I still remember many heated discussions between my parents and I back when I was still in school, sparring over my desire to pursue internships. At the time, I had aspirations to forge a career in the entertainment industry after college. Knowing just how incredibly competitive that industry is, I was very headstrong about needing to secure an internship (I was a second year in college) and my parents were equally as adamant about me not taking on an internship because I should never work for free. Here’s the thing – if there’s a career path you are very motivated to embark on and you don’t have any experience or you’re still in school, chances are, you will probably need to apply for an internship to gain relevant experience in order to position yourself to be a more competitive candidate for the next job. It would be great if it’s a paid internship, but there are many where you will have to settle for school credit (unpaid). This is what I like to call the first stages of “paying your dues”, a concept that was heavily instilled in me as a student when I was trying to catch my first break. I’m sharing my 5 tips below on how I landed my internships.
–> BE HUNGRY
Possessing a strong drive to continue to persevere through the challenges that you will undoubtedly face in chasing your dream internship (or dream job) is needed. One of the challenges that everyone goes through before landing an internship is securing an interview. When I first started out applying for jobs, I submitted applications to nearly every major film studio and entertainment agency in LA. Believe me when I say it becomes disheartening after awhile when you don’t hear a peep, then just demoralizing when you get the interview and you don’t get the job, and it seems all your efforts are producing no results. However, this is the part where I advise you to focus on that drive, that unwavering hunger on the prize, and keep chugging along until you get your foot in the door. I always reminded myself that there are thousands of applicants in my position who are just as hungry as I am for that job, so I can’t afford to taper off my efforts.
–> CAREFULLY REVIEW YOUR RESUME
Double-check your resume for any grammar or spelling errors. The hiring manager receives hundreds of applications, so you can’t afford any mistakes that’s easily avoidable. Make sure your resume looks clean, presentable, and do not lie or stretch any truths regarding your experience. Your interviewer already knows you are light in experience given that you’re applying for an internship, so don’t feel pressured that you need to somehow fill the large amounts of space on your resume or embellish anything from the previous positions you held. It’s not terribly difficult to uncover a lie in the application from a simple background/reference check, or even a thorough interview question. When I first applied for internships, my resume was quite empty and honestly looked sad. I couldn’t change the truth, so instead, I played up what little experience I had by emphasizing how relevant they are, and really hammered home how I can translate that experience to the internship and how much I wanted to learn from them. In lieu of experience, you can also highlight in your resume your strengths in that particular field, which can include participation in organizations, volunteer efforts, strong marks in class, portfolio, or even an avid reader of a relevant trade.
Again, don’t sweat that you don’t have enough experience because who they are ultimately looking for is not someone to take over their strategy efforts or spearhead their next project, but for someone who they can truly rely on in a supporting role and is eager to learn. You’d be more than likely supporting the person who would be interviewing you.
–> DO YOUR RESEARCH AND BE PROACTIVE
I highly recommend that you apply for an internship with a company that is consistent with your career aspirations. When you secure that interview, spend time doing some research. While it is by no means a requirement to know the ins and outs of the company you’re interviewing for, it definitely gives you an edge when you’re able to articulate some nuggets of info that you’re not expected to know. For example, in one of my earlier interviews for an entertainment company, I made sure to incorporate into my interview responses some relevant insights into the current show lineup and my thoughts on a couple of the shows and demographic. The hiring manager was instantly surprised that I was able to speak to it so comfortably. While it did take some time on my end to do some extra research, it did beef up my interview performance (and a job offer!). The goal isn’t to just do some research just for the sake of doing research, but to use that information to prove to the interviewer that you’re taking this interview and job position seriously, and that you’d make a positive and valuable intern for their team (maybe a full-time employee in the near future).
–> BE PREPARED FOR THE INTERVIEW
I’ve actually had interviewees that would arrive at the interview and ask me if I can remind them what position they are interviewing for because they can’t remember after sending off so many applications. You don’t want to make that kind of first impression, even if it’s just an internship. Know ahead of time just exactly what position you are interviewing for and strong talking points to how you are qualified for the job and why you want the position. If you are light in experience, emphasize your strengths that are relevant to the position, how you can contribute to the team, and why you are interested in the job. I would also recommend having a few questions queued up, ready to go when your interviewer will more than likely ask if you have any questions for them so that they know you are really interested in the position and company.
Print extra copies of your resume.
Don’t be late. I always try to arrive 30 minutes before my interview time so that I can spend 15 minutes going over my notes in my car, and then check in with the receptionist 15 minutes before my scheduled time so that I don’t feel flustered.
Of course, dress and conduct yourself appropriately for the interview.
–> THANK YOU NOTE
Remember to thank your interviewer. Email everyone who had interviewed you within 24-48 hours or even mail a handwritten note. Call me old-fashioned, but I place a lot of value in a handwritten thank you card. When I receive a thank you note via snail mail from an applicant, I always remember them and give them extra points for that. But that’s just me. I would gauge in your interview process how casual they are or time-pressed they may be to filling the position to help you determine if it’s better that you email your thank you note instead (I’ve also physically dropped off my thank you card with the receptionist before).
There you have it, my 5 tips! You may also realize that these tips are also applicable beyond just internships. If you are doing everything that you should be doing on your end, but it feels like there’s no progress in sight, try to be patient, and know that it’s not a matter of if you get an internship, it’s simply a matter of when. =)
I hope you’ve found this helpful and if you would like for me to create a similar post that just focus on the interviewing process (which I have tons of experience on), let me know!