Friday, July 2, 2010

Seven Things to Prepare for Internships

Now that it's summer, it's just about time to start looking for summer internships! Though next summer is a long time away, it is best to start looking now, before school starts, and before deadlines start slipping by, because, believe it or not, summer 2011 deadlines begin as early as October 2010. If you are expecting to land a paid internship next summer, the chances are that most internship deadlines will be over by early February 2011, so, begin this checklist today!

1. Begin Organized, End Organized

I began my internship search in June of last summer by making a middle-school scholar-worthy list- complete with highlighted color coding. I included the name of the newspaper, the pay, the time period it occurred, when the deadline was, and what/how to send the application. During these summer months, I also created my website, resume, and business cards, so I could focus on the actual portfolio (which is usually completely different depending on each newspaper). I also kept up my photoblog during this time (read more about this later).

2. Research Weekly, and Dig Deep

I tried to make it a habit to search for internships weekly, as things are always being posted, even up into February did I see new posts for summer internships.

I found these sites most helpful:

-The NPPA job board (in the classifieds section)(they also have an "intern diaries" section
-the NPPA visual student blog (contains interviews about internships by photo editors)

I would also research newspapers in areas that you would love to live in, even if I couldn't find an online listing for available internships. I would cold-call the newspapers, or e-mail, and ask if the paper was offering an internship. This also gives you the opportunity to speak with the photo editor before they even see your application. If you find internship listings from earlier years, such as 2009 or this past summer, it's best to call as well to find out if the guidelines, time period, or even person to send the application to has changed.

3. Research All, Apply for Some

If you do your research early enough, you will find that there are many photo internships out there, but you shouldn't apply for all of them for many reasons. First of all, you don't want to get stuck with an internship you know you aren't going to be happy with- it's not easy to back out of an internship once you've accepted it. Once you learn that a newspaper is offering an internship, go to the website, look through the photographs, do a wikipedia search on the town the newspaper is located in. What is the city like? How much is rent? Could you find a good story? Do you think you could be challenged at the newspaper? Is it too big of a challenge for you right now? Consider these questions before you make a final list of the newspapers/publications that you plan on applying for. This way, you'll have something to write about in your cover letter, of why you are actually applying for the internship besides the fact that you need a job.

4. Start Gathering Everything Together

Toning, captioning, and portfolio assembling took much longer than I thought it would be- each internship seemed to want something completely different, for example:

-The Peoria Journal-Star wanted an e-mailed application with cover letter, resume, and online portfolio (web page)

-The Concord Monitor preferred a portfolio on disk with printed contact sheets with captions. (I put these in a portfolio folder with room for the resume and cover letter as well.

-The Valley News wanted 20-25 images, which I sent the first time on CD, the second time in a book format.

-The Patriot News required either an online portfolio or a portfolio on CD with as many images as needed.

-The Virginian Pilot required a print portfolio of 15-20 images.

Don't be afraid to call (unless the ad specifies no calls or emails) and ask the editor the specifics of the application, including the address.

5. Polish Your Application

Have at least 2-3 people look at your application before you submit it- this means EVERYTHING (cover letter, resume, portfolio, captions). I had a few friends (thank you Jeffrey, Moses, Brendan, Michael, Mommy, and Brittney) look over my work at different times, as well as some professors (thank you William and James)- which at times was very confusing, as I got completely different opinions from everything, but in the end, it helped me figure out what I liked and what worked together as a group. I also got some feedback after I submitted to internships, from editors who had not hired me, telling me what I did well and what I needed to work on. That was helpful and encouraging in the midst of a discouraging email.

After your portfolio is ready and edited, find an English savvy buddy who is willing to cross your t's and dot your i's on your portfolio and resume- so those are not things you should wait until the last minute to do (which I did so often...). I also made the mistake (twice!!) of forgetting a part of my portfolio (once, my resume, once, my multimedia CD), and then having to send a embarrassing e-mail. What a great first impression!

6. It's Not Just the First Date That Counts: Follow Ups and Second Impressions

Once the Resume stuff is sent in, wait a week, then call and make sure your package was delivered (great excuse to talk to the editor and see where you fall within the applicants). While on the phone, ask when the editor plans to make a decision.

If things go well, within a few weeks you may have an interview. Don't do what I did and schedule an interview in the middle of a class. For your interview, you may want to mention your blog (since they are interested in your work, they will most likely want to see more), and make sure to talk about the paper, and why you like the work. Have some good questions ready for the editor as well.

7. Once You Get the Job

Spend more money than you think you had on a good meal. Seriously. You earned it.

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