Believe it or not, getting an internship can be harder than getting a full-time gig. It still boggles me as to why, but the amount of competition for these entry level positions is obscene. At least when you have some experience, there’s a rough trajectory in which direction you can go, but with landing an internship, it’s like throwing darts at a wall and hoping one of them sticks.
Not only was this a crash course in how the current workforce is addressing the youth, but it also taught me a lot of valuable lessons about my own career. From the process to the prospects, it was truly an eye-opening experience for me, and something I felt worth sharing for you to utilize too.
Covering Our Bases
One of the first things we looked at in gaining a marketing internship was making sure that we had all the materials necessary to avoid any common mistakes. This included first combing through his resume and cover letters for any grammatical errors. Once we perfected those pieces, we built a pipeline of internships to apply to (from local startups all the way up to Fortune 500 firms). However, one of the most challenging roadblocks in this was compiling unique cover letters for each specific company. The volume was just too high, which made the process incredibly difficult.
To combat this, I encouraged him to organize his list based on the internships he wanted the most, and assign reasons as to why he liked each company. This required a little bit of soul searching so that the message didn’t come off as the same regurgitated, canned content. However, even when he found his voice, the letters he wrote were way too long. So we came up with a three-pronged strategy to hone them down: first, discuss why you like each company in 1-2 sentences and reference points; second, talk about your brief experience, and third, conclude with how working with them will be beneficial to both parties.
Finally, after all of our materials were set, we were ready to start submitting applications, which brought along an even bigger issue — the market for internships is way more demanding than expected.
I Asked Him To Think Twice Before Accepting an Unpaid Internship
It’s estimated that on an average, there over 1.5 million internships offered in the United States. However, when you factor in that half of these are unpaid, that number becomes grows exponentially.
Although setting us up with a much smaller pool to choose from, we both believed that an unpaid internship just wasn’t worth the trouble. First off, unpaid internships can sometimes make you less employable, as those who don’t even obtain internships have the same chances of landing entry-level work. Second, those that are in paid internships often are offered higher salaries across the board. Part of this is valuing the work that you put in. After all, would you do your job for free? Or even any job for free? Although it makes entering the industry tougher, I felt it was important to put a price tag on the value of his work. Oh, and finally, unpaid internships are considered illegal unless they’re for college credit (which, you’re already paying for) or for a nonprofit.
Spending so much time submitting, not only resumes and cover letters, but ideas, practice exams, and even marketing plans for free is never a good way to launch a career.
The Workforce is Too Diverse For Schools To Offer Everything
Perhaps the biggest catch-22 of applying to internships we found was that you needed the experience to land them, but internships are supposed to be the entry point for gaining said experience. And while most colleges have done a great job at exposing students to specific skills (I.E.: PhotoShop, Video editing, etc.), the needs of individual firms can be too particular to gain a quality intern. Most of the time this is the company’s fault as they’re either asking way too much out of them without following the cursor of “you get what you paid for.” However, that’s not to say that this can’t be advantageous too.
Because my son really wanted to get into digital marketing, I encouraged him to take some courses to become Google Analytics certified, and keep up with current trends in the industry. In order to really sell his experience and potential, digital marketing had to become his passion, which was a learning process in and of itself. While this ended up being that final push we needed to land him an applicable internship, it was tough to consolidate what he’d learned. However, the efforts were well worth the rewards.