All about internships! Your Questions answered by the Office of Career and Professional Development
Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013 @ 2:30 pm
A few weeks ago I put a message up on Facebook asking parents what topics they would like to see addressed on this blog. A number of parents expressed the same thing: they want to know how to best support their student in finding an internship, and eventually a job and career path after graduation. Accordingly, we are answering those questions in two blog posts. This post will be about internships, and the one that follows it will address jobs after graduation. I posed the questions that parents were most eager about, and all of the responses here area joint effort from the staff in the Center for Career and Professional Development. If you have topics for future blog posts, please feel free to post on our Pratt Institute Parents Facebook page or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have heard it said before that freshmen should wait to get internships. What can they be doing in the meantime to prepare for their careers? Or do you recommend they take a summer off?
New students vary on their level of industry knowledge, skill-sets, and self-understanding. And though we do not advise freshman to look for internships during their first year in school, there are many things students can do in advance of taking an internship to build industry knowledge, and deepen their self-awareness, figure out what they do well, and what they are interested in exploring in the workplace.
As a student goes through foundation, they should note what they like and what they do best. They can begin to interview their professors and keep a career log on what people do professionally, where they do it and how they got there. They can read about their favorite artists, find and follow role models on social media and join professional organizations while a young student to build industry knowledge. And most importantly, keep an open mind. There are many possibilities to research and paths to follow once they are ready for an internship. Keep an ongoing list of the roles and skills that “feel” right, and that they would like to investigate further. After freshman year, or even sophomore year, they can begin to look for an internship based on who they are, and what they like to do, and where they may like to gain real-world hands-on experience. There are plenty of students who take internships that are non-credit bearing earlier than their junior year. Whether you take the summer off, wait for sophomore or junior year, we do recommend that all students enter senior year with at least one internship under their belt.
All students should attend an internship workshop. We host these workshops at the CCPD many times throughout every semester. Also, students should meet with their career counselor. Every major at Pratt has a dedicated career counselor and coach to help students explore their internship and career options, talk about priorities and set learning goals prior to the search or start of an internship. The experience of defining who you are, what you want and charting how you will get there will ensure that students are making informed decisions and putting their best foot forward. Students can work with a career counselor to create a self-assessment plan, to create application materials, identify strategies to apply for positions, learn to identify a good fit for themselves with an internship site, and learn how to research and use the many resources available in their intended field of study. Younger students who are not ready for an internship can also go on tours, studio visits and firm trips in their major, as well as volunteer to gain industry knowledge before interning.
When is the ideal time for a student to start seriously considering internships? Also, is there a typical timeline for applications, interviews and acceptance into an internship site?
Every students’ skill level, and level of maturity and work readiness is drastically different. Most students in the second semester of sophomore year start thinking seriously about an internship. A career counselor can help a student with cover letters, resumes, edit and present work samples and search for positions in their industry when they are ready.
It is never too early to prepare your materials for an internship application, and we recommend a student give themselves at least two months – six months to prepare, search and secure a position.
Typically, timelines for internship applications are rolling; this means the industry hires at the beginning of each semester. Large companies have strict hiring practices, which can be found in most cases on the company website. Large organizations prefer to hire early.
An example: A student wants to intern for the summer at The Guggenheim, a very popular internship location. They have strict hiring and application guidelines and their summer internship application deadline was January 18th. This varies widely. A great rule of thumb: the larger the organization, the more strict the hiring practices. If it is a mid-size or smaller organization or a sole proprietor (meaning a single artist or designer, possibly a start-up) the application window tends to be longer by comparison.
What do students need to know about prepping for an interview for an internship?
1. Understand the company you are targeting; their style, strengths and overall “vibe”. Read about them, talk to your peers and professors about them, ask your career counselor about them, google them.
2. Target your portfolio (or reel), cover letter and resume for the specific internship job position. Read the job description, so you know what they are looking for as well as who they are. This way you can tailor your materials to meet their needs.
3. Always bring a list of questions with you so you can understand what their expectations are for an intern at this site, and compare their expectations with yours. Ask what the intern role is and who the intern will work under. This way a student can judge whether this experience will be worthwhile for them, or not.
How will a student know if an internship is right for them?
Internships are very personal experiences, so they vary by student, skill level, interest, preparedness and learning goals, as well as expectations and company culture. Because of all of these aspects, the Center for Career & Professional development offers internship workshops monthly and year-round to discuss how to know if an internship site is right for you.
There are three great tools a student can use to assess an internship site:
1. First, download and fill out the CCPD internship assessment workbook. The CCPD has an internship workbook that helps students parse out what they do well, and what they are looking for. Use your answers as a basis of comparison for your expectations of a prospective internship experience before you apply by reading the job description and seeing if it offers ways to meet your expectations and learning goals.
2. Second, have an interview and ask questions. After the interview, compare what you learned to what you want to learn at an internship and see if it matches. It is advised not to accept an internship “hire offer” on the spot. Take a day to think about it and evaluate it.
3. Research. There are sites like internshipratings.com and many student blogs/websites where students share information on 'what to expect'. Research can also be conducted in person by talking to upperclassmen, talking with faculty and department chairs, as well as meeting with a career counselor.
What are employers looking for in an intern?
Most employers tell us that their #1 criteria for what they look for in an intern is good communication skills, both verbal and written. The rest of their criteria really varies by industry and size of their organization. At minimum, internship sites are looking for someone eager to learn, enthusiastic and cooperative, and who will be on time. Most employers will look for a basic familiarity with certain software, usually the Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office software on both PC and Mac platforms; and this too varies by industry. An employer’s specific expectations are outlined in the job description, so read it carefully.
Special thanks to the Center of Career and Professional Development staff who helped with this post: Robert Carabay, Laura Keegan, Hera Marashian, Rhonda Schaller, Brynna Tucker, and Deborah Yanagisawa.
Post by: Meredith Crain