Friday, July 13, 2012

Internship Search: A Personal Success Story

 Most people know that to get a job, you need experience, and internships are a great way to get marketable experience. This is the story of what I did, as a Communications and English double major, to find two internships in the past year. I worked as a Communications Intern at the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (BPDD). I helped out with their press releases, social media, email alerts and website. I currently am interning at the National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin (NKFW). I am helping organize their Capital City 5K Run/Walk that is happening in Madison. I hope my experiences can help you find your very own internship.

Where to look:
I have used several different places to find internships. I find that the more places you look, the more internships you will find that you can apply for.

Websites like and allow you to create a profile and search for internships based on location and keyword. This is probably my least favorite way to find an internship, but I found my internship with the BPDD through this method. What I did was I applied through the website, as described in the listing. I have only applied for the one internship with this method, so each listing may have different ways to apply.

Twitter has different handles that only tweet internships. Some that I follow are @InternMatch and @Internships. The problem I have with this method is that not all of the internships are close to home, if that is something you are looking for.

My favorite way to find internships is Big Shoes Network. They have a website that lists internships in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. They send out emails that list new job opportunities, as well as internships which can be found at the bottom of the emails. You can follow them on Twitter at @BigShoesNetwork. All their internship tweets start with “COLLEGE STUDENTS,” which is really eye-catching in your Twitter feed. I found my internship with NKFW with this method. Generally each listing will ask you to email your resume and cover letter with a specific subject. The instructions for each listing is noted at the bottom of the page.

After you apply:
I like to keep a record of which internships I have applied for, usually just saving the description in a folder on my computer. That way I remember what each internship is expecting of me if I get an interview.

If you haven’t heard from the company, send a polite email checking up on your status. For me this is the most uncomfortable part of the application process, but it can be necessary. I learned this the hard way. After I had already accepted an internship, I emailed the other ones I applied to telling them that I was withdrawing my application because I had already accepted another offer. I got an email from one place saying my application had gotten lost, and that if I would have sent that email about checking up on my application I would have gotten an interview.

Unlike most people, interviews don’t scare me. I go into most interviews pretending I am already acquainted with the person that is interviewing me. This helps me keep relaxed and be personable. It makes me feel more comfortable with the entire process.

Ask questions. It shows that you care about the position. An easy question to ask is what is a typical day like in that office or that position.

Prepare for questions you might be asked. Before my first interview, I Google searched typical interview questions and thought of my answers for some of them. That way I had examples and quality truthful answers right at my grasp. Don’t rehearse too much that it is obvious, that doesn’t make a good impression. You want to sound natural during the interview.

Do your research. If you know something unique about the company that shows you did research, it usually makes a great impression. It is also wise to know even the basics about the company you are interviewing with. I have been asked if I was hired, what I would do under certain circumstances. Knowing about the company can help answer these types of questions.

Dress to impress. No matter what the position is, I always wear business casual to interviews. It shows you are serious about the position and your professionalism. My dad was hiring a truck driver and he was impressed when one showed up in, you guessed it, business casual. You just want to make sure your wardrobe doesn’t outshine you at the interview. Keep it simple and professional.

Other tips:
Everyone wants a paid internship. My philosophy is that to get one of those nice paid internships, you have to get experience through one that isn’t paid. It may suck to not get paid, but that experience that you will (hopefully) be getting will be beneficial enough to get you that paid internship or job.

Internships are how you get experience. You may feel hesitant to apply for an internship because you don’t feel qualified. Apply anyway. I wasn’t particularly qualified for my first internship, but I applied anyway. Besides maybe getting the internship, it helps you practice your interviewing skills and allows you to make sure your resume is always up to date.

By Lauren Simonis, double major in Strategic Communications and English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Expected graduation: May 2014.

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