How you can secure a summer internship and make the most of the opportunities internships provide

Another former student of mine is having a busy and productive experience interning this summer. Dana Edwards has two part-time internships in her hometown, Tallahassee. I asked her to tell me about her internship experience and share advice for seeking internships.

Dana Edwards’ internship experience:

Dana Edwards and the other public relations interns each has a work station and computer at Ron Sachs Communications.

I’m interning on Monday and Tuesday  with Bill Mattox at the James Madison Institute, a Florida-based research and educational organization. On my first day, I wrote an article for the Tallahassee Democrat’s weekly Chronicle. I’ve been working on a project for high school students taking economics next year.

On Wednesday through Friday, I intern with Ron Sachs Communications as a PR intern focusing more on journalistic aspects. So far, I’ve written op-eds and press releases, attended a news conference for a client, worked at an event sponsored by Ron Sachs, and now I’m starting to work on blog posts.

Here’s my advice for internships:

~ Picking the right internships for your major is important. I specifically sought out experiences that were both “prestigious” (yet obtainable) and in areas I wanted to work in after college. An internship that isn’t in your field of interest won’t give you the experience of what your life/job could be like after college in the real world.

~ Networking is key! It’s important to build friendships and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. I participated in the Tallahassee Democrat Teen Board as a high school student, which contributed to my winning the 2010 Best & Brightest Award. Through this award I learned about Ron Sachs Communications and met the editor of Tallahassee Magazine. My Teen Board experience also had the Democrat staff asking me to intern with them (although I had to earn credit, and UF requires students to be juniors to earn credit).

Dana Edwards was one of the James Madison Institute interns invited by the Republican Party in Tallahassee to attend their Lincoln Day Dinner where Florida Gov. Rick Scott was the speaker.~ Act like the internship is a real job and do your best. Networking will earn you the interview, but what you’ve done and how you’ve done it will get you the internship. To keep the internship, your previous performance must show. You need to show and act like a hard-worker and be dependable.

~ Sell yourself and advocate for yourself. This shows supervisors how much you want the internship; you have to ask for it. After I earned the Ron Sachs internship, one of the vice presidents remarked on how I did a good job advocating for myself. That showed me it’s a good thing to know what you’re good at and know who and how you got there.

~ Write hand-written thank you notes. This may not seem like a big deal, but to the person receiving the note, it means a whole lot. The thank-you note also can be the defining point between you and another equally qualified applicant. Writing a hand-written thank you note is unique because not many people do this. Writing that thank you note also shows your interest in the position and that you took the time to care about the company or supervisors.

~ Start early and research places before you apply. Some internships don’t provide a deadline date on their website or application form – first come, first served/early bird gets the worm. Doing research on the company or business and applying early also shows your dedication and enthusiasm for the internship. Plus, if you apply to a couple places this helps in choosing amongst more than one company or provides more than one internship, and if you don’t get one internship there are plenty more to choose instead of waiting until the last minute.

~ Be persistent and available. Persistence shows how much you want the position. Being available shows your commitment to the position, plus you may have make errands while on the job.

~ Once you have the internship: listen, be humble, always say thank you and show enthusiasm for everything – even if you’re just printing a copy for another worker. This is the difference between an okay intern and an intern that may be hired by the same company, earn a letter of recommendation for the future or have a more enjoyable learning experience.

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