Best Foot Forward: A College Student’s Guide to Starting Right: Step 4: Intentional Assertiveness

We all know that the early bird gets the worm.  However, I propose that in the world of internship hunting, this is not entirely true.  The bird should not only be early, but it should be a bird of prey, a bird with intention, assertiveness and focus; a bird that has his eye on the prize and a plan to attain it. This bird gets the worm (internship). But seriously, aside from the bird analogy, in this market there are thousands of highly qualified, competent candidates, so if you want an internship, you have to go the extra mile and be intentional about securing it.  You have realized, researched, spun and now its time to be assertive. In terms of being assertive, I am not referring to hunting and pouncing on your prey or prospective employer literally. I am referring to a figurative intentional pursuing of sorts.

So what does this intention look like? Let me explain. Once you have researched your company, which includes thoroughly familiarizing yourself with their website and work, you have inquired by email or phone (or both) about the internship, what it entails, what a successful candidate looks like, you have tailored your resume and constructed your cover letter and sent it–now its time to be intentional. At this point many college students think that this is when they simply sit back and wait.  This is not true and most likely costs many what could have been quite an enriching opportunity.

Rule of thumb says you wait about two weeks after initially sending in your information, then it is appropriate to call the company directly.  Some are afraid to do this because they are worried they will seem to forward or rude. Or they simply do not know what to say.

Example: “Hello, my name is Amanda Martin.  I am calling to inquire about the internship I recently applied for. I sent in my resume and cover letter and just wanted to double check that you received it?” They did. “Great, when can I expect to hear an answer?” They tell you. “Thank you so much, I look forward to hearing from you…”

You can also ask how many applicants they received to get an idea of what you are up against, how many interns are they taking, when are they making the final decisions and scheduling interviews.  Asking questions makes you look assertive and if they are good questions, they make you look intelligent and capable.  Make sure you tell them again your name, and thank them for their time. Now they have mentally recognized and categorized you as the potential internee who has actually inquired about the position more than once, aka really wants this position.  Also make sure you know who you are sending it to directly if you can. Then when you call and inquire, try to bypass the receptionist and request to speak to that person who will actually be hiring or not hiring you.  This shows that you are serious about this position and that you will do the extra digging to maneuver yourself into the best possible position.  Self starters and determined people are very appealing to potential employers.  Yet if you show the interest and take the initiative to call and follow up, many employers will not only be impressed, they will remember your name.  This is your first step to making a good impression.  With so many job- hungry, over qualified college students and graduates, you need to be remembered. So go ahead, be the early bird of prey and be assertive and intentional about your future career.

Blogger: Amanda Martin

Media Relations and Advertising Intern

Best Foot Forward: A College Students Guide to Starting Right: Step Three: Spin!

So you have realized the need for an internship, and taken the time to research it. Now, can you spin it? That is, do you know how to take what skills you have and present them in a convincing and totally irresistible fashion? Most students actually have things that they could tack on their resumes they are not even aware of.

Once you have researched your internship and decided on an industry and some prospective companies, it’s time to tailor yourself to what they want. The most common mistake that potential interns make is to undercut their chances by not showcasing any and all of their skills or pertinent experiences. Something else to consider: You do not have to do an internship that directly correlates to your major! For instance, my major is political science, and I am doing and internship in media relations and advertising. I decided this would be my time to branch out and get experience in another field I was curious about. This would be a time when I would try to narrow down some of my interests and see what I liked and what I was and was not good at. If you cannot find an internship that directly correlates to your major, do not despair! Most colleges offer courses in which you can get credit for many different types of internships or field experience, even ones unrelated to your major. Furthermore doing an internship is the perfect opportunity to explore all the various interests you might have. Something else to think about, how many individuals do you know in certain professions they love with a major that has nothing to do with it…think about it, how did they get there? They probably did an internship! If you present yourself correctly, and can make any aspect of your skill set, experience or coursework relate, you are in good shape.

You were part of a softball league, a sorority, or organized a benefit for your school.  Can you pull away any skills or responsibilities that you held that could be showcased in a resume? Recognize that at the intern level, most companies desire to teach you new skills. While this is not always the case, if you can in your cover letter or interview, emphasize the basic skills you possess, how they could pertain to the tasks you would be required to perform, and how ultimately your goal is to gain knowledge. So if you had basic skills like writing, but were unfamiliar with certain programs, like InDesign which is used in print advertising, do your research on it and express your desire to be taught. Also the internet is an endless resource. Find a free online tutorial and watch it!

You can make yourself marketable for any job with in reason. Of course, if you want to be an astronaut, but you are an English major, most likely you are out of luck. With the right “spin,” you can be well on your way to your first internship. The next question: are you aggressive enough to be intentional about securing that position?

Blogger: Amanda Martin

Media Relations and Advertising Intern