By: Jordan Coughlin
When it comes to landing just about any job nowadays, a degree alone isn’t enough. Everybody has one. That’s not to say that a college education isn’t worth it, but the market is saturated. You need to make yourself stand out if you have any hope of seeing your resume above the trash bin. And what makes you stand out above all else? Real world experience. In my case, that meant published work. It meant further developing my writing skills by crafting pieces worthy of being published in a real magazine, rather than simply being good enough for a college professor dealing with hundreds of students. It meant getting an internship, even if it’s unpaid.
During the tail-end of my junior year at Rowan University, my journalism professor Nicholas Diulio gave me an invaluable piece of wisdom:
“Apply for everything. Just take every opportunity, every internship, every chance that you have to get a foot in the door. One day, it will all be worth it.”
Considering that man had already done more to inspire me as a writer than anyone else, I took his advice to heart. I spent an entire week dedicated to hunting down every writing opportunity I could. I spent countless hours scouring the internet, writing and rewriting both my cover letter and resume. All the hard work eventually paid off when I found my first break: a remote internship with Study Breaks Magazine, an online and in-print magazine that’s exclusively written and illustrated by college students.
Study Breaks may not have paid me, but it gave me the platform, the experience, and the drive to keep improving as I received feedback from editors marking up my rough drafts, peers during weekly workshops, and even real readers leaving comments. This was my first opportunity to gain real world experience, and it ended up being the missing link to my resume.
When I went through the same application process a year later, I went from a single reply to a dozen companies wanting what I had to offer them. I was able to be a little more selective, asking companies what they could do for me. For example, Heritage Conservancy Magazine, a children’s magazine, offered me an internship, but it required attended in-person meetings in Pennsylvania, and their audience wasn’t a good fit for me, so I turned them down.
It also may be tempting to go for internships that are the most enjoyable, but it’s worth considering if there are any weak spots in which gaining practical experience through an internship would hurt one’s career in the future. For example, I also turned down an internship from Real Stoned Times, a site for marijuana activists, because I wasn’t sure how that would look to future employers.
Eventually, I chose a prestigious internship working with Tanisha Hall, screenwriting for real television shows with real corporate paychecks.
This isn’t some form of trickery or magic you’re using to bamboozle companies into thinking you’re some kind of superstar. You have the talent, but it won’t do you a darn bit of good if you don’t put it into practice, and, more importantly, show it off! If you have the drive to keep improving, and if you continue to put in effort and take every opportunity that comes your way, you can make it happen. Live your dream, no matter what it is, through the form of an internship while still in school. I promise, it will help you stand a fighting chance in a job market that is more saturated than it ever has been.
Yes, it will take effort. Yes, it will take time. Yes, it may mean that you spend some time working without getting paid, but the benefits often outweigh the drawbacks. If you’re interested in looking for an internship, I’ve had personal success with internships.com, so that might be the answer for you, too!