunch definitely helped in forcing me to make the decisions about my outfit quickly. Buying my first pair of heels was definitely a moment for me—I was suddenly confronted by my imminent adulthood while looking at myself in the mirror in black pumps. Things were getting real. 

The career fair featured only non-profit organizations, and it was a huge learning experience. My voice crawled into a shy, little ball the half hour before the event started, but after it began, I pushed myself to put myself out there. Do not underestimate the advantages of a good elevator pitch! It’s the only way for scouters to know anything about your personality and what you’re interested in. 

After two hours of pretending to be an extrovert, I went home. I’m not suggesting that you be someone you’re not, but those who are more outspoken give deeper impressions on future employers. Try your best to stand out from the rest of the applicants, and employers will remember you. If they remember you, they might even hire you. 

I’ve been involved in college clubs, a volunteer position and college-level publications at both UCSB and UCLA, and to my great surprise, employers responded well to these aspects of my resume. As a writer, I was unsure of how many employers out there would value my writing skills, so I applied for any kind of internship I qualified for. 

A lot of employers asked about my experience with Her Campus. College-level publications, like the school newspaper or student-run online magazines, are tangible proof to employers that you have a high level of writing skills. Having your work published, on paper or online, is also a huge plus, and they work great as writing samples. 

I got several interviews, but most of them ended in nothing. I learned belatedly that sending a follow-up email or even a handwritten thank you card (for in person interviews) make a huge difference in whether or not they give the job offer. As a writer, I used every opportunity to try to prove I had competent writing skills and tried my best to stay as professional as possible. 

However, this effort to be professional may have been my biggest disadvantage. After an eye-opening conversation with my parents and my older brother, I learned that my professionalism may have come off as distance and coldness. The interview is key for employers to figure out what kind of person you are, and they are usually looking for a personality who would mesh well with the team they already have.

When it comes to keeping up with school, balancing the internship hunt with it was a struggle. The pressure I placed on myself during the entire winter quarter may have caused me to get sick more often, and after getting sick three times in one season, I learned that self-care is a major aspect of students’ lives. Staying healthy is so important! Making sure you eat, sleep and exercise properly during stressful times is important to helping you survive through it all. Keep that in mind during your own hunt.

In the end, I ended up with an office internship, a writing program and a part-time job lined up for this summer. Time-wise, they should all work out, and I’m happy that the hunt is over. Two of the three positions are non-paying, which is a bummer, but such is the life of a writer. Now on the other side of the hunt, I know that the internship search was a gigantic learning experience in figuring out what I want in a job and what my strengths are as a potential employee. My internship hunt was not perfect; I made plenty of mistakes. Like most adult activities, you learn by doing, and the lessons I learned from this process will no doubt prove to be the most valuable in my post-grad life.