When Should I Seek an Internship?

“When should I seek an internship?”

This is a question I get a lot.

The answer is “Yes.”

That is–there’s no right or wrong time to look for internships. There’s not even an optimal time to get an internship. This freedom is one of the perks of being an English or Creative Writing major.
An internship that helps you explore a career that interests you is a good thing to do at ANY stage of your college career. You don’t have wait until your junior year, nor do you need to panic if you’re a sophomore who hasn’t lined anything up yet.

Majors in business or engineering or other pre-professional fields are often seeking jobs in a handful of large corporations that like to test-drive future hires in junior year internships. Success in one of these fields is therefore closely tied to getting the “right” internship after sophomore or junior year, one that may lead to a job offer sometime during one’s senior year. Students who aren’t on that schedule have a more challenging job search than students who are.

English and CW majors, on the other hand, have a lot of options.

English/CW majors CAN seek out summer internships (often in HR, marketing, project management, sales, client services, or claims) with companies that hire full-time employees out of their internship programs. If that’s a path that interests you, it’s good to start attending career fairs as early in your college career as possible and start getting to know the companies you’d like to work for after graduation. The fall Business Career Fair often offers a lot of internships for the following summer, and the more research you can do in advance of the fair, the better your experience will be–and I’m happy to help you identify some promising openings, plot your strategy, and make your resume and “pitch” career-fair ready. With effort, focus, and determination, you CAN land an internship after your sophomore or junior year that could lead to a full-time job–just like any STEM or pre-professional major.

But…a lot of people major in English or Creative Writing because they don’t want those kinds of jobs with those kinds of companies. They may not know enough about what they want to do after graduation to be willing to put the effort in to build a relationship with a specific company that will lock them into a job they don’t know that they want.

Many students will find employment with nonprofit organizations, small companies, employers in the entertainment industry, tech, or software industries. Many of these kinds of organizations don’t adhere to a strict internship/hiring cycle, and many don’t come to career fairs. They may or may not offer internships at all. They may look favorably on full-time job applicants who have held meaningful leadership roles in volunteer organizations, who have been involved in student newspapers or journals, who have held relevant part-time jobs, or who have produced independent creative work.

So a better question to start with is not “When should I apply?” but “What do I want?” If you have your eye on a particular company or a particular industry, there are a lot of things you can do to start figuring out what’s available and how you could get started:

  • Keep track of internship openings on I-Link (you can use the “Advanced Search” option to limit yourself to internships in specific industries that interest you. (Any given search may not yield a lot of results–it helps to set up a regular time each week to see if any new openings have appeared)
  • Start researching particular companies in the field that you’d like to work with. Most company websites have a “careers” tab where they list internship opportunities (if they offer any).
  • Join our alumni mentoring network to start talking to professionals in that field. If there’s no one in our network who works in the particular area you want to explore, use LinkedIn to locate other alumni who might be willing to talk to you.
  • Look for paid internships or part-time jobs on campus that will help you build relevant skills. Campus opportunities in, say, movie production are pretty limited, but a part-time job or internship that gives you skills in video-editing, storyboarding, project management, social media, or marketing could give you skills that are transferable to that industry.
  • RSOs are a good way to get involved, make friends, and have fun–and they can also be a valuable resource for job skills. Look for organizations where you can not only be an involved member but also play a role in making things happen. Managing a budget, event-planning, fundraising, membership recruitment, publicity, social media, and outreach are all skills that you can cultivate through your involvement.

Keep in mind, too, that “internship” does not necessarily equal “meaningful post-graduation job.” It can help you understand better what you want from a career, build skills you you want, recognize skills you didn’t know you had, or send you in a different direction of career exploration.

Bottom line? If an internship sounds interesting to you, go ahead and apply.

Career Fairs: Getting Prepared over Winter Break

The career fair season will be getting underway just a few weeks after you get back to campus. Here’s the lineup for Spring 2017:

Here are some things to to do NOW to get ready.

  1. Figure out which fairs you will attend and why. There are lots of reasons, beyond getting a summer internship or post graduation job: to learn more about jobs and employers that might interest you, to practice your interviewing/networking skills, to get to know employers that you’d like to work with after you graduate.
  2. Start researching (where possible) the employers that you would like to talk to. I-Link is already listing the employers who will be attending the Business Career Fair.
  3. Fill any gaps in your wardrobe. Contrary to what you may have heard, suits are NOT a requirement. A suit may help you make a good impression at the Business Career Fair, but it will just show you to be out of place at the Arts and Culture Fair or the Startup Fair. Some good business casual pieces (slacks, skirts, collared shirts, professional-looking tops, jacket, dress shoes) will help you look professionally appropriate in a range of contexts.
  4. Update your resume (or create one if you haven’t yet). 
  5. Think about how you will introduce yourself to potential employers. You don’t need to memorize an elevator pitch, but you should be prepared to start a conversation in which you can point out your relevant skills and experience.

 

When to Start Applying for Summer Internships?

clock-474128_1280It may be a peculiar question to ask when we’re nearly eight weeks into the semester but it feels like summer has barely ended. Nevertheless,it’s the time of year when students in business and engineering start nailing down their plans for the following summer. If you’re an English or CW major with friends weighing summer internship offers from Monsanto and Boeing you may be worrying that you’re already too late.

Rest assured: you’re not.

“Internship” can mean a lot of different things. In fields where the undergraduate degree confers specialized training for particular industries, large companies compete to test-drive the best students in summer internships, creating the talent pool from which they will eventually select full-time employees. They want to lock down commitments quickly, which is why the Engineering and Business Career Fairs take place so early in the fall semester.

Chances are, however, you’re majoring in English/CW because you have dreams beyond the kinds of jobs that pay well because no one would do them if they didn’t. Those kinds of jobs tend to have a slower hiring cycle.

That said, it doesn’t hurt to start looking now.

  • Companies that are recruiting intensively now for accounting, finance, computer science, and engineering interns sometimes also have opportunities in communications, marketing, sales, and research, which get posted at the same time. Even if you missed the Fall Business Career Fair, you can still apply online for marketing, communications, media, and sales internships at at companies who recruit there like Caterpillar and Textron.
  • Media and entertainment companies are only just beginning to post summer internships: Blizzard Entertainment is already recruitng summer interns, for example, but the Disney Corporation (which includes ABC, Marvel, ESPN, and Pixar) and Simon and Schuster are still mostly recruiting for spring interns. It doesn’t hurt to check the “Careers” page on any company that particularly interests you to see if they have internship openings yet.
  • For those interested primarily in print media, Bookjobs.com is an excellent resource for summer internships..
  • Local organizations looking for summer interns will be attending the LAS in CU Internship Fair on Oct. 19 from 1:00 – 3:00pm in the second floor ballroom at the Illini Union.

But–it’s entirely possible to do nothing this fall and still have a summer internship lined up by the time you leave campus in May. Many companies don’t start advertising summer internships until March or April, and the UIntern program through the University of Illinois Career Center (which matches students with local nonprofit organizations) starts recruiting students in early spring.

The key is to know what kind of experience and skills you’d like to acquire in a summer internship and to start looking for opportunities. We’re here to help you identify your options and craft a resume that will give you the best shot at them. Call 333-4346 to set up an appointment with Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships.

Guest Post: Surviving the FOCUS Job Fair

By Ana V. Fleming, Communications Intern, Department of English

IMG_3446(1)Career fairs. Consistently throughout my three, going on four, years here at the University of Illinois, that phrase has terrified me–along with all the things that go with it: pressure, elevator pitches, resumes, business casual. However, after attending a number of career fairs on campus —and similar events, like corporate after-hours and part-time job fairs—I’ve grown less averse to the idea.

For instance, I recently attended the FOCUS part-time job and internship fair at the Illini Union as a senior in English. (I also attended the Department of Computer Science’s Corporate After Hours a couple of weeks ago, seeking out UI/UX design positions—I was even more of a fish out of water there!) At FOCUS, many of the students around me were from the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and many of the opportunities offered at the event were centered on graphic design (though, not all of them—there were opportunities for marketing, communications, videography, social media, and even content-development positions, among others that I probably missed). Personally, I was there seeking both writing positions and design positions; thus, I grew worried that the abundance of FAA students around me would overwhelm my chances of wrangling some of those design opportunities.

However, the fair wasn’t overly crowded, and the stakes were pretty low, so I decided to talk to as many of the represented companies and colleges (for instance, the College of ACES was there) as possible. As it turns out, most of the representatives were happy to speak with me, and each one that I spoke to took my resume for reference, regardless of whether or not they had any current openings that matched my skill set. At each booth, I asked about the kinds of jobs and internships the different companies had available, the expectations in terms of hours and pay, and their goals for the semester (or upcoming semesters). In return, they asked me about my familiarity with the company, my knowledge of certain software, and whether or not I was interested in the projects they were recruiting for.

While the fair represented around twenty companies, and I only had the time to talk to about eight of them, I could already perceive a wealth of opportunities. Everyone had been perfectly happy to talk to me, and no one made any assumptions about my competence in regards to writing or design—rather, they gave me the chance to discuss my experience and describe my capabilities. The event was pretty casual, and I walked out of the Illini Union Ballroom with the knowledge that, at the very least, I was exposed to some new opportunities, I had links to some applications in hand, and, through mere exposure and repetition, I was slightly less intimidated by career fairs and interview-style interactions than I had been walking in there (even IMG_3448(1)as a senior).

Enormous fairs like the Engineering Career Fair and Business Career Fair can be a lot to tackle at the beginning of the semester, but they are by no means the only opportunities to connect with companies. If you’re ever wondering whether or not you should attend a career fair, I’d suggest going for it, especially when smaller, more focused events like the aptly-named FOCUS are within your reach.