“The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.”-Tony Robbins
For the last few months, I’ve spent the majority of my time working towards one goal: landing an internship with a major advertising/marketing company. The problem? I had not interned for any smaller companies, and the jobs on my resume were things like, “gymnastics coach” and “theater electrician”. Today, I found out that I landed a coveted internship with a huge company and I’ll be headed for New York in the Summer. As a celebration of things going my way today, I’d like to share some advice and tips as to how you can land a great internship even if you think you might be underqualified or simply not good enough.
1.) Work Ceaselessly. During what I like to call “internship mating season” you should treat the internship search like a full-time job. Companies and organizations start looking for summer interns between late winter and early spring, so you should be filling out one to two applications every week from November to April. It may seem like there isn’t enough time in the day to constantly write cover letters and essays, but you have to make time! To make my life more efficient, I downloaded an app called WHA (Work Hard Anywhere), that shows you the nearest cafes, work spaces, and libraries in your area. This way, I could constantly make use of my free time. Whenever I had a spare moment, I found myself a quiet spot, got a cup of tea, and worked, worked, worked.
2.) Dress to Impress. When you’re a broke college student, dressing nice for interviews can be really hard.In fact, the first time I had an a interview, everything I was wearing had come from a Forever21 and I was a little ashamed. But looking polished during an interview is really important because it makes you seem mature and in control. Plus, while it may seem depressing, attractive people are more likely to get hired. If you’re as broke as I am, first things first, raid the closets of your friends and family. Chances are, you can borrow a good pair of dress pants from someone that matches the one decent shirt you own. If not? Try places like Target, ASOS (which offers 10% discounts to college students), and Macy’s.
3.) Knock on Virtual Doors. The generation before us had a very different experience when it came to looking for jobs and internships. Basically, it wasn’t considered awkward or rude to just walk into a company building and knock on somebody’s door — in fact, it showed that you had a genuine interest. Well, that dynamic still exists, but exists online! It’s no longer considered appropriate to just walk into an office building and start handing out your resume, but what you can do, is creep around on company websites. Find the names, email addresses, and LinkedIn pages of people who work for the company you want to intern for and contact them politely. Ask for advice on the best way to get an internship at that company or just ask to pick their brain. It shows that you’re really invested in the company, helps you set up a network of contacts, and you’ll learn a lot of information that your lazier competitors won’t know.
4.) Know Exactly Why You’re Unique. If you don’t have a lot of job experience under your belt already, you need to play up your uniqueness. During my interview process, I talked about the fact that I really had no idea what I was doing when I got to college, and as a result, I ended up trying a bunch of really cool things that set me apart from the average advertising major. For example, I do performance studies and create collaborative performance art in my spare time, which gives me a unique approach to the art of storytelling which is so important in the advertising business. When I talked about my oddities and side projects, the interviewers were interested and impressed because i came off as a multi-dimensional person with lots of interests and experiences. And I wasn’t afraid to admit that I wasn’t perfect! It may seem counter-intuitive to talk about all the time you technically wasted in college, but if you can talk about how it shaped you as a person and made you stronger, it actually becomes really cool.
5.) Don’t Be Afraid To Take A Leap of Faith. I’ve never really lived outside of North Carolina and Virginia, so I was a little nervous when I started applying for internships in big cities. There was a little voice in my head telling me not to bother applying because why would a big city want me? Aren’t big cities the places of fast-paced cool people and dreamers? How will I afford rent? Will I make friends? Will I witness public urination? But alas, I applied anyway because I realized that taking these types of risks are almost always worth it. Even if the dream internship turns out to be less than a dream, I’m going to learn so much about myself and life outside of the tiny place I grew up — and that’s worth it. So, a big part of landing the dream internship is just convincing yourself that you can actually do it and then being courageous. In the end, you’ll look back and wonder why you even doubted yourself to begin with — although it’s probably because your resume was an empty piece of paper.
Good luck loves! May you crush the odds and make your own favor.