Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Create Your Own Internship

College students are individuals who have diverse passions and interests seeking self-discovery. It is almost as if college students are expected to have a clear idea of their intended career path upon matriculating. Narrow-based curriculums do not allow students to experience different fields of interest. Internships, however, can foster the discovery of unknown skills and hobbies. 

Traditionally, companies offer set programs to shadow a position or to include certain projects. Students who want the flexibility of exploration are now designing their own internship programs to meet their wants. Companies who have established programs are taking notice of these individuals and hiring them for positions. The Wall Street Journal published an article on this subject late last week. It featured liberal-arts students who pitched ideas to various companies about projects that anticipated the company's needs and combined the student's personal interests. For example, one girl combined her love of hip-hop music and helping children by organizing a program for underprivileged children for a non-profit art education organization.

Do not get discouraged if a company does not offer the program you want. Instead, design your ideal experience and pitch it to companies. Create a proposal that you can send to a targeted group of companies and/or organizations. In order to do this, you must first conduct research that can help you narrow the focus of your internship search. Consider what you want to gain from the internship (skill development, career exploration), what kind of responsibilities you would like to have and what kind of daily duties. Then, think about the field(s) you want to work in and whether there is a need for what you want to do. The proposal should be written in place of the cover letter and include the following information:
  • Specific description of what you would like to do and why you think the company needs you to do it
  • Description of the project or position you want to fill
  • Description of what you have to offer the company/organization
  • Dates of availability
  • Attached resume that highlights strengths mentioned in the proposal
Developing your own internship takes time and effort. If you cannot locate a position that is  customary, do not give up! You are a commodity that companies value and depend on. Be persistent until you find the right opportunity!


Persistence equals progress!

The last few months, I have been observing my friend go through the process of getting an internship. David, a broadcast journalism major, wanted to intern at a local Boston news station. He had a contact through a family friend and called him early on in the school year. He was told to call the station around January when they begin accepting internship applications. When January arrived, David excitedly called the contact and reminded him of his dedication to this potential internship.

When David didn’t get a response from the program coordinator, he became frustrated and concerned. I reminded him not to give up and be determined. Persistence shows interest, responsibility and passion. David decided to follow up by calling the coordinator. Finally, a few weeks later he received a phone call back for an interview. He felt the interview went really well and was confident that he would hear from the interviewer within the next few days. When David had not heard from him after two weeks he knew he had to do something. He was tired of calling and did not have the interviewer’s email address. The one thing he did have was the office address. David decided to write his interviewer a hand written thank you letter. Although it seems weird as most people avoid snail mail at all costs (especially for work correspondence), he knew it would not hurt.

His thank you note said something to the effect of:
Dear X,
I enjoyed speaking to you this afternoon. I think that I am a great fit for your internship program. As we discussed in our conversation, I am journalism major with experience writing for my college newspaper. Like you said, I think this would be a great first internship for me. Thank you again and I hope to hear from you soon.


Remember while writing a thank you note to be grateful and concise. It is also a good idea to recap a part of the conversation to spark a memory.
A few days after his letter was received, David got a phone call. He was accepted to the internship program! David was so excited and realized that his persistence paid off. David learned that although sometimes times you feel like a nuisance, its better to be overly enthusiastic than lethargic.

The moral of the story is a little bit goes a long way. Take that extra step. Make that extra phone call. Write that extra letter. It’s better to go above and beyond. Remain confidant and determined and your passion with shine through.