Getting an Internship for Dummies

I'm going to be honest: I always just seem to fall into college internships, and I'm not entirely sure how I wind up getting them. 

As a journalism student, all we ever hear is that internships are everything, and I'm sure that goes for other fields as well. More and more, employers are supposedly caring less about the classes we take and more about the stuff we do outside of class--our actual "in the field" experience. 

Well today, I am happy to report, I managed to get an internship! And not just an internship, but an internship in London.  After a fifteen minute skype session with two British blokes, I was offered the position as a social media and video editing intern with MultiChannel TV in London, England for this upcoming summer. 

But, it's tricky. Because in a couple of weeks, I have ANOTHER interview with an internship firm out of Berlin, Germany, for a position in their internXchange program. 

So, if I get both, I'm going to have to have the awkward break-up talk with one of the firms. "It's not you, it's me. Sometimes, people just don't fit with firms as well as originally thought, and, honestly, I just think I'm better off with the other one."

Not that I'm complaining. It's awesome! I'm psyched. But it was funny, because as soon as I got the London internship, I posted a Facebook status about it, and out of nowhere my inbox was flooded. People wanted to know how I managed to get these internships--particularly as a sophomore--and what they should do to boost their own applications. 

I wanted to help. I mean, given the messages were via facebook, they're my friends or "friends," at least on some level. But I'm not entirely sure what to tell them. 

What do companies want out of an intern?

I have no idea. 

All I know is what they seem to like about me. 

I mean, some of it's a given. They want experience. In my situation, I know how to video edit. I'm good at video editing. I managed to worm my way into an internship at Channel 13 Eyewitness News in Indianapolis summer after my freshman year, and that definitely helped. Like many things, the first time is indeed the trickiest, and I was lucky enough to know an employee at Channel 13 who could vouch for me. 

So you've gotta have experience. How you're supposed to get that experience in order to GET an internship when you've never interned before...that's the tough spot. I worked at the TV station here to up my cred, and then I started at the paper this year to round things out. 

But there's something they're looking for beyond experience as well, because I can almost guarantee there are more qualified people out there than me. My GPA is decent, but it's far from stellar. I work at the TV station, but I'm not exactly a driving force behind it. 

I think they also want diversity, these employers. They want someone who does more than just one thing. For example, I'm a tourguide. For some reason, people find that interesting, and they ask about it. Then, I can oblige them with stories that make them laugh, make me memorable. They're also always intrigued by my language skills--that I'm studying German and Arabic, along with journalism. It's interesting. It's unexpected. I guess in some way it shows I'm versatile? Maybe? That's as best as I can figure it out. 

That can't be all, though. I'm pretty darn involved, but there are kids out there who do more. On paper, I'm interesting, but I can't imagine that I'm some sort of real outlier in the system. 

But, the paper is all they see at first. Then, if you do manage to catch their interest, just enough, there comes the hardest part.

The Interview. 

That's what I had today. Given that they're in London, I had a skype interview with two of the directors for MultiChannel. During the interview, they basically just said, "Tell us about yourself."

I think the interview is what really determines whether you get the job. You can talk your way out of a less than impressive resumè, if you know how to interview. 

What I've learned in my limited experience is you have to have personality. Luckily, I am physically incapable of hiding my personality. For example, I laugh. A lot. I've got this dry sense of humor. Also, for some reason something in my voice conveys enthusiasm constantly, even if I'm running on three hours of sleep. Whether that's genetics or subconcious training, I do not know. 

But a lot of my friends are afraid of being unprofessional. And I mean, there's definitely a line. Don't show up in your sweats and Kilroy's shirt, hungover and incoherent. Don't talk about how many shots you took last night, or say the reason you want their internship is because, "I dunno, my parents want me to." Basically, don't be an idiot. But also don't be afraid to have a personality. 

For me, I just told them the skills I have, and I was honest. If they asked about something I hadn't done before, I admitted I'd never done it, but I also followed it up with something similar that I'd done, if applicable. I told them the reasons I was excited to potentially work for them. They wanted to know what my expectations were, and so I told them. I also told them what I DIDN'T want, and I think a lot of people don't do that. But I think it's important. That way, you won't end up stuck at an internship doing work you didn't know you were signing up for. 

I got the internship. They told me at the end that it was mine, and that we'd talk again on Wednesday. However, I neglected to tell them I have another internship interview with Germany, on March 10th. So...that's something I need to make sure they know. 

As I said, it just kind of happened. It's just a matter of being aware of the possibilities out there and taking advantage of them. Apply for anything and everything, even the small stuff. Don't expect to get that paid internship in Chicago right off the bat. You'll probably have to make coffee in some tiny office in your hometown first. But that's what we all have to do. 

We'll see if I get the Germany internship. Don't tell anyone, but that's the one I really want. Although, the interview for that one is entirely in German. So that one's going to be interesting. 

Hopefully, it'll be the good kind of interesting. 

About The Author