Success Stories: How I Got My Internship
Sometimes it seems hard to find a writing internship, particularly for the first one. Here Writing students share their experiences with you...
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When I decided to get an internship, I wasn't sure where to look. I started by talking to Gina Delapa, the GVSU internship coordinator for liberal art majors, discussing possibilities. She helped me polish my resume, and encouraged me to attend a writer's panel, telling me of one woman in particular who I should talk to, because she thought that the company would be a good fit for me.
After the formal panel set-up was concluded, I went to talk to the woman that Gina had told me to, but because there was a line to talk to her, I talked to Keri Larsen, a recent GVSU grad who was also on the panel and not talking to anyone at the moment. She works as an event planner at Saint Mary's, a faith-based hospital in downtown Grand Rapids. When I told her that I needed a writing internship, she told me that she knew a position that was open, and if I emailed her my resume and contact info, she would pass it on to the woman who was in charge of the program.
The next day I emailed her my resume and she passed it on to Jeanne DeBruyn, who emailed me and set up an interview. I came into the interview dressed professionally, a few minutes early, with a portfolio of writing samples ready to show. They were all well designed pieces I'd done for real world clients, not just word documents that showcased my writing skills. I think this was what convinced them to give me the job because every piece I had I could intelligently discuss in relation to the hospital and how they would help me in that setting. Jeanne and Lauren, the woman who I closely work with told me that I had the position, but that I would need to go in for a doctor's appointment in the Occupational Health department, and talk to Human Resources. What they didn't tell me was that I needed to be interviewed by HR, so I went in wearing jeans, thinking I was just signing a form or two, but thankfully was wearing a nice top, not a hoodie or something. I was really surprised, therefore, when I was called back to Julie MacFarland's office and another woman joined us with copies of my resume in hand. Thankfully my resume only has projects and positions I am proud of, so I was able to talk my way through the interview and continue to the doctors appointment. I spend a lot of time in the actual hospital, which is why it was important to make sure I wasn't spreading a deadly contagious disease or something.
In my position I am in charge of the weekly eNewsletter, and a staff writer for both the monthly internal news magazine, Within, and the quarterly newsletter, Within Oncology. In addition I will be composing a grant.
I would advise fellow students looking for internships to attend as many networking events as possible, and also to make sure that their resume and portfolio is ready to go and well done so that they are ready when opportunity is presented.
Before I knew it, the holidays were over and school was looming on the increasingly near horizon. It was time to finalize my schedule and seriously face the fact that it was the last schedule I would do for my undergraduate studies: graduation was frighteningly close.
Tagging along with my roommate to an early morning resume seminar at Career Services made me realizing two things: I still hated mornings and after four years of morning classes that was just sad, and that my resume was in desperate need of some sparkle. Other student's resumes in the seminar spoke of awards and volunteer work that filled their resume with dedication and polish. I knew I had the talent necessary to be a valuable member of a team yet I wanted something on my resume that proved it. I thought an internship would be a perfect fit because it one, stopped me from taking yet another class that I didn't really need but needed three credits in order to accommodate financial aid restrictions and it would be real world exposure which was handy considering in a few months I would be venturing out there alone.
I started racking my brain and made up a list of possible businesses that would hopefully have use for an enthusiastic undergrad. I had no method to my list and it ranged from the local newspaper to a communications company in town that did statistics for the area.
I spent the rest of the day making some phone calls; among them I spoke with the Director of the United Way in Muskegon County and was extremely happy to find out they had no existing interns and were very excited at the possibility of someone interested in working with them on an upcoming Women's Leadership Council. She was especially glad to hear I was a Writing major and told me she had a million things I could do. I immediately knew I really wanted this internship and was looking forward to the following day when I would meet with her. I really related to her friendly, personable attitude on the phone. She dissolved any and all nerves I had about speaking with her before I even met her.
The next morning before I left to meet with her I printed off a copy of my resume on the impressive resume paper I bought at Office Max (a suggestion from Career Services), added a few writing samples to my bag and left, without a trace of the nerves that I usually felt when interviewing.
I spent two hours meeting with Jackie, who would be my boss and I was really excited about the internship. She never officially said I had the internship or I didn't but when at the end of our meeting she opened up a door and showed me my office (complete with a window, a flat-screen computer monitor and a sad, sad looking ficus plant) and told me to speak with the web person to obtain an email account and password, I was thinking I got it.
A few days later (uncomfortably close to the registration deadline) I turned in my internship form and looked forward to the next week when I would begin. I think the key to finding an internship is to narrow down your interests and then proceed from there. It isn't always easy to find something quickly, every single facility I contacted either sent me to voicemail or didn't bother returning my calls. Being persistent, professional and confident with your ability to be a valuable member of their organization goes a long way.
I had known I wanted to do an internship since I was a freshman, but I wasn't sure where, or in what capacity. At the end of my junior year, I began researching different locations that might be interested in having an intern. I am very interested in doing nonprofit work after college, and the idea of using writing to help promote a cause I believe in was very appealing. I knew about the Men's Resource Center, a counseling center in downtown Grand Rapids, and so I sent an email to Randy Flood, one of the lead counselors. I'd seen his name connected to Grand Valley, through programs like the Vagina Monologues. I also sent out an email to Zondervan, but never heard back. I was in the process of researching other places when the MRC got back to me. After a series of emails, we set up an interview and discussed possible ways that I could contribute to the MRC staff as an intern.
The meeting went great, as we were able to formulate a game-plan of marketing and advertising work that would benefit the MRC. Because we shared a similar passion for stopping domestic violence, the MRC felt like a great fit. One of the biggest selling points to me about the internship was Randy's interest in promoting a book written by him and another counselor, Charlie Donaldson. During the interview, we discussed the nature of the book, entitled Stop Hurting the Woman You Love: Breaking the Cycle of Abusive Behavior. It is one of the first of its kind, targeted directly at abusive men who are looking to stop their destructive patterns of behavior. This was my first face-to-face interaction with the two of them, and our personalities clicked immediately. I was surprised by how easy it was to get into the internship, but Im very grateful for this opportunity. The rest, as they say, is history.
As I grew nearer and nearer to the end of my college career, I was getting more and more nervous. As a creative writing major there are very few options available to you other than a "starving artist," and as I have been a starving college student for almost four years, I really didn't want that as a career. I knew that an internship would be a major key to getting a job after graduation. What employer is going to want someone for a writing position that has only worked in food service? I'd been considering an internship for a while but always thought I had plenty of time to get one; and then suddenly, my time flies; it was my last full year at GVSU. I was pressed for time with no idea what kind of job I would get without any work experience.
So I began my search. I began by meeting with the Internship Coordinator as I had no idea where to begin looking. She advised me on where to look, career services, the board in the writing department, and also told me she would e-mail me with various opportunities. I also accepted an invitation to an online group that would make me aware of different internships. It was through this group that I got lucky. I had been looking for about a month and had applied and been rejected for one, when I received an e-mail about an opening for an Intern at Fountain Hill Center for Counseling and Consultation.
The requirements and the environment seemed to be what I was looking for, so not really expecting anything, I prepared my resume. I had shown it to a professor for a previous opportunity and gotten feedback on its strong and weak points, I knew it still needed a little work but I sent it in anyway. I received a call a few days later asking me to come in for an interview.
This was where I would have normally started to get worried. Interviews had never been my strongest point. I had been on one previously where I tried memorizing and planning everything I would say; I ended up stuttering and trailing off which probably didn't look good. But for this interview, I actually wasn't really expecting to get hired. It was so early in my search and I had really applied on a whim. So when I went into the interview I was a lot more relaxed than I normally would be.
I walked into the interview not worrying about what I would say or obsessing over what they would ask me. The Fountain Hill Center is located in a huge old house so I commented on the architecture and design as we hiked up three flights of stairs. I talked about things I might mention in any situation, but at the same time remembering that this was an interview.
I answered all the questions honestly and it was easier than trying to remember previously rehearsed answers. It did help that I had been on interview before and knew what to expect, but for the most part I let myself relax and must have made an impression because before I left that day I was the new Intern.
Professional Writing majors were not required to have an internship when I switched my Writing emphasis in the winter of 2005. The idea of an internship had crossed my mind at the time, but I was only a freshman and did not give it much thought. A year later I changed my minor from Spanish to Nonprofit Administration. My new minor required an internship. The more I thought about internships, the more I realized I needed to have an internship in my major, not just my minor. I was unsure if I had enough time and credits for an internship, but a quick calculation, including my study abroad credits, led me to discover I needed to take an extra three credits in order to stay a full time student in my senior year. Perfect, I had room for an internship.
I notified the Internship Coordinator of the Writing department that I was looking for an internship. I had no idea how to go about finding one, so I was hoping she had some leads. Shortly thereafter I received an email from her about an internship position in the Padnos International Center (PIC). I could not think of a better place. I loved travel and I had studied abroad the previous summer in Australia.
Coincidentally, I had been involved in a document redesign project the previous semester for my Introduction to Professional Writing class in which two students and I redesigned a document from the PIC. We took a text-heavy, full page document that informed students how to create a study abroad theme and revised it into an easy to understand, 12-page booklet.
I went to the international center to request additional information on the internship and found out there was no preset intern position. I was required to submit a resume along with a letter detailing what I wanted to do for the PIC. I additionally found out the internship was unpaid, but I already had great ideas and the lack of payment could no longer deter me from the position. I submitted a letter, resume, and a copy of the redesigned booklet.
My intent was to call a week later to find out the status of my application, but four days after I submitted my work I received an email from Mark Schaub offering me an internship. I was ecstatic. I could not believe I was offered an internship the first time I applied for one. The PIC loved the booklet my group made and my first project would be to redesign and rewrite the study abroad theme guide, including integrating 3 additional documents on completing a theme abroad.