Interning Points

Author Lauren Berger helps students make connections that count

June 12, 2012

With 15 internships under her belt, Lauren Berger could write the book on interning. So she did.

“All Work, No Pay” ($12.99, Ten Speed Press) is Berger’s 208-page guide to figuring out where you should intern, how to get the gig and what to do once you’re in.

Originally headed toward a career in business communications, the 2006 graduate of the University of Central Florida decided to share her interning knowledge via her website, Internqueen.com. The book is more than just posts from the blog, adding sample résumés, cover letters and schedule organizers.

Why are internships important?
The most important parts of an internship are: one, the hands-on experience the student gets, and two, the networking. When it comes to the hands-on experience, if you were the employer, who would you choose? The student with professional workplace experience or the student without? There’s a lot less risk involved if you’re choosing the student with internship experience on their résumé. When it comes to the networking, you never, never know where these relationships can take you. People you meet at your internships can really play a pivotal role in your career for the rest of your life.

What’s the first step to finding an internship?
Establish your experience level. If you’ve had no experience, you are going to want to apply to a variety of businesses. You can always think big and go after that dream company when you’ve had no experience, but you also want to be practical and realistic.

Is it better to do lots of internships or stick with one place?
No one needs 15 internships like I had. I suggest that every college student have two internships on their résumé before they graduate.

What’s the most common mistake people make when applying?
The biggest mistake I see is that students get lazy and their cover letters are addressed to the wrong people, there are spelling errors. We had a student spell her email address incorrectly the other day on a résumé. You can’t get the email that says, “Let’s schedule the interview” if your email is spelled incorrectly.

What can you learn during an internship that you can’t learn in a classroom or from a textbook?
One of the most important parts is just immersing yourself in a professional environment and being around professionals. You deal with a conflict in the workplace much differently than you deal with a conflict with your friends.

How can social media help you land an internship?
It’s important to identify your target employers. Find out which ones of them have a Twitter profile. Most of them will. Find out which one is maintaining a Facebook page and start interacting with them. You don’t want to be a stalker, but once every few weeks, comment on the Facebook wall.

How do you stay in touch with your boss after the internship?
Get in touch three times a year. It’s so important to stay fresh in these employers’ minds and to get in the habit of not only emailing them when you need something.

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