Do you want to excel in today's super-competitive job market? CEO of Intern Queen, Inc. Lauren Berger gives you the primary tools for getting started with a solid internship in "All Work, No Pay." Here's an excerpt.
As a college freshman, I focused on everything except opportunity. My days consisted of binge-studying and social activities. I knew that big career decisions would command my attention in the not-so-distant future, but my focus was elsewhere. I didn’t have an answer to the infamous question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My parents and teachers would always say, “Lauren, get your act together and figure out what you want to do.” But no one provided an action plan that I could follow to move forward. I was always being told I had “lots of potential,” but I didn’t understand how to turn that into success.
So in 2002, when my mother called and said, “Get an internship,” my initial reaction was that I wasn’t interested. When I realized my mom wasn’t going to let up, I began to seriously consider internship opportunities. Ironically it was my lack of direction that led me into the career center to find more information.
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Without rejection, I wouldn’t have developed the thick skin that I have today. In fact, my first internship experience began with rejection. I walked into the career center and eagerly announced, “My name is Lauren Berger, and I’d love an internship. My dream job is to work for Us Weekly magazine.” The two women from the career center stood there and stared at me. They said, “We’re sorry, Lauren, but you need to be a junior or senior to intern. There is one company in town called the Zimmerman Agency, but they only accept seniors. We have nothing for you.”
Looking back on that experience, I always think, what if I had listened to them? Would I be successful now? The word no ignited something inside of me. Somehow I found it challenging and wanted to prove them wrong.
I became determined to land an opportunity and immediately went back to my dorm room to research the Zimmerman Agency and other public relations companies in town.
My first step was to visit their website to learn about their business, clients, and company history. The Zimmerman Agency website displayed no information about internship or career opportunities. I studied the website, making sure I was familiar with the company before I picked up the phone to cold-call.
“Hello, this is Lauren Berger calling. May I speak with your internship coordinator?” The internship coordinator (at the time), Autumn, took my call and requested that I send over a resume and cover letter. I researched how to create these materials online and put my extremely minimal experience into a professional format. My resume screamed “freshman,” with my only previous job experience being at the Limited Too and Red Lobster. Luckily I’d participated in several extracurricular activities during high school and had joined some campus groups at Florida State University. I accompanied my resume with a brief cover letter explaining that I was an underclassman but willing to put 150 percent into the position. I emailed my materials to Autumn the day after she requested them. She needed to know this internship was a priority, and I didn’t want her to forget our phone conversation. In the body of the email, I wrote the following short note:
Great speaking with you. Per our conversation, my resume and cover letter are attached. I look forward to speaking with you further.
Florida State University
My phone rang the next day, and I was called into the Zimmerman Agency for an interview. They wanted to know if I was available to come into the office the following day. At the beginning of your career, it’s important to do everything you can to make yourself available. So I made myself available on the day and at the time they requested. I immediately went out and purchased a plain black business suit that still hangs in my closet. I walked into the interview dressed for success and feeling excited but nervous. I sold myself to Autumn with my passion, energy, and excitement for the position — traits that should never be overlooked or discounted. She hired me on the spot. And just like that, I landed the internship at the Zimmerman Agency. This was the position my career center said I couldn’t get until I was a senior. Years later, when I asked Autumn why I was offered the internship she said, “You seemed unstoppable. There was a passion behind your eyes.” That still resonates with me today.
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I experienced a dramatic change after getting that first internship. At the office, employees fascinated me with their drive, focus, and passion for their work. I felt challenged by the duties I was given and enjoyed learning about the industry, administrative tasks, and new projects.
What surprised me was how this internship distinguished me from my friends. I was no longer able to spend time the way I used to. I started using my free time to not only think about my goals but actually take the necessary steps to achieve them. The internship granted me a sense of direction. I developed a sense of urgency and focus on my career—something I’d never experienced in the past. I — not my parents, not my friends — was in control of my future. I learned that I could still go after what I wanted even when people told me no — and that was a powerful lesson. Through this first internship, my mindset changed — and this is what I call my “click moment.” And until I sat down to write this book, I’m not sure I fully understood the integral role that internships played in my life.
This book will take you on a journey through the entire internship process, showing you exactly how an internship can provide the tools to launch and better your career. In the first chapter, I will explain the significance of internships, explore current trends, and provide solutions for students having difficulty fitting internships into their schedule. Remember, the purpose of this book is to show you how to find, land, and make the most out of internship opportunities — both paid and unpaid. The first handful of chapters talk about how to find your dream internship, and the last few chapters discuss how to be the best intern ever. Make sure you comb through each section carefully so you don’t miss a single piece of advice!
Together we’ll go beneath the surface of an internship. I take you past the satirical depictions of interns and guide you directly to the core of internships, where you can transform your college careers. You will finish this book as a focused internship candidate, one who is confident in how to land an internship and who knows how to make the most of the experience. This process is about connecting the dots and identifying opportunities that have a positive long-term effect on your life.
This excerpt was printed from ALL WORK, NO PAY with permission from Ten Speed Press. It is not to be reproduced or duplicated in anyway. Copyright Lauren Berger 2012.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive