Thursday, July 10, 2014

How I Landed My Dream Internship (And Tips!)

I spent the entire second half of my sophomore year of college applying for magazine internships, which I realized were extremely competitive after sending in more than 15 applications and receiving only a few interviews. I was a nervous wreck waiting to hear back from the internship coordinators, literally pouncing on my phone anytime I heard my email alert. After many stressful months, I finally (finally) ended up with my dream internship, but the path from application to getting the job was a tedious one.

I found the dream internship posting online in late February and applied right away. About a week later, I had an amazing phone interview with the internship coordinator. We connected immediately, especially since we went to the same college and even wrote for the same campus publication (what are the odds?!). I left the interview feeling great since I gave pretty concrete answers to all of the coordinator's questions. I wanted this magazine internship, and I honestly felt like I had a chance at it.

A week went by with no response. And then another week. And another. I sent several follow-up emails to the coordinator, but I received nothing in return. When two months went by, I finally figured I didn't get the job. I was crushed, but I had prepared for defeat by setting up a couple of other interviews with my "second choice" magazines. I was just about to accept another position when I heard back from my dream internship coordinator. Two months after I sent the application, I was offered a job as editorial intern. As it turns out, the magazine was going through some rebranding issues, and internship program got sent to the back burner for a while. The coordinator thanked me for continuously following up via email, saying my dedication kept me in the front of her mind. And I thought my constant emails were annoying her!

If you're applying for internships now, I feel for you. The process is both annoying and terrifying at the same time. In an effort to help, here are six tips I picked up about the grueling application process. Keep in mind that may you need to cater them to your specific internship.

Internship Application Tips

1. Apply early
Don't let internship applications creep up on you. Many deadlines are set for February and March, and I've even seen some that require an application to be sent a year before the program starts. Do your research ahead of time to prevent last minute scrambling.

2. Follow directions exactly
If an application calls for three writing samples, send three writing samples. Not ten. Internship coordinators are looking for interns who can follow directions. Although you may think going above and beyond shows motivation and effort, you technically aren't following directions.

3. Cater your resume and cover letter for every internship
Don't send a generic cover letter with every application. Companies like to see cover letters geared toward the specific position you're applying for. If you are stretched for time and have to use the same cover letter, be sure you don't confuse the company names! Also, cater your resume to the specific skills required for each position.

4. Prepare for an interview, but don't prepare too much
Interview preparation is always a necessity for figuring out what kind of questions to expect. However, don't over-prepare because you'll probably sound rehearsed during the interview. Also, try to relax and treat the interview more like a conversation than an interrogation.

5. Find common ground in an interview
If I learned anything from my five interviews last semester, it's that they go a lot smoother when you relate to the person you're talking to. I've had interviews where I didn't particularly click with the interviewer, and my answers felt forced and my tone seemed fake. However, I really clicked with the internship coordinator for the job I ended up with, and we bonded over college and blogs we enjoy. Try researching the interviewer beforehand on Twitter or LinkedIn to see if you have any common ground, and discretely bring that into the interview!

6. Thank the interviewer, and be sure to follow up
Always send a thank you note to the interviewer, even just an email, to show that you appreciate their time. If you haven't heard back from them after a week or two, follow up with a quick email or phone call. Then keep following up every week or so to remain in the interviewer's mind. Say something like "I'm still very interested in (position) and would love the chance to work with your company. Please let me know if I should send any other material. I look forward to hearing from you!" Keep it formal and simple, and be sure to show your interest. I definitely felt like I was annoying my dream internship coordinator with all of my follow-up emails, but she said my persistence got me the job! In fact, my college counselor said that some companies only offer positions to people who have followed up.

Good luck, everyone!

I met (the real 10th generation) Lassie during my amazing internship. How cool is that?!