How to Nail an Awesome Internship

Super Intern

Ah, internships. How unreachable you seem to us college students, who just want an impressive resume! How you make us jealous of our peers, who seem to have the perfect one! How frustrating you are, as we pull out our hair and scream at the computer, waiting for responses from five, ten, fifteen companies that have still not replied to our queries! 

Yes, internships can turn most college students into walking soap operas. To save you some stress, I’m here to offer advice. Having nailed a successful internship – which is now coming to a close – I think I am qualified to tell y’all how you, too, can find yourself an awesome internship.

Find out what you want to do. Then, start five times smaller.

I want to write for the New York Times, for Entertainment Magazine, or even for the Boston Globe. However, instead of rushing off to Boston or New York for the summer, I stayed in my hometown.

Why did I do that? Because I knew that if I started small, I would have a better experience.

Granted, this might only apply to the publishing industry, but, for me, working for a small company meant my responsibilities were more. I was responsible for writing at least two stories a week, interviewing loads of people in the community, copy-editing magazine stories, shooting events, processing pictures and compiling briefs. I worked less than 10 feet away from my editors, who were willing to answer any and all of my questions.

At a bigger publication (read: one that wasn’t short-staffed), I probably wouldn’t have had these wonderful opportunities. I would have instead been doing busy work all summer, making copies and retrieving coffee for the higher-ups.

Starting small allowed me to dream big. Now, I know what I want to do because my internship afforded me so many opportunities.

Pry, and ask questions whenever you can.

When I realized I wanted to write for my hometown newspaper, I had two options: The Standard Times or The NorthEast Independent. In my senior year of high school, I applied to intern at the Standard Times, a newspaper whose office was five minutes away from the school. They didn’t accept me – mostly because their positions were in flux, they were transitioning, and one of their editors was pregnant. Instead of re-applying for the job in college, I decided to pursue The NorthEast Independent, because it was the newspaper that my parents read.

When I found their website, I searched everywhere for a button about internships or information about an internship program. Nothing.

I didn’t give up, though. I found the editor’s e-mail, contacted her there, and she replied within the week.

Find the most important person you can contact. Then, just do it! However, don’t say, “I want to be your intern!” Ask them questions about the company’s internship policy and about the company itself – engage your contact – and do some research on the company beforehand.

Be reliable.

If the company you contacted is willing to hire an unpaid intern, your contact will most likely want to know more about you.

After only a few e-mails, the editor of the Independent asked for my resume, cover letter, and five of my clips. I sent them to her right away. Bosses don’t want to wait for you – they might forget about you if you take too long! Be prompt and you’ll be rewarded.

Right after sending in your resume, schedule an interview. Even if they haven’t brought it up yet, you should – it shows that you’re serious about the job. I scheduled mine for months in the future, at a time when I would be home for winter break.


Knock out that interview.

You’re almost there! In fact, you’re walking in to the company’s main office, apprehensive, unsure of where to turn. But you’re wearing a suit and you’re standing tall.

Bring your resume, cover letter and clips to the interview. Your boss may have lost them, or never printed them out. It shows that you’re committed and ready. Luckily for me, my boss had printed everything out – and she even edited some of my clips. I was shocked, but not necessarily dismayed, when she handed back some of the articles that I had published in the school newspaper, red ink awash on the pages.

Answer your boss’s questions with poise and ease. Don’t over-exaggerate your past positions, but don’t undermine them, either. When your contact is finished asking you questions, don’t leave right away. Stay, ask about the company, the expectations, the internship itself – whatever you can to, again, further engagement. You want your boss to know that you’re approachable, and most of all, that you care about the internship and helping their company.

Wait a week. Then, contact them again.

I don’t think I had to wait too long; Laura was ready to have me on board after the interview. However, if that hadn’t happened, I still would have wanted to keep the ball in my court. Even if you don’t think they’ll hire you, this is important to do. Contact the company again, thank them for their time, and ask about the internship. Write a thank-you letter, separate from the e-mail.

If they don’t hire you, don’t fret; just start the process over again at another company. If they do hire you, don’t fall off the face of the Earth. I knew I was going to be a summer intern for the Independent in January. I kept in touch, and also continued to read the stories in the newspaper online. The paper published an article that stated their offices would be moving from Wakefield (about 15 minutes away from home) to Newport (two bridges away), and I contacted Laura right away, letting her know that I would still be willing to work at the Newport office. She was impressed that, despite my busy college life, I still found time to read their newspaper!

Be awesome.

Cheesy time! You are the one that’s going to make your internship awesome. Keep a positive outlook, look everywhere for opportunities, impress your colleagues, and you may find yourself doing some amazing stuff! Me? I’ve written stories about Olympic medallists, sunscreen entrepreneurs, famous actors and local policemen – all in one summer.

It’s been a wild ride at the Independent, and I’m thankful for every last second of it.

Have any tips for how to nail an awesome internship? Would you like to expand on any of the above? Has any of this worked for you? Has any of this not worked for you? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to hear your stories! 
*photos courtesy of taketheinterview.com



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