To help clear up some misconceptions, I sat down with Lauren Berger, CEO/Founder of InternQueen.com and LaurenBergerInc.com, and author of All Work, No Pay and Welcome to the Real World. Lauren answered the questions I had about the job search, internships, following up and how PR girls should approach the process.
When should students begin applying for internships for each season?
Students should apply for internships 3-6 months before the opportunity would begin. That being said, summer internships begin late May/early June and there are still PLENTY of amazing opportunities to apply for.
Where is the best place to look for internships?
InternQueen.com🙂 And your school’s career center. And social media. And Google:)
What is the best way to approach the application process?
Do your research, create and Intern Queen Dream List (I talk about this in my internship book – ALL WORK, NO PAY), customize your materials (resume/cover letter) for the position you are applying for, put together a rock star online portfolio, and create student business cards.
How much time should students spend each week searching and applying for internships?
I think it’s all about blocking out time. Spending time doing your research and applications on Sundays and sending out Monday late mornings are always a good idea. When you are in internship application mode, I’d spend at least 5 hours each week applying/researching/and following up. Remember, you need to land something. Failure to land an internship is not an option. Proceed with that mindset and you’ll land something great.
How does the process for searching and applying for jobs differ from looking for and applying for internships?
It really doesn’t differ too much. The big difference is that jobs are available anytime and internships are hiring more seasonally – fall, spring, summer.
How should students follow up on applications?
If you’ve applied via email – follow up via email. If you’ve applied through a giant “black hole” AKA an applicant tracking system (ATS) like the big companies have – see if you are connected with anyone on LinkedIn. Perhaps someone in your career center can follow up for you. Perhaps I can follow up for you. Intern Queen Tip – try to connect with alumni from your school who work at your dream companies – this is a great foot in the door! LinkedIn is probably the best way to do this.
What are the best practices for contacting hiring managers/applying for jobs and internships?
Always be professional. Make sure your email address is professional. Don’t follow up more than 3 times. Do your homework and know all about the company and exactly what they do. Read and re-read the internship listing – then go customize your materials and make sure you sound like the perfect candidate for the position.
What items should a PR student have ready to go before applying for a job or internship?
A basic resume, cover letter, and two saved (recent) letters of recommendation. Also, if the student has any writing samples – those should be included via PDF and in their online portfolios. I also think PR students should put at least their twitter handle on their resume.
Is there a standard format students should follow when putting their resumes together?
In my internship book, ALL WORK, NO PAY – I give sample resumes and tips on building that resume. The format should be traditional with maybe a pop of color or something that calls out to the employer and shows off your creativity.
What, if any, social media should students include on their resume?
Their Twitter handle would be great – and something that calls out to their social media abilities at previous internships or with clubs on campus.
Does applying for a PR job or internship differ from applying for other jobs, like in business or other not-so-creative fields? If so, how?
In public relations, you need to be able to sell other people, places, products, and services – so if you can’t sell yourself – how can you sell or pitch anything else? In PR they look for someone who is outgoing, can speak clearly, has creative ideas, has previous experience, and someone who has a love for the nature of the business.
When should seniors begin the job search process and how?
If the student is trying to work at a large company that gives job offers out to graduating seniors (before they graduate) they should start looking as early as possible. Some seniors have job offers as early as October/November (before they graduate). Students wanting to work at mid-sized companies, small companies, or start-ups, should really start looking during or after their spring break. This is the best time to reach out to former connections and professional contacts and plant the seed that you will need a job when you graduate in May/June.
How should students alter their resume, cover letter, portfolio, etc., for each different job or internship?
They should read the internship listing/job listing and look for buzz words. Ask themselves, “What is this company looking for?” And then incorporate those things in their materials.
Is there a format students should use for cover letters?
Again, I have sample cover letters in ALL WORK, NO PAY. But a cover letter should be no more than 1 page and it should connect the dots for the employer and state why you are the best fit for the position.
Cover letters are hard. What tips do you have for writing them?
Three paragraphs. The first paragraph is the important info. Who are you, where do you go to school, what’s your major, and why do you want this internship? The second paragraph is talking about your professional experience and why you are the best fit for the position. The third paragraph can mention some personal traits that will benefit you going into this position and close out the letter respectfully.
What should be included in a PR student’s portfolio?
Any writing samples of press releases, articles/blogs they’ve written, any PR work they’ve done/placements they’ve received from doing press for student organizations/side projects/previous internships.
What are the biggest mistakes students make when applying for jobs and internships?
They don’t customize their materials. They make spelling errors. They send the same resume/cover letter to 100 companies. They apply via email and don’t follow up 10 days later.