My Internship Experience: If first you don’t succeed…

Submitted by Chelsea Cutchens, Class of 2013

After participating in the Winter With the Writers Literary Festival last semester, I was itching for a second internship opportunity.  I researched companies, polished my resume, proofread my cover letters, and set out for the Career and Internship Expo, where I made several promising connections that I believed would lead to a summer internship.  Per the instructions of the recruiters, I submitted applications and writing samples to the proper contacts, and then crossed my fingers for an interview.  Then I waited.  After several weeks without a reply from any of the companies I had contacted, I sent follow-up emails and made inquisitive phone calls.  I waited once more, this time also in vain—only one company had the courtesy to email me and inform me that their summer internship positions had been filled.  I understand this is quite common practice for companies not to provide follow-up regarding job applications, but it was very frustrating.  Summer arrived and, despite doing everything “right” in my search for an internship, regarding the Career Expo, I turned up empty-handed. 

Crushed by the disappointing blow, but not yet defeated, I focused on my two summer jobs and began scheming once more to apply for internship opportunities, this time for the fall semester.  Using Jobs for Tars as a starting point, I searched internships in the area related to my English major and writing minor.  After weeding out the internships for which I was unqualified, I then began assembling the application pieces for the remaining opportunities.  I spent hours researching the companies on both their websites and LinkedIn and crafted individualized cover letters and targeted resumes for each.  Although I applied for four positions through Jobs for Tars, I knew I would need to seek other internship opportunities.   I felt that internships that best suited my major were unrepresented on the website, and thus began an intensive search to find my perfect position.

Through Internet navigation, I researched magazines in the Central Florida area and discovered that, although these publications did not advertise internship openings, they occasionally hired interns for editorial work.  My company research grew to include the reading of their magazines and blogs, and I sent emails with my attached resume and cover letters to the editors-in-chief of each publication.  The familiar waiting period arrived again; however, my dedication was soon rewarded when I received my first phone call for an interview.  A second interview offer quickly followed the first, and by the end of the week I had scheduled interviews with five out of the seven companies that I sent my application.

The next eight days mainly comprised of ironing my best interview outfits, gathering materials in my portfolio for my interviewer, and shaking hands—lots of hands.  I drove from Maitland to Lake Mary to John Young Parkway for my interviews, some in relaxed coffee shops and some in intimidating windowless rooms at the corporate office.  Despite the natural stress of an interview, however, my dedicated research of each company and assurance in my own abilities bolstered me and I sailed through the week with confidence.  After my last interview, I had received five offers for a fall internship and one offer for a freelancing position—one company I hadn’t yet heard from contacted me after receiving my application and offered me the position without even conducting an interview!

After weighing my (many) options, I accepted the offer for an editorial internship with my favorite magazine in addition to freelancing with another local publication.  After two semesters of tirelessly applying for internships, my hard work finally paid off.  My process for applying for fall internships differed from my summer approach; I doubled my investigative effort in order to land my interviews.  The best advice I can give to those seeking an intern position is as follows:

Start early in the semester and utilize a variety of resources to find opportunities.  Attending Career Expo and utilizing R-CareerLink (Jobs for Tars) to find and apply for internships were two excellent resources, but I needed to also utilize other online resources and research organizations in my field of interest to uncover hidden internship postings.  Don’t be daunted by a lack of internships in your field—finding the perfect position may require some digging.

Only apply for positions for which you are 80% qualified.  You need to review the qualifications and job duties of the position to make sure you possess many of the skills and qualities employers are seeking.  You must then highlight those relevant skills, qualifications, and experiences in your resume and cover letter application.  Employers want to see that you possess at least 80% of the qualifications they seek in their job posting.

Personalize your application to each company.  Let your resume, cover letter, and writing samples connect to the company in a unique, personal way—making a connection even before the interview will yield better results.  Employers want to believe that you wish to work for them so target your application materials.

Be confident.  Go into an interview with your head held high—this company contacted you because your application stood out and they are interested in learning what else you can offer them.  Now is your time to shine.

“If at first you don’t succeed…” Don’t give up.  Lots of unalterable factors affect whether or not you will land an interview, including the timing of your application and the company’s ability to hire an intern.  Be persistent in your search and you will be rewarded—take me as an example!

Utilize the Office of Career Services.  The Career Services’ office has a plethora of resources, workshops, networking events, fairs and online tools to aid you in your internship search.  You can make an appointment or stop by during daily walk-in hours (3-5pm),  to sit down with a Career Counselor to determine the right tools needed to help you succeed in landing your dream opportunity.

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