Going into this school year, I had one ultimate goal for the summer: stay in Des Moines.
Nothing against my hometown. I just knew I’d be ready to start life-ing on my own. I wanted to get my own place, live with my best friends, explore the city of Des Moines…
But more importantly, the one factor on which all my other dreams were contingent, I needed to get a job.
Thus, the hunt began.
As a sophomore who had no idea what kind of timeline internships ran on, I started applying for positions back in October. I remember feeling discouraged that I wasn’t finding many decent opportunities. Even worse, for the opportunities I did find, I got rejected without so much as an interview.
Then came spring. Suddenly, internship opportunities flooded my LinkedIn page, like the Fine Arts Center theaters after a rainstorm, and you best believe I applied for every single one that remotely matched my skills and interests.
I prepared myself for another slew of disappointing emails from organizations that “decided to go a different direction.” I continued to bookmark affordable apartment listings in a folder titled “pipe dream” on my laptop, but overall, I tried not to get my hopes up.
A couple of weeks later, however, I found myself scheduling interviews back-to-back with several amazing organizations. Before I knew it, I was deciding between several offers from said amazing organizations.
Choosing which internship offer to take was one of the most surprisingly difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. After my rejection-filled fall, I was barely expecting I’d get an offer. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might have to make a decision between several really attractive options.
Through careful deliberation, I finally chose an internship based on my schedule, long-term career goals, and financial needs. My dream had come true! Summer 2023, catch me in Des Moines being a full-on adult with a big-girl internship!
And big-girl bills to pay! Yeesh! Besides the point…
Anyways, I’d like to share some of my big takeaways – some insight I wish I’d had going into this process of finding my first internship as an underclasswoman. If I can help just one person avoid feeling some of the panic I felt, this article will have been worth it.
Internship timing can be weird, so don’t freak out if the postings aren’t there!
Especially for anyone like me looking for a summer-fall gig that’s practically designed for college students, don’t be freaked out if you can’t find many opportunities in the fall and winter. Sit tight, and use that time to perfect your resume or draft some cover letters!
Many companies and organizations don’t start pushing those types of smaller positions out until before Spring Break time. Come February and March. Your inbox will suddenly be bombarded with LinkedIn messages about new postings…AKA, don’t panic! Be patient!
Winning interviews are ones you have researched and prepared for.
Let’s face it – as relatively inexperienced college kids, our biggest challenge is proving to these employers that we are capable of learning to do a good job. Show the interviewer that, though you may not yet have the skills to do said job, you have the dedication it takes to learn to be great at it.
How do you show them this? Go into your interview having researched the organization, what they likely want from this position, the work they’ve done before, etc.
Also, go into your interview having ALREADY thought of the answers to their potential questions. Interviewers always want to hear examples of “a time when you _____.” Set yourself up to minimize awkward pauses, and think of some good anecdotes to share ahead of time.
You may be young! You may be inexperienced! But remember, you’re also a prized (bull)dog!
Because I am just a sophomore with limited relevant professional experience, I didn’t think I had room to negotiate contracts or be picky when it came to positions. I felt so obligated to accept the first offer I was given just because it was the first, even though it paid $3 less an hour than my favorite option and would give me less relevant professional experience.
Then my favorite Career Services buddy in the SJMC, the one and only Timm Pilcher, reminded me that I am a valuable young professional! I am a talented Drake student with organizational and professional skills out the wazoo, and it is well within my right to advocate for myself to get the most out of my internship experiences.
In other words, it is okay to ask certain organizations for time to think when you’re faced with multiple offers. I also learned that, if you mention to Organization A that Organization B is offering to pay you $3 more per hour, org A might just come back with a new salary…
Basically, if you’re patient, you do good prep work, and you know your worth, you will be an attractive candidate for any base-level internship job! So if your summer dreams look anything like mine, go after them! You’ve got it in the bag!
(P.S. – This article is dedicated to Timm Pilcher for talking me through every step of this process. YOU’RE THE BEST!)