Completing an internship has apparent benefits– you can earn college credit to learn industry-specific skills. However, internships can offer even more; if you pay attention, you may be able to pick up on other important professional skills as well.
I recently completed a summer internship at 10 Missions Media in St. Paul, interviewing sources and writing articles based on those experiences for the three magazines that the company publishes.
Although the internship was unpaid, I spoke with many people within the industry who gave me invaluable advice and insights that could be helpful to any person trying to enter the workforce in any industry.
Set goals and figure out how to achieve them
One of the people I interacted with most in my internship was the editorial director, Anna. At the beginning of the summer, Anna had each of us interns set goals that we wanted to achieve during our experience, and she met with each of us individually to discuss how we would reach them.
The main goal of my internship was to explore the industry and figure out if magazine journalism was for me. In order to help, Anna introduced me to many different people within the publishing company so I would have the opportunity to speak with people of different backgrounds and with different positions within the industry. This helped me narrow down if I was making the right choice by pursuing journalism.
These “career talks” with different people did help me achieve my goal, and I have a better understanding of the industry that I would like to be a part of in the future. However, talking with these people also gave me something I did not anticipate. Each person had very good general career advice.
Search for opportunities for growth
The first person that participated in my “career talks” was Anna herself. Currently the editorial director of all three magazines at 10 Missions, Anna started out as an editorial intern just like me! Coincidentally, Anna’s big piece of advice was to search for a company where you are able to grow and be promoted within the company.
Once you find a company that you enjoy working at and also has opportunities for growth. Anna also says the best way to get noticed for a position is not just to do your job well, but be dependable, have a good attitude, show initiative, and finally, go above and beyond.
Find your creative outlet in your personal life
When I spoke to the main graphic designer at the company, Lily, she expressed an important point to me. Any person who holds a creative type of job (such as a journalist or designer) that requires some sort of artistic output for the position (like writing an article or designing graphics for a magazine), should find a creative balance in their personal life as well.
For example, Lily says that she does a lot of layouts and small graphics for the magazines at work, and she works on pen and ink drawings in her free time.
This sort of exercise is a form of self-care for artistic people which allows you to exercise your creativity in a way that is different from what you do at work in order to stay grounded and remind yourself what you love to do.
A lot of “art types” who use their art in the professional world seem to lose touch with the love for art unless they find a creative outlet like Lily suggests.
However, this does not necessarily mean that only people who do creative jobs need this sort of work-life balance. Everyone needs to find something to do for themselves that makes them happy and nurtures their souls outside of work.
Chase aspects of a job that you love
I also spoke with Kate, the event producer at 10 Missions. Her job is to manage live events and strategize the best ways to bring publications to life. Now, more than ever, her job requires flexibility and a passion for event planning.
The best piece of advice that Kate gave me was to chase after a career that you will enjoy. Nothing is worse than going to a job that you dislike every single day for the rest of your life until you are 65.
Because she recognizes that not everyone knows what they love to do, Kate recommends that people seek aspects of jobs that they know they like by taking a self assessment. Ask yourself; Do you enjoy working with people? Do you like to be creative? Do you need to be organized? Kate mentions that once you figure out aspects of professional life you enjoy, apply to jobs that offer you those experiences. This is a good way to discover what you want to do professionally while still making money.
Don’t fret– your career path may change
You don’t need to know what you want to do with your life right now. I repeat– you don’t need to know what you want to do with your life right now!
This point came up in my “career talk” with Tess, an associate editor of one of the three magazines published at 10 Missions. Tess actually started out as a Kindergarten teacher when she graduated from college. A few years into the job, she had an experience with journalism that piqued her interest and sent her running back to college for a degree in journalism.
As I continue to speak with people about their lives and their career paths, I find that the majority of people have had multiple jobs and explored multiple career industries. Many people do not know what they wanted to do right out of college.
After conversing with a number of professionals, one theme stood out: you do not need to know what you want to do with your life right now because chances are, it will probably change!
General advice to remember
The last person I ended up talking with was former associate editor and current vice president of content and events, Bryce, who is also on the company’s hiring committee. Because he has experience in hiring for the company, he had a lot to say about the job search and interviewing processes.
The Job Search
Bryce mentioned that during the process of searching for a job, a person should think about how they are portraying themselves. This includes being conscious of what they post on social media, selling yourself in your resume, and being completely genuine when writing a cover letter.
Another great point that Bryce stated about the job search is to only put something on your resume you’ve done and is relevant to the position in which you are applying and you would be okay with doing again. You don’t want to be hooked into doing something that you don’t like doing if you get that position.
Bryce also says that in your resume and cover letter, your writing should be professional but not stiff. Your writing should sound like you.
One of the most important things to understand about scheduling a job interview is that the interview is more important than a single class meeting. Bryce says that one of the biggest turn-offs to employers are college students who just can’t make an interview time work because they have class. Most times, a professor will understand that a potential career is more important than being present at one class meeting.
As far as when you are in an interview, here are a few tips that speak for themselves:
- Clear the area of things that you can fiddle with. Clicking a pen or fiddling with a piece of paper shows off that you are nervous and it distracts your interviewer from what you are saying.
- It’s okay to tell the interviewer that you are nervous! This breaks the ice somewhat.
- Be honest about your weaknesses, but frame them in a way that shows you are self-aware and working on improving yourself.
- Take notes! This shows you are listening and helps you remember key things the interviewer says for later.
- Always ask questions! Good questions to ask are about professional development, training, management style, growth, and opportunities within the company. You want to make sure you will enjoy working there!
From my summer internship, I knew that I would learn many industry-specific skills that would help me as I approach graduation and being looking into a career. However, what I did not anticipate was gaining invaluable professional advice by talking with people within the industry.
I am excited to share the career tips above, and I do believe that an internship is a valuable experience that everyone should try. If you would like assistance searching for an internship, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to set up an Internship Exploration appointment with the Career Development Office.