Many programs within Ryerson require you to complete an internship as part of your academic requirement. As a Creative Industries student, I was one of the many students who had to do this. Last February, I began searching for a summer internship within a creative enterprise. The entire process spanned two months from the time I started exploring options to when I accepted a position with a production company. Even though setting aside time to look and apply to internship postings was tedious and stressful, I learned a lot about myself and the art of mastering applications.
I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but I do feel confident that what I was doing was effective. I applied to a total of five companies and got invited to come in for an interview by four. I attended two before accepting an offer from the second company I met with. I worked really hard on all my applications, attending numerous workshops to strengthen my cover letter and resume writing skills. I even scheduled an appointment with a Career Education Specialist at the Ryerson Career Centre who helped me prepare for interviews (you can do this too!). Unsurprisingly, I picked up some solid tips and tricks along the way on how to go about finding and landing a killer internship. I hope my experience, while I can’t speak to other programs and industries, provides at least some advice to anyone looking for a job, a co-op position, or an internship during school.
With that being said, lets begin!
1. Identify Your Interests and Narrow Your Focus
Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door, or it can be a great way to dip your toes in the water. With so many positions and opportunities out there, it can be overwhelming pinpointing exactly what it is that you want to do. That’s why writing down your goals and listing everything you want out of a work placement can be a useful way in figuring out what you want to get out of an internship. For instance, a paid internship might be non-negotiable for you based on your living expenses. For others, finding a position that allows them to hone in on a specific skill might be more important. Others still might prioritize working at a reputable company above all else. At the end of the day, it’s about knowing what you want so you save yourself the pain of aimlessly browsing around.
2. Familiarize Yourself with the Industry
Before you dive into the nitty gritty, do a broad scope of the industry both within the context of the city you want to internship in and the types of positions available. Is the industry saturated with interns? Are companies constantly looking for interns or hiring them selectively? Is the process rigorous and speedy, or casual and slow? Who are the leading companies in the field and what do they have to offer over smaller businesses? What is the industry’s compensation standard: paid, unpaid, or honorarium? How far in advance should you be applying? All these questions are relevant and important, and differ from industry to industry.
Understanding your field is important as it contextualizes and provides realistic expectations of what will be required of you during the application process and/or internship. For instance, many editorial and journalism internships require you complete a test or assignment (usually takes several hours to complete) and submit a cover letter, resume, and portfolio of sample work. Additionally, some industries are more likely to compensate interns more than others. By educating yourself, you can better gauge what is expected out of applicants.
3. Use Resources Available to You
I can’t stress this enough: use whatever resources you can assess to leverage your searches. I have heard of classmates who had connections in the industry or landed an internship from contacting a guest speaker at a Ryerson event. Use whatever connections you have, such as your family and friends. They may know of positions not publicly advertised. In fact, Forbes estimates 80% of hires were not found through external postings. If there’s a specific company or organization you have your heart set on, don’t hesitate to reach out and introduce yourself. My friend did this, to which the organization emailed back telling her that they weren’t accepting applications until next month but that they appreciated her reaching out. A month later, she ended up getting the position! While her application was strong, I think taking initiative and showing enthusiasm definitely increased her chances of getting hired.
However, if you have no idea where to begin, I highly recommend reading resources provided on the Ryerson Career website and scheduling appointments to have your cover letters and resumes reviewed. They’ve even created an entire career and job search guide called Career Compass, available here. There’s a formulaic standard that companies are looking for that even missing one or two steps can make your application look novice. The industry is constantly changing and what was typical to see on a resume in the past is atypical now.
Lastly, use multiple job board websites to your disposable. Here are a few that I used:
- Toronto Jobs
- Facebook: Bunz Employment + Entrepreneurial Zone
- Your program’s job board
4. Cater Each and Every Cover Letter and Resume to the Position You’re Applying to
I don’t agree with advice like the following: “Job hunting is a number game. Send out as many resumes as you can until someone bites.” While I believe there’s some merits to this advice, a lack of response might be a sign for you to re-evaluate how you can improve your application to stand out to employers.
As I mentioned, I applied to five different positions (three were major corporations and two were local start-ups) and got invited for an interview by four of them. Each application took me one to two full days to complete because I catered each and every cover letter and resume to the job posting provided. I also extensively researched each company and used this information to my advantage. I believe the success of my applications was partially because I have solid working experience, but mainly because my resume wasn’t a generic one-size-fits-all handout. Employers know when you haven’t put effort into your application. If you can’t carve out time to show how much you really want this internship, why should they set aside time to interview you?
My advice for students isn’t to make one really great resume and cover letter, but one solid resume and cover letter template that you refer back to and revise to match what employers are looking for. It might be mind-numbing spending hours and hours working on one application, but it’s worth it.
Lastly, always, always, always have someone look over your application, especially someone who’s great at catching grammar and spelling errors. The last thing you want to do is spend hours on an application and realize two minutes after you sent it that it has an obvious spelling error. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s infuriating.
5. Be Persistent and Stay Optimistic
Having been in your shoes, I know how taxing job hunting is and how devastating it can be to send application after application and not hear back. As students, we have a lot on our plates already and finding an internship just adds to that stress. As overwhelming as it is, don’t let it get to you. Remember to give yourself a break and reward yourself for taking the time and making the effort to just apply. It can be tough not hearing back from an internship you had your heart on, but it’s not the end of the world. Be persistent and stay optimistic; a killer internship is lurking just around the corner!
What’s your dream internship? What’s your go-to advice on how to land a killer internship? Let us know!