I’m always delighted when I open my email and find a message from a current or former student about success in getting published, finding an internship or being hired for a job.
I’ve recently heard from several former students who have been hired for internships for the summer. I asked them to send me advice to share from their own experiences in trying to find an internship.
Here is the advice from Meg Wagner, who is interning for the New York Times Regional Group, one of several internship offers she received. Prior to this summer internship, Meg had written for The Alligator and The Tampa Tribune and was on the University of Florida news team for ABC News on Campus.
1. Apply for many internships.
I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to apply to everything you come across. By the end, I probably applied to 30+ positions. Not only does applying to multiple positions increases your odds of getting at least one offer, but it also helps you become more comfortable with the whole process.
The cover letters I wrote in April were much better than the ones I sent out in November. By the third or fourth interview I knew exactly what kind of questions I’d be asked, and I felt more comfortable going into them.
2. Follow up on your applications.
A lot of times, I’d have to submit my resume and cover letter to generic email address, like ”firstname.lastname@example.org.” I would go days without hearing anything. But as soon as I sent a follow up email, I’d get confirmation that my application had been received.
Employers want to know that you want the job — and being relentless with follow up really shows that. I would send weekly emails to the companies while they processed my application, just checking in and asking them if they needed any other materials from me. As soon as they emailed me to schedule an interview, I made sure to respond ASAP to let them know that I was very interested and really cared about the position (I have email on my phone, so often times it would be minutes after they emailed me).
3. Send thank-you notes after interviews.
I sent out thank-you notes religiously, too. With one of my internship interviews, I send thank-you notes to the three people that conducted my interview. But I also met a couple people in passing while walking around the office — I made sure to send emails to the woman who greeted me at the door and the guy I spoke to while I waited for my interviewer to arrive, too. You never know — those people might have some pull in the decision, too. If you’ve made an effort to reach out to them, it could benefit you. Anything that shows that you are about the job will help you!
4. Be aware of the internship time frame.
I started panicking mid-March when I didn’t have anything lined up yet, and I got really concerned when I hadn’t heard anything by mid-April. I was packing up my room and getting ready to move out of Gainesville for the summer, but I still didn’t have a job for the summer.
However, most summer internships don’t start until June, and most other schools don’t end their spring term until mid-May. Some employers aren’t used to students being free as early as UF students are (spring semester is over by the end of April), and many don’t plan too far in advance. Some businesses don’t even start thinking about summer interns until late April, especially if they don’t need them until June or so.
I was so worried that places I applied to in February were ignoring me, when in actuality, they didn’t even start to look at applications until later in the year. Of course, some places, especially a lot of larger newspapers, hire early (December for summer internships), but the majority of companies hire a month or so before they need their interns.
I’d be interested in other tips you would offer from trying to get an internship.