5 Steps to Finding a Summer Internship

Deirdre Quirk

Sure, your mind might have gone on vacation just after midterms, but have you spent any time daydreaming about your big picture future? If you’re still not sure what you’re going to be doing with yourself this summer, don’t sweat it—it’s not too late to find an internship or a worthwhile project. Deirdre Quirk, a junior at Reed College shares some of her tips for success.

I’m a junior theatre major who decided halfway through the second semester of my junior year that although I loved theatre, I really wanted to pursue a career in something else. Namely, editing.

On the one hand, I felt as though I had just experienced a major epiphany about what I wanted to do with my life. On the other hand, I suddenly realized I had no idea what I would be doing for the summer. Most of my other friends already had or were applying for internships or jobs in their fields of interest. I didn’t even have an idea of where to start looking.

But luckily, all was not lost. I went to my college’s career services, did some networking, some researching, and came out with a couple of projects for the summer and, even more importantly, a good sense of how to go about looking for jobs, internships, and projects I was interested in.

Step 1: Visit Career Services

My number one piece of advice for other students trying to figure out what to do with their summers would be to find out if your university or college offers any type of Career Services. Talking to one of the career counselors at my school was the best thing I could have done and it was from her that I learned many of my successful strategies.

Step 2: Reach out to Alumni

One of the other most important things I did was reach out to my school’s alumni network. My school has a searchable alumni directory where I could look for every alumni working in the editing and publishing field who had given their contact information to the school. Of course, you don’t want to be sending out a million emails, so you have to be judicious.

I stuck to contacting people who lived and worked in the city I was staying in for the summer and people who had jobs I was particularly interested in. Another thing I was careful about was how I approached alumni. After explaining who I was and why I was interested in editing (and in hearing about their job in particular), I asked for their help. But rather than ask if they could offer me a job or internship, I asked for ideas, knowledge of opportunities, and for them to share their experiences.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. Even people who had no job offers or internship ideas eagerly shared their job-searching resources and strategies such as giving me websites that list job and internship opportunities in the publishing field or suggesting postgraduate programs like the Denver Publishing Institute that were especially helpful to their careers. Some of them put me in contact with colleagues or other alumni who might know even more.

Step 3: Google it!

As for looking for jobs and internships directly, the trick is Google and knowing what you’re looking for. Because I’m most interested in editing fiction, I started my search by Googling publishing houses and literary magazines in my area. Some of them offered internships, but I contacted even the ones that didn’t, explaining why I was interested in them and inquiring as to whether any of them had projects that I could work on this summer. Although the answer was often no, several of them suggested that I send in a cover letter and résumé anyway, and they would keep me in mind for the future.

Step 4: Expand Your Horizons

Of course, it’s entirely possible that all of these strategies won’t be enough to get you a job or an internship for the summer, or that the responses won’t come quickly enough to be helpful. In that case, it’s time to start expanding your search. When publishing houses were taking a long time to get back to me about internships, I started elsewhere. For example, as I mentioned earlier, theatre is one of my great loves, so I started contacting local theatres and asking if they needed someone to edit their programs, newsletters, or publicity. I also started looking at things I wasn’t necessarily as interested in, but would still give me valuable experience, such as editing for the local paper. And finally, I researched volunteer organizations where my editing skills might be useful (by searching for writing nonprofits in my area), and offered to volunteer there.

Step 5: Remember Success Might Not Be What You Expected

In the end, by reaching out to as many people and organizations as possible, I was able to cobble together a few projects like editing the season brochure of a local theatre, volunteering to copyedit for a local newspaper written by the homeless population, and writing guest posts for blogs, that would give me useful experience and strengthen my résumé. I hope these strategies prove as useful to you as they did to me.

This guest post was written by Deirdre Quirk, a Theatre major and junior at Reed College.

Homework time! If you haven’t already, make an appointment to visit your Career Services office. Before you go, make a list of the types of internships or projects you’re interested in pursuing this summer so you can make the most of your visit.

P.S. Still looking for something to do this summer? We’ve got a few internships open here at AfterCollege. Learn all about what we’re looking for and how to apply here. [Update: All positions have been filled as of May 2013, but we'll let you know next time we're hiring!]

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