In today’s competitive job market, internships matter more than ever. Entertainment industry leader Emily White offers the step-by-step guide to getting hired for an internship you love.
If you’re a college student, you probably already understand the extreme importance of internships. They are crucial for cultivating industry relationships, gaining on-the-job experience, and getting a real-life sense of what it’s like to work in your desired field. But the question is: How do you actually get an internship? CEO and entrepreneur Emily White has the answer.
“Many students are overwhelmed at the thought of getting an internship,” says White, cofounder and CEO of Whitesmith Entertainment and author of the book Interning 101 (9GiantStepsBooks; 2017; ISBN: 978-1-537-54764-0; $15.00; www.interning101.com). “That’s not so surprising; an internship is essentially a job—in a field you’ve likely always dreamed of working in. Even adults with many years of work experience find a job search daunting.”
White, a deeply respected thought leader in the entertainment industry with business locations in New York and Los Angeles, credits her early success to the many internships she did during college. Despite the anxiety surrounding internships, White explains that they are extremely valuable opportunities that can even pay off in the form of a great job.
“If you want to give yourself the best shot at working in your ideal career, you should plan on interning as much as possible,” says White. “Fortunately, getting an internship isn’t as hard as everyone thinks it is—all it takes is determination and diligent research.”
Interning 101 is full of essential advice for students or recent graduates who want to follow their passion and make inroads into their dream industry. To this day, White employs the advice covered in the book to help her stay focused on high-level projects, be on top of industry trends and communications, and always strive to find innovative and creative solutions.
Keep reading for ten of White’s tips to help you snag an internship that could help jumpstart your career.
Cast a wide net ASAP. Your student years are an opportune time to intern (some internships are even offered to high school students). As early as possible, identify 5-12 companies in your chosen field where you would like to intern. Choose companies that vary in size to maximize your results. Also, pay attention to the location of each internship. You need to be willing and able to commute to them all. (In some cases, this may involve relocating for the internship’s duration.)
Submit your application on time. (It’s earlier than you think!) Next, apply to your top five preferred internships, but make sure you don’t miss the application deadlines. Internship application processes begin early, so plan to apply up to six months prior to each internship. Apply in January for summer internships, May for fall internships, and the first week following Labor Day for winter internships.
Don’t be shy when you apply. If an internship program isn’t advertised publicly, contact the company by email or social media to inquire about internships. Many companies have not thought of, or may be too busy to have, a formal internship program. If this is the case, and it’s your dream company, search for the contact info of the general manager, HR manager, or office manager to email your résumé and inquire further.
“Don’t be discouraged if your dream company doesn’t currently offer internships,” says White. “You may be the spark that inspires them to create an internship program in the first place! The internship that changed my life and career was with a band called The Dresden Dolls in college. They didn’t post or offer the internship. I introduced myself professionally after a show and asked how I could assist them, which started me on the road to success.”
Ace your email. When you contact a company about internship opportunities, keep your email short and to the point, advises White. In creative industries, skip a formal cover letter—your email is your cover letter. Let them know why you want to intern with them and try to keep their perspective in mind. Genuinely compliment what they are doing and showcase that you are interested in helping their team in any way possible. If writing to a specific person, let them know you’ve enjoyed articles, interviews, or any other public B2B information that you can find. Of course, mention something about yourself, but keep it concise. Here is an example taken fromInterning 101:
Subject: January Internship
Dear Emily, (“Ms. White” is fine, but formalities are not necessary in the entertainment industry.)
I am a music industry major at X University. As an avid reader of Hypebot (a trade journal in our field), I have gleaned a lot of information from your articles on the modern music business over the years.
Similarly, I am impressed with how you have applied these tactics to your roster at Whitesmith Entertainment in terms of advising artists who all clearly have specific career goals.
I am applying for internships beginning in January and have attached my re?sume? if you are taking on interns at that time. I’d be happy to help with your sports and comedy divisions if that is useful to the company as well.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need anything from me, including references.
Thanks so much,
Best contact phone number
Remember that all internships pay off. There are benefits to every internship—even the ones that don’t seem beneficial in the moment. Keep this in mind if you’re in search of a “rubber stamp” to determine which internship might be most beneficial to you. But it also doesn’t hurt to ask your classmates (your number-one resource for internship feedback) where they thrived, learned a ton, and where they got stuck. Similarly, check out GlassDoor.com for real-world reviews on companies from folks who aren’t in your network (yet!).
Follow up with finesse. If two weeks go by, politely check in. Forward your initial email and write something along the lines of:
I hope all is well. Absolutely no rush, but I wanted to check in to ensure you received this.
Do not hesitate if you need anything else from me.
Thanks so much!
Best contact phone number
If you still hear nothing, wait a week and place a call to the company to kindly ask if they received your internship application. Maybe you’ll get lucky and the person answering the phone is also the intern supervisor and will pull up your résumé (or dig it out of spam if that’s the case) right away. In the least, that call should help with some name recognition.
No bites? Repeat the process. It’s fairly common to apply for many internships before you get an interview, says White. If you have no luck after your first round of applications, send out five more. (This is another reason it’s important to apply early!) Something to consider: Make sure your application email is short, to the point, and contains a PDF of your one-page résumé. Professionals receive countless messages a day. Don’t let yours get skipped over because it’s too long.
Landed an interview? Prepare, prepare, prepare! Once you’ve landed an interview or two, do your homework. Come prepared for your interview instead of asking questions that are available on the company’s website or online. Do this by following the company and key players on Twitter to gauge what the company is up to in real time. Click on everything possible on their website and read the content from Google searches.
“You can’t be too prepared for an interview,” comments White. “Work on your interview skills with a friend or family member. This is a good thing to do even if you’re a seasoned executive applying for jobs. Be sure to rehearse even walking into the room and your initial handshake!”
Take your health seriously (to perform your best). When you have a round of internship interviews approaching, practice excellent self-care so you are centered and healthy, instructs White. Meditate, make sure you’re exercising (it’s great for anxiety), and get a good night’s sleep for several days beforehand to ensure you’re in top-performing order.
Be prepared, but be human. Take reasonable measures to show up to your interview ready to shine. Have your résumé on hand, your bag packed, and your interview outfit ready. And make sure you leave in plenty of time, in case you get lost or delayed. But if something does go wrong, remember it’s not the end of the world.
“If you spill coffee on your shirt en route to your interview, don’t panic,” says White. “Be open about it when you arrive. It’ll make you seem more human and relatable.”
“Your career reality is exactly what you make of it,” concludes White. “Don’t underestimate the importance of internships in today’s business climate. More employers across all industries demand that applicants hit the ground running in their jobs. Your student years are the perfect time to be learning the essential skills and making the connections you’ll need to land you your dream job one day—possibly sooner than you think.”
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About the Author:
Emily White launched her first company, Whitesmith Entertainment, with business partner Keri Smith in 2009. Based in New York and Los Angeles, Whitesmith has overseen the careers of countless musicians and comedians to global acclaim, resulting in Grammy-nominated albums and Emmy Award-winning writing. Whitesmith expanded into sports in 2012. Working with some of the best athletes in the world, White co-founded tech start-up Dreamfuel, supporting athletes and receiving unsolicited press in Fast Company, Forbes, Bloomberg, and more for the company’s innovative work. As a deeply respected thought leader in both music and sports, White proudly sits on the boards of Future of Music, CASH Music, The David Lynch Foundation Live, and SXSW, while additionally serving on The Recording Academy New York Chapter’s Education Committee and Pandora’s Artist Advisory Council. Interning 101 is Emily White’s debut book.
About the Book:
At 9GiantStepsBooks, we’re taking a different approach from most publishers. We publish books at the length sufficient to express an actionable idea, and not a word more. This may mean the end result is a 35-page book, or it may be a 200-page book. We will not be constrained by or adhere to outmoded publishing practices—even if this means pricing the books at a significantly lower price point than if the books were “fleshed out” with non-value-adding chapters.
9GiantStepsBooks was founded by George Howard and Jennifer Howe. Howard is a seasoned executive (former president of Rykodisc, the world’s largest independent record label), COO of Wolfgang’s Vault (the world’s largest online retailer of live music and merchandise), serial entrepreneur (co-founder of TuneCore, Music Audience Exchange), and educator (associate professor, Berklee College of Music and Brown University).