5 Steps to Getting Your Journalism Internship
1. Prepare: Update your resume and prepare your cover letters. Resumes should be clean. Neat, clearly written, factual summations, list of achievements (no “I”, “me”, “mine”). Plain white paper; avoid fancy or “script fonts”. Get your resume and cover letter proofed by Career Services, a favorite professor or a good writer your trust. One typo can spoil your chances! Cover letters should open with a sentence that includes the following information: a) that you’re seeking an internship for (when? Spring semester? Fall? Summer?); b) that you are available (2, 3, 4, 5) days per week – employers usually don’t care which days and that can be negotiated later; c) that you will be receiving college credit (if you are) and/or are willing to work for free (if you are).
2. Target: Surf the Web, talk to friends, create your own “target list”. A good place to begin is CubReporters.org’s Internships page. Create a “target list” that focuses on your career goals. A good rule of thumb for Fall and Spring is to apply for at least 10 internships; for Summer, apply for at least 15 to 20. If you want a paid internship, double the number of applications.
3. Apply: Get your resume out there – the sooner, the better. Shoot for a 4-month lead time. Your resume is often the only way an employer knows who you are – so you’ve got to get the resume to them! Regular mail is fine, but some employers prefer e-mail or ask you to fax your resume. Follow the instructions that are given by individual employers.
4. Interview: Employers will contact you either for a telephone interview or an in-person interview. This is a critical step. It is important for you to interview well and see yourself as a mature, serious student. Journalism internships are highly competitive. Contact your university’s internship director or Career Services office if you feel you need help preparing for this important step; they’ll often offer mock interviews. Note: many large media companies take a while to screen resumes – be patient, you may not be contacted for many weeks or even months. Keep track of where you applied, so a call does not “surprise” you.
5. Accept: After you have received one or more offers, then you can accept an internship. This is usually done verbally – the employer simply asks you “Do you agree to this internship?” Don’t say “yes” unless you mean yes. If you are not sure, say you need time to think about it. If you’re receiving college credit for your internship, contact your university’s internship director once you have made a decision.