It’s Not All About the Internships: An Entry-level Girl’s Guide to Getting Jobs

By Michelle McNickle
Oh, college: the first few years of it is spent sampling Smirnoff, meeting new friends, and living vicariously as soon as Friday afternoon lectures are done and over with. But right around junior year, that itch to venture out into the real world leaves you with internship options and a growing desire to one-up your fellow classmates with a job lead after graduation. Or, so you think.

The current state of the economy isn’t anything new, and its leaving many college women fearful of the future. As classmates are updating LinkedIn profiles daily with their latest endeavors, it’s easy to think to yourself: do I really have a shot of finding a job in today’s working world?

Internships are fantastic experiences to tackle. However, I’m arguing that it’s the quality of these experiences that matters most, as opposed to the number of internships a person lists on their resume.

Who am I to be talking? Well, I am one of the relatively few entry-level workers with a job in my field: Journalism and Media Writing. I was hired a few months after graduation and today, I write feature stories for five magazines owned by a publishing company in the Boston area. In an effort to remain truthful, at times my job sure does suck. However, I am employed, and as the youngest in my position, I’m on the fast track to eventually landing the job I really want: working remotely for an online publication. And as surprising as this may sound, I only had one in-person internship.

I’ve broken my success down to this: a whole lot of hard work.

Sure, you’ve sacrificed summers sorting the fashion closet at some magazine. Fantastic, you know your colors. But did that experience allow you to do some styling? Write for the publication directly? My internship was at a music magazine, where I was one of two in-office editorial interns. I worked directly with the Editor-in-Chief, conducted interviews with industry insiders, and wrote 800-word features stories for the magazine.

Additionally, some of the best experiences I had in the world of Journalism weren’t even in an internship; they were with my college newspaper. I was the Editor-in-Chief and oversaw a group of 40 students. That experience alone allowed me to relate to every editor I’ve ever interviewed with, since I was able to explain my experiences with deadlines, managing a team, and working with an art department.

I’m not saying not to accept an internship position: many of them do provide you with fantastic, hands-on experiences. But, even while attending a college that required every student to have an internship, I saw many students sit in multiple positions where they learned nothing, did nothing, and failed to even receive recommendations from the publications they worked for. Internships also don’t always provide an easy path to a job. Many of my peers who had triple the number of internships I’ve had are currently unemployed.

So what does land you a job? Well, it’s simple. Many laugh when I describe it this way, but I got this job by hustling. I returned to my dowdy town in Connecticut to save money and move back to Boston after graduating. During that time, I researched people and positions, I perfected my resume, and I reached out to those who could give me advice. Not only did I accept the job I have now, but I was also offered two other positions at newspapers.

So stay smart with your time. Don’t let your internships work you dry and take advantage of the fact that you’re free labor. If you’re in a position now, go above and beyond to draw out as much practical experience as you can and impress your employer and manager. And for goodness sake, focus on your present internship instead of planning the five you’ll accept next summer.

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