Published November 09, 2019
The Internship Search: What I’ve Learned from the Process
For many students, especially at NYU, securing a great internship during our four years is definitely a top priority.
But let’s be honest, the internship search and application process is far from easy.
Coming into college, I wasn’t one of those students whose goal was to get an internship every single summer and semester during my time at NYU. My goal was simply to pursue my passions in any way that I could, whether it was through joining clubs or different organizations. I wanted to learn and challenge myself in any way that I deemed relevant to my creative career. For the first time, I was given the opportunity to truly focus on developing my artistic skills. Still, like many first-year art students, while we were sure art is what we enjoy and what we’re passionate about, we absolutely could not ignore the nagging doubt in the back of our heads. How am I going to find work? How am I going to make money? What can I really do with this degree?
“Despite my own self doubt and despite the doubt of others, art was what I wanted to do and I was determined to make it work.”
When junior year rolled around, I realized it was time to get serious. No more waiting around for opportunities to fall into my lap, and no more staying inside my comfort zone. Immediately, I said to myself, “Go big or go home.” Over the course of my entire junior year and even the first half of the summer, I must have applied to over 100 internship positions, at least that’s what it felt like. They were all art-related, from graphic design to photography, etc. I cast an incredibly wide net. I applied to really big companies that virtually everyone was applying to as well as small companies that I had never heard of prior to seeing their job posting. It was incredibly time-consuming. Not only did I have to craft a cover letter that was relevant to the specifics and technicalities of each role, I also had to make sure that my portfolio made sense for each position. After a full year of various résumé revisions, several projects added and removed from my portfolio website…
I was not successful in securing an internship for Summer 2019.
Still, I remained motivated and set my sights on beginning my internship search for Fall 2019. As an NYU student, it is more than feasible to hold an internship during the semester while taking classes. Fortunately, I was able to secure a graphic design role at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. As someone who is just as passionate about dance as I am about visual art and design, I am happy to be able to say that I secured this position.
Here are eight things I learned from the internship search process:
1. Don’t limit yourself. Search everywhere.
Try LinkedIn, Handshake, Indeed, and even the job opportunity pages for companies you’re interested in, which is where I found my current internship. Be open to various positions but also be very specific in your internship search.
2. LinkedIn is your best friend.
Traditionally applying, i.e., just submitting a résumé and cover letter, doesn’t seem to be enough to get the attention of recruiters, HR managers, etc. After submitting your application, do some research on LinkedIn. Connect with and message recruiters at companies you want to work for. Try to find something specific about the role/company to start a conversation, ultimately with the goal of perhaps landing an interview.
3. Connect, connect, connect.
Don’t just look to connect with recruiters. Reach out to people—professionals in the field or other students—whether it’s on LinkedIn or elsewhere, who have worked in similar positions or have worked with companies/institutions that you’re interested in working for. Ask them for advice, interview tips, and even portfolio reviews if they are willing to do so. Similarly, if you’re applying for a role that requires a portfolio submission, do your research and try to determine the type of work they would prefer to see presented in your portfolio.
4. Update your profiles!
Make sure you have an updated profile on LinkedIn, Handshake, etc. You never know who could be looking! On that same note, make sure you’ve made yourself open to be contacted by recruiters.
5. Revise your résumé...and then revise it again.
Attend résumé workshops. Ask a career counselor or someone in your department to review it. Make sure that you’re hitting points and including experiences that are relevant for the role/company.
6. Stay on top of the process!
Keep track of deadlines and start your internship search as early as possible. Depending on the role, starting your search as early as the summer before may be a good idea, especially if you will need to develop portfolio. Don’t be afraid to send follow-up emails, depending on where you are in the process, but don’t be excessive!
7. Trust the process, but more importantly, trust your process.
Don’t compare your journey or your progress to others; the right internship opportunity will come. Always remember that people hardly, if ever, post their failures.
8. Lastly, just. keep. applying.
You got this.