Tips on how to get the internship

Director of the DU Career Center Mary Michael Hawkins

Director of the DU Career Center Mary Michael Hawkins. Photo by Daniela Santos

As summer approaches, various DU undergrads are in the process of applying for internships to gain experience for their potential careers. The DU Career Center surveyed 2016 graduates six months after graduating and found that 78% of students completed one or more internships or research experiences by the time they finished their undergraduate education.

The National Association of College and Employers (NACE) reiterates the need for work experience. On April 5, NACE shared their results from their Job Outlook 2017 survey and found that 91% of employers who responded, “prefer that their candidates have work experience,” and 65% of them prefer that the experience be relevant to the position they’re applying for.

Alanna Giraldi, a fourth-year hospitality major from Beaverton, Oregon, Associate Professor and Interim Director of Internships for the media, film and journalism studies (MFJS) department Derigan Silver, and Mary Michael Hawkins—the director of the DU Career Center, each have knowledge to share about the application process and what students should do to better their chances of being hired for an internship.

In deciding which internships are worth applying for, Silver suggests that students consider the potential learning value of the opportunity. “[The internship] has to be more valuable for the student than it is for the employer,” said Silver who also recommends that students pick organizations in which a mentor of some sort will be there to assist them.

If students are still unsure as to whether an internship with a certain organization is the best option, Hawkins suggests that students question the interviewer anything that can clarify any hesitations they may have. For example, students could ask the interviewer, “what percentage of my time do you think I will be spending doing [blank],” explained Hawkins.

When it comes to participating in other activities outside of class, quality over quantity is Hawkins’ biggest recommendation. Picking a club to be committed enough to then take on a leadership role or a committee membership will not only show a sense of initiative in the student but, said Hawkins, it’ll also show that the student is well-rounded and not just focused on their grades.

In addition to showing involvement, Silver says to participate in activities, “that [are] gonna show your work product,” because, “they [employers] want to see if you can actually do this.” This does not necessarily mean the activity must be school related. For MFJS students, Silver provides examples of ways students can show their work: they can have a YouTube channel, have a good social media presence, develop a portfolio site, share films to the public or have video packages or clips prepared.

To avoid any possible mishaps in a students’ resume or cover letter, Hawkins mentions some common mistakes students should avoid when completing these documents. In general, the first couple of mistakes Hawkins urges students to avoid are any errors and an imbalance of black and white.

In terms of the resume, a common mistake that she sees is student’s inability to build out their experiences properly. “Dig a little deeper,” said Hawkins, “and think about what were the skills that you were using in those jobs.” For example, say the student is a server at a restaurant—explains Hawkins—on their resume it should not say, “I waited tables.” Instead, students should mention skills sets learned from the experience such as: thinking on their feet, providing good customer service or having upselling/sales skills.

Another common mistake Hawkins points out is students, “using complete sentences instead of statements and action verbs,” on their resumes. Students should have their resumes be clear and concise and lack “I” statements, suggests Hawkins. A good tip that Giraldi, who interned at the back of house at the Highlands Ranch Golf Course in 2015 and was the interim assistant director at the Driscoll Student Center in 2016, suggests using “-ed” or “-ing” terms.

For cover letters, Hawkins and Giraldi want students to not make them a template where one just replaces the organization’s name; they should be tailored to the internship. “You want to make sure you know what company you are applying for. What skills you’re saying should be tailored to that job,” said Giraldi.

Flyer of DU Career Services upcoming event. Photo by Daniela Santos

Flyer of DU Career Services upcoming event. Photo by Daniela Santos

“If they can see that you have spent some time understanding their business, looking at the job description and how you fit with that job description, that time will be well spent,” said Hawkins.

Giraldi tells students that the intimidation of the application process is normal. “We all panicked,” she said. Hawkins encourages students who may be stressed about the application process to just get started. “The stress of thinking ‘I need to do this, I need to do this,’ and not doing anything just compounds itself. I can’t tell you how many students walk out of our office and say, ‘thank you I feel so much better’ because they’re started the process,” she said. Giraldi suggests that fellow pioneers, “surround yourself with people who know what to do,” and that, at the end of the day, “you gotta want it.”

MFJS students looking for internship opportunities can look at the weekly internship emails from Silver or at the DU Career Services website for opportunities outside of MFJS. Here, students can also schedule a meeting with a Career Center advisor to get individual help. The Pioneer Career Blog is another resource students can use to look at internship opportunities, upcoming events designed to help students or read articles on the internship process.

One Response to Tips on how to get the internship

  • Chelsea Hernandez says:

    This was a really well written piece Daniela! You used quotes when it was appropriate and it seems like you had some really good interviews with great sources. I really liked your lead and your conclusion paragraph(s) were a really nice wrap-up to the entire story. Your title is clear and readers know what to expect to read. I think this was a really helpful story for those who are looking for summer jobs/internships around this time. Really nice job, my only critique would be that I would have placed your second picture closer to the middle of the story rather than the end.

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