Culture x

Be the wind to your own professional sails.

A UC Berkeley student at an internship (Image via UC Berkeley)

An internship, in media, it is often depicted as running around making copies and fetching coffee. Basically, it’s doing the office dirty work. For some people that may be the case, but it doesn’t have to be your case. Do the work you want to and gain valuable experience by establishing your own internship within willing a company. The process is a lot less complicated than you might think.

Research Yourself

First, in order to provide someone with your skills, you need to know exactly what those skills are. Before you even think about finding an employer to appeal to, do some self-research. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses, skill-wise and personality-wise; be honest to yourself and the potential-employer. Don’t claim to be proficient with all of Microsoft Office if you’re not. (How many of us have actually used Access?)  If you’re not a people person, don’t say you are. The magic of this is that you can make it so you work with as few people as possible.

Putting aside those personal pros and cons for later, think about why you want to do an internship in the first place. Is an internship or co-op a school requirement? Are you looking to work on a particular skill? Perhaps it’s one that you listed as your weaknesses? Maybe you want to see what it is like to work in a specific field before dedicating yourself to it. All of the above? Whatever the case may be, having a motive is important when proposing an entire job to someone.

Research the Company

Now that you know what you’re all about, figure out what your target company is all about (or maybe find a target company and then figure out what makes it tick.) When getting information on your business of choice, look at more than just their website and it’s “about” section. There, they only show you what they want you to see. Ask around and see what people, both employees and clientele, say about the company. Networking is one of the best ways to gather information about a field, position, or company.

In addition to that, comb through their social media accounts, if the business has them. Figure out the company’s strengths and weaknesses. If you can solve a problem that they have, for instance, lack of social media outlets, you’ll have a better chance of getting your proposal accepted.

Define Your Internship

Now that you have noticed what your potential employer is lacking in, and you figure that you have the ability to fill that hole sufficiently, prepare to propose this fact to them. Establish what you are offering and how it will benefit the company. An employer is always looking to see what they can get out of a deal, so let it be known. You should know exactly what you want to do, where you want to do it and how. When talking about your plans, always be specific because vagueness is a waste of everybody’s time.

Once you know what you plan on doing, think about what specific responsibilities you see yourself having. How would a typical day of work look for you? If you plan on being a social media manager, which outlets will you use? How often will you update them? Try to think of any and everything in order to be as concise as possible.

My friend, Taylor, created his own internship at our school. He worked in the dining commons as a regular employee and noticed that it was lacking in proper clerical and behind-the-scenes work. This lack of proper organization and oversight made the employees’ experience a bad one and people quit more often than not. Taylor created and still maintains a system that keeps everyone happy. His job involves acting as the median between the workers and those in charge in between his classes on a daily basis. He was even the script writer for the advertisement and recruitment videos. The job involves a lot of technical writing, and as a Writing & Linguistics major, this gives Taylor a lot of great hands-on experience.

Putting Yourself Out There

At this point, you know what your internship should look like and you have found companies that interest you and could use your skills. Now that you have everything nice and thought out, it’s time to propose your personalized internship to those who can give you the yay or nay.

You will be more successful in your internship creation if you communicate directly, so find the name and contact information of a specific person in the organization. Human resources is a good place to start asking questions, but also ask for managers who might have a better idea of what the company does and doesn’t need. Ask them if they hire interns, or if they might be thinking about it.

Make contact with them by phone call, email, or even a letter. An email may be the best option for getting all of the necessary information across. You can say everything you need to say to build your case, as well as include your resume, cover letter, proposal and the invitation for further questions in one message. Include a phone call to ensure that they received/will read your email or letter. Once you have peaked their interest, they should contact you again. In the best case scenario, at the end of things, you’ve scored an internship that fits you perfectly.

Why Bother?

With all of the research that goes into a creating your own internship, you may be wondering why you should even bother when there are plenty of ripe internships out there, ready to be plucked from the proverbial job tree.

For one thing, why would you want to settle for something close to the perfect internship when you can get exactly what you want? Not a fan on copy machines? You don’t have to use them, because the work you do is on your own terms. You’ll be able to get experience with something you actually like doing.

Also, for those with jobs, you can create an internship within your current company as long as there’s something that needs to be done. That means that you’re pretty much guaranteed a paid internship. They’re already paying you. Taylor did this, and now he’s getting paid to do something he actually likes.

Keep in Mind

If a personalized internship sounds good to you, there are a few things that you need to remember.

Treat this process like any other job hunt. Don’t forget to have a targeted resume and cover letter to go along with your proposal. Really sell yourself, but also be professional and be persistent. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find a position immediately.

Also, be polite and grateful by sending thank you notes. Even if you are rejected, follow up with a note, preferably hand-written, to show your appreciation for the contact’s consideration and time.

Need more detailed steps and tips? Gonzaga University’s Career Services has you covered.

At this point, you should have everything you need, so get out there and make your dream internship a reality. Good luck!

Leave a Reply