It’s week four, second semester. You’re ticking off the days until summer on the “countdown-to-things-I-care-about” board in your room. Your tongue lingers for a moment at the thought of sparkling margaritas on days when you can fry an egg on the pavement. But your thoughts are interrupted by a slightly condescending voice that creeps into your head, “How about that summer internship?”
At Ryerson, summer internships and co-ops are encouraged and sometimes required. Haven’t started your search yet? No sweat. Tang Choy, Faculty of Communication and Design career consultant, and Chi-Chi Egbo from campus engagement at Ryerson’s Career Centre answer some questions you might have about summer internships.
“Start early and don’t wait for the jobs to come to you”
Choy says that being proactive with in-depth research often leads to new discoveries in your industry, like finding a new position you never thought existed, or even discovering that a small business down the road is better suited to your career path. You not only have more time to tailor your application to a desired internship, but early research allows you to see exactly what’s out there. Making a list of 20 ideal organizations can help begin your search and narrow down exactly what you’re looking for. “There are many applicants out there, but if you go that extra mile early on, you’ll be more confident in applying to those positions,” she says.
Try a “warm intro” instead of a “cold call”
After sorting through your company wish-list, Choy says in order to set yourself apart from the competition, you just have to know who to talk to. “In an ideal situation, you would introduce yourself personally to someone who could be handling your application,” she says. “Call up your companies or get into contact with someone who knows where your application is going so they can put a face to a name.” Choy also says to avoid “cold calls” wherever you can. So instead of sending that “Hi, my name is…” introduction to firstname.lastname@example.org, try digging around for a phone number or even the name of someone to show you’re a real person.
“I’m a strong believer in social media”
In this digital age where anyone can look up your online identity via Google, businesses can — and will — see what you have to say on social media. So why not start giving some of your public profiles a professional edge? Choy says social media can be the last thing on our minds when applying for summer internships, but is a crucial tool for networking and even getting a company’s attention for that position you’ve been eyeing. “Websites, like LinkedIn and Twitter, are great platforms for networking and possibly showing an employer that your values align with the company,” she says. “Keep everything updated, because you never know when a hiring manager will come along looking to recruit.” Social media also has great multimedia capabilities, so if you’re an FCAD student use this to your advantage to publish eye catching works. Afterall, a picture (or demo reel) is worth a thousand words.
Start writing that “elevator pitch” now
Choy says an “elevator pitch” could be the key to grabbing employers’ attention on the spot. An elevator pitch is a short and sweet introduction of your skills, achievements, and initiatives that can set you apart from other applicants. “An elevator pitch is meant to be a condensed version of a cover letter,” she says. “You’re basically selling yourself as a brand, and this is your pitch to them.”
She says the elevator pitch you create has multiple uses: as an intro to your LinkedIn profile, in an email inquiring about an internship, even memorize a few points so you can slip it into conversation if you find yourself in front of a recruiter.
Choy says to include the following information in your pitch:
- Transferable skills
- Relevant work or volunteer experience
- Initiative statement that highlights what you want out of the internship. This should be tailored to each company you’re applying to in order to match their values.
“Tap into on-campus resources”
Ryerson has resources to help you reach out to professionals in your industry. “Companies choose to recruit at Ryerson specifically and we either direct them to Magnet, Ryerson’s online job board, or host a recruitment event or talk to get you face-to-face,” Choy says. The career centre has a full calendar offering workshops and company talks throughout the year, especially during summer application time. You can find the calendar here.
“Create your brand”
Egbo, who used to work in recruitment, says one of the most important things a company or recruiter looks for is profile consistency and having a defined “brand.” “An employer will spend maybe six seconds looking through resumes, so your goals, initiatives and personality should be established within the first few sentences,” says Egbo. To start, make a list of your work experience and interests and find ways to interweave the two. Have you been to any workshops or a part of any groups that help paint a quick picture of what you want to show a company? Egbo says that a visual compilation of works or facts can also get the point across quickly and show off unique communication skills.
“Get outside of the classroom” (Yes, personal projects count!)
Although many internship opportunities require a solid grade point average, Egbo says extracurriculars can increase your chances of landing that interview. “Employers want to see real-world experience, and students often make the mistake of not including extracurricular experience or even personal projects in their profiles,” she says. Remember that theatre production you made happen, or that informative blog post you wrote? Any personal experience that’s relevant to the internship you’re applying to can give you a positive edge come application time. Be sure to send links and keep companies updated on your progress as well.
“Try to pinpoint small-/medium-sized businesses for your internship”
Egbo says students have a tendency to gravitate towards big companies to apply for their internships, but they’re not the only ones with opportunities. “You’ll have a greater chance of being considered for an internship position if you’re applying to a smaller business,” Egbo says. “Usually there are less applicants, they’re easier to get into contact with, and can be much more flexible.” A smaller number of applicants can also mean that a company looks more closely into who’s applying, so don’t forget to keep your public profiles sharp and well tailored to the position.
Resource alert! MAGNET
Magnet is a Ryerson initiative born out of the Digital Media Zone where all employment opportunities sent through the career centre and faculties are funneled into one database. Simply upload your resume, fill in a few drop-down options and presto, we have a profile! Magnet then matches you with a job/internship position based on the skills you’ve selected. The database currently has over 675 jobs posted and 50 internships. It operates by a ranking-and-match system, meaning the more detail in your profile, the better chances you have for finding the perfect match. “It can also be used as a research tool to get an inside look at what positions and skills employers are looking out for,” says Egbo. Need help jump-starting your Magnet profile? Egbo suggests referencing Ryerson’s golden boy, Eggy the mascot, as a template.
Images by Christina Esposito