To College Kids Seeking Internships…

Before you read the post below, watch the video. Because, this is more the most important question, what do you want to do? And when you figure it out, do it well.


My former writing professor, Mel Odom, asked me how our internship hunt was going… and I unleashed. My response he turned into an email he sent around to his classes. Whoops. Well, anyways, I figured I might as well share. What Mel said is in italics – and a few spots at the bottom that are not in italics. The email was somewhat of an impromptu collaboration I guess you could say. If you know any students that need a fire to be lit underneath them, this might help. Cheers!

Mel: Impressions on prospective employers is important.  You don’t get a do-over on that.  Also, just starting out, you have to learn to be hungry.  You’re not going to get everything you want.  People who get that “wow” job right out of college are only in books, movies, and television shows.  Not real life.  Something else to keep in mind, sometimes a person does get that “wow” job only to find out the job sucks on levels that are not truly understood.  Then that person is caught flat-footed, doesn’t know how to go out and look for another job, doesn’t know what other job might be remotely interesting.

This is why internships and part-time jobs are important to you guys while you’re in college.  Think of internships and part-time work as dating.  You’re out there looking around, seeing what’s there to be had, seeing how it fits in with your personality, finding out how your limited skills fit in with it, then deciding which other skills to add to your arsenal.  That’s what experience is all about people.  That way you don’t fall for that good looking person that sweeps you off your feet and then proceeds to suck the life out of you for years.

If your momma hasn’t already told you, let me be the first:  shop around.

And now words from a PW grad out in the real world who’s been looking for interns at her job.  I got this second week of school and decided to share.  Colored areas are mine.  I guess the real question is whether you want a job, or whether you want to step out there after college and get hit by the unemployment bus and working at the car wash blues. 

Me: Most of the kids we’ve interviewed seem interested in getting writing experience, but don’t seem interested in the other work that comes with it – including blog work like resizing photos and such. Pretty much everyone we have interviewed is kind of like “I am inquiring about this, but don’t know if I want to commit to the whole internship.”  Very on the fence. However, we are desperate for help with blog content. So it works out and we will probably end up having a few of them just write blog content for us – as a ghost writer for staff members, and as themselves too (one problem, the kids don’t like the idea of ghost writing – even though it can be the bread and butter of a writer’s employment… great for their portfolio… and so on… you know, lol). Because I want them to get experience, and think I can swing managing that if I can convince my boss, but on top of it –  we still need a solid intern who can commit 15-20 hours a week and who is interested in growing their capabilities in the writing/blogging/pr/ad world. I’m just venting here, but it’s crazy to me some of the interviews we have had. One person went home and then emailed us like 20 questions about position expectations and what exactly they will gain from working here – wanting to know if she will get the kind of professional experience she is looking for as opposed to doing “intern” work.  So I had to spend an hour answering her questions selling her on the internship. Needless to say, and unfortunately, we weren’t impressed. I would have killed to have an in-depth internship, because in the life-after-college world all of the capabilities, and knowledge you’ve soaked-in just from being exposed to the real world environment is huge and could land you a pretty nice job.

The truth is most don’t want to dedicate 20 hours to it, and although there is tons of writing involved with what they would be doing, they would also have to be resizing photos and other tedious tasks, which has kind of turned some people off. Also, a lot of them aren’t familiar with social media (which is crazzzzzy not be on the up-and-up with social media).

I’ve discovered the industry looks at writers as “producers.” The industry wants to make money, and in order to do that they have to have a product to sell.  Writers create/produce the product. Them being on twitter and tweeting and blogging shows they are capable of producing things like… I don’t know… words (sorry for sarcasm here but, really). If you aren’t creating a product then you aren’t a writer. Some of our interviewees even aren’t writing at all out of class. Along the same point, and one I know you get frustrated with as well is they aren’t reading. If you aren’t consuming ideas/ content/ general knowledge you aren’t a writer either. Craziness. Even if it’s not a book, they should have websites or a newspaper or a magazine or something- multiple things – that they read every day.

Now, I think some of the problems we have encountered is due to a lack of experience and lack of drive/enthusiasm, only because they don’t understand the importance of it all yet. It might hit them when they graduate and start looking for jobs, because even if they want to write books they will need to make a living before it is published. But I do know there are college kids who get it, our last intern was amazing – so there is hope.

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