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Internship Advice from an Internship Expert

Well maybe I’m not an expert, but I’ve had more than a handful of internships in more than a handful of industries.  My resume reads like I’ve got 20 years’ experience, but I’m only 25.  Thanks to the recession and moving abroad, I’ve had 8 (count ‘em on my LinkedIn if you’d like) jobs/internships.  I’ve luckily learned so much from all of them and gained some friends along the way, but I realize graduating and looking for an internship instead of a full-time job can be disheartening.

After having experienced more than my fair share of internships (and rejections) in my day, I’ve recently joined the reviewing process for our Walker Sands Communications’ Internship program.  It’s an unusual feeling being on this side of things, but I can now provide insight to my fellow intern-seekers.

1. GRAMMAR and SPELL CHECK

I know this one sounds so simple, but I can’t say this enough- spell check, spell check, spell check.  Mistakes happen, but sending a cover letter with misspellings or grammatical errors is a bit of a deal breaker for me.  Spend the extra minute to review your message.  Have a friend review it - not necessarily critique it, but review it for common errors.  Read it out loud - even though this feels foolish, it will help you to hear your mistakes.

2. Do Your Research

On the company that you’re applying to and the people you’re reaching out to.  Addressing the value that you’ll add to the company is a great way to get our attention.  If you’re applying to a B2B/Tech focused agency (cough, cough), then mention the experience you have in that space.  If you don’t have direct experience, mention your tangential experience. i.e. I read WIRED, PC Mag, Mashable, etc. every day to see the latest tech news.

3. Reach Out to an Executive

Other people may tell you otherwise, but I’ve personally seen results from reaching out to a real person rather than human_resources@xyzcompany.com.  A generic HR email address can be a bit of a black hole, especially at larger companies.  If you’ve submitted your resume to the company email address and haven’t heard back, maybe you should do a little more research and find an account executive or even a president or CMO – LinkedIn is great for this.  Worst case scenario, you won’t receive a response.  No harm, no foul.  Best case, they pass you to the right person and you’ve gotten the attention of an influential person.  **This is also a strong tactic for finding executives for informational interviews.

4. Don’t Stop Looking

When we applied to college, we didn’t just pick one school and hope to get in.  We had a plan B or C (or D, E, and F) to make sure that we had our bases covered.  Same goes for internships.  They aren’t one size fits all.  If the people reviewing resumes don’t think you’re the best fit, it doesn’t mean you’re not a talented and fully capable candidate, it just means that maybe you’re a talented, capable person who fits another agency better.  Don’t be discouraged because it could be a blessing in disguise.

One anecdote for the road: I applied for an amazing sounding job, passed the phone interview, passed the written test, and went to the second round of face-to-face interviews for a great international agency.  The position was for some sort of SEO coordinator position.  I didn’t have experience in SEO, but I knew I was capable and the company was so good that I just knew I needed that position.  Well I got nixed.  Another rejection to add to the pile.  I was heartbroken.  But recently, I sat in on an SEO discussion and was totally lost, uninterested and mildly bored.  Had I gotten that job that I was capable of doing but didn’t really know anything about, I probably would have been miserable.  It would have been a bad situation for the company and even worse for me.

The point is that if you’ve given your all and done your research and it still doesn’t work out, move on.  There is sure to be an internship that is a great fit for you, so don’t get discouraged!