Welcome back to another week of the Millennial Minute! This week I want to talk internships, because in our field of media and radio, these opportunities are even more important for career opportunities. I was absolutely fortunate to intern at some amazing media companies who really took their internship programs seriously and knew how valuable a great intern experience can be for a career. Shout out all of my former intern coordinators!
Obtaining an internship may seem like a breeze, but the competition not only for applicants but also in the number of programs is steep. Not to mention the fact that many companies are now paying their interns which now plays into company finances. When I interned in college, there were like 10 of us per semester, and that was just in programming. Why so many? Free labor! I was so excited to be in a radio studio (that I actually listened to and grew up following) I would have done just about anything to get my foot in the door! Pay? I didn’t even ask about pay, it wouldn’t have mattered. I knew I loved radio and music and having that environment every day was something I never wanted to give up. But now, you are lucky to find a local radio or tv group that has any more than possibly two interns per semester. I know quite a few radio and tv groups that only have interns for the Summer, not every semester. Less opportunity, more students applying. Now this is also a factor because our industry has downsized over the years, less people doing more work means some initiatives, like an internship program, get lost because people don’t have enough hours in a day to take on another responsibility.
So, how do you stand out to get that interview? First, start early. I cannot tell you how many times I have had students reach out to me to apply for an Internship AFTER the semester starts, or in their LAST year of college. Unless you have a truly outstanding circumstance, there is no reason to wait to start applying for internships. Even if the requirements are to be a Junior or Senior for example, start reaching out Freshman year and potentially by Sophomore year with the right student, they may make an exception. At the very least you have made a contact for the future who knows you are serious about your professional career.You then need to prepare a list of what companies you are going to target, keep a record of where you apply and when so that you don’t get a call and forget who you have been applying too! Yes, that did happen to me before, not a good look. I thought I was being a super student by applying to like 10-15 places a day, but I quickly forgot who was who, got a call, and had to say “I’m sorry, where are you calling from again?” I didn’t get a callback that time.
Time to apply, get your resume ready, custom cover letters, letters of recommendation, and any work samples you think may be beneficial for the type of role you are applying for. Also, please make sure your email is professional and your phone number is updated. If you have a direct point of contact where you are applying, make sure to reach out to that person after you officially apply and let them know.
So, you get the interview. Time to secure the internship with some easy advice from someone who has done it…
- Do your homework! When a candidate cannot answer questions like “why our company over any other?”, or “what can you tell me about our company?” I don’t take them seriously anymore. With instant access to almost anything you want to know about a company or anything in life (thank you Google), there is never a reason not to research the place you are claiming you want to work at.
- Get your story together! Practice what you will say to the basic interview questions. Will you know everything they’ll ask? No. Will every company have their own specific questions? Yes. But when you interview enough times, some questions always pop up. If you have never interviewed for a position, Google some standard interview questions, ask friends or mentors. Also, have specific examples of your strengths, skills, and prior experiences, specific being the key word there. When you are too generic, it speaks volumes. So if you say you’re proactive and a self starter, be ready to give a true example of when you did that successfully. Also, have your personal “who am I” elevator pitch down.
- Come correct, in person or on the phone. Remember, phone first impressions are still as important as face to face first impressions. Make sure you have your notes prepared, questions ready, and the right attire if you are meeting in person.
- Research the interviewer (they are doing the same to you). Not only is it a way to show you’re taking this seriously, but it helps build rapport, especially if you find you have something in common that you can mention in the interview. It also makes you feel like you’re not meeting a complete stranger, unless you’re into that kind of thing.
- Thanks and Follow up: We have discussed thanks and follow-up in the Millennial Minute before, something so easy that gets missed a lot. You all may think I’m crazy for saying this in 2017, but a hand written note goes a long way. I didn’t believe it until I got into sales and I saw how client response increased from a hand written note. When it comes to following up, remember you want the internship, so it’s your responsibility to follow-up.
Next week, you get the internship, now what?
Until next time, stay dope Gen Y!