The room was quiet as Professor Appelbaum, director of CCNY’s MCA department handed out the bible, better known as The MCA Internship Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Successful Internship to a room full of eager Ad/PR majors in Shepard Hall last month.
The booklet, which Appelbaum created, serves as a guide to help MCA students navigate internships in the professional world and serves as a reference for students to turn to for answers to their common questions or concerns. “[Getting] internships for academic credit is a complex process for students to understand,” said Appelbaum. “There’s a lot involved because [internships] are the missing link between class work and professional work. The handbook was created to give students an understanding of the process and to provide them with tips for success.”
While all majors do not require an internship to graduate, in today’s hyper competitive job market, having real world experience in your field upon graduation has become increasingly important. According to an annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 95% of employers said candidate experience is a factor in the hiring decision and 97% planned to hire interns in 2014.
Since internships have become a convenient way for employers to screen for potential employees, it’s also a prime time to show off the value and skills you bring to the table. Whether you’re an MCA student or not, use Appelbaum’s tips to land your dream internship.
Know the science behind the perfect resume and cover letter.
Keep your resume clean and concise; think of it as a laundry list that includes your work and internship experience as well as relevant classwork. “This is where you define your expertise and what experience and skills you have,” said Appelbaum. However, the cover letter should speak to the needs and interest of the employer. “In other words [it should] talk about how your skills and passion can benefit the employer.” Also, to get past databases that screen resumes before they reach human hands, make sure it includes key words from the job description.
Use social media to help not harm your career.
While employers want interns to use and show proficiency in social media they also want people clever enough to use it beyond their personal use. “Once you brand yourself a communications professional, your personal visibility in the social media sphere becomes a part of your credibility in obtaining a job,” explained Appelbaum. So either keep Facebook, Twitter and other social media clean or anonymous.
In order to sell yourself you must believe in yourself.
Students who find success post-graduation tend to be high academic achievers, proactive and strategic thinkers. “People who are comfortable being uncomfortable in a learning situation but don’t let the fear stop them,” said Appelbaum. Since many CCNY students come from working class families, some struggle with feelings of unworthiness. “A lot of students feel like they are not as smart or talented,” said Appebaum, “but if you don’t go in there believing you have every right to be there then no one else will.” Appelbaum recommends students take time to assess their unique qualities and skills to combat insecurity and reaffirm self-assurance.
Navigating a competitive job market can be difficult, and in some cases who you know is just as important as what you know. Take advantage of club meetings, networking events, and conferences where “you can make the connections that lead to jobs,” said Appelbaum.
Treat your internship like a real job; be the first to come in and the last to leave. “Internships are seen as a proving ground for students to show they have what it takes to be there,” said Appelbaum. “That they have the passion, desire, skills and savvy to fit into a particular corporate culture and succeed in a particular environment.”
At the end of the day “the people who get the jobs go above and beyond,” said Applebaum. “[They] are proactive and show they bring value beyond what they are told to do.”