Internship No-No's

At this risk of turning this into an internship weblog, I know a bunch of our readers are hustling for some music business internships for the summer. I used to (among a million other things) coordinate production internships when I worked at WXPN, so I tend to sympathize with the folks who have to choose one or two lucky kids from the Big Pile of Resumes.

Media Bistro points at this essay by a student who was rejected for a summer internship at Spin Magazine. I can't say I blame them -- the essay alone indicates that she might not have been a good fit.

First, don't assume you're automatically getting the gig because you're awesome. At World Cafe, or Spin, or MTV, they get hundreds of awesome resumes each semester. You may be the top student at your school, but you're competing against hundreds of the top students from other schools. If an internship coordinator catches a whiff of "entitlement" about you, forget it. They want someone who's going to be ready to learn, not someone they're going to have to cool off with the fire hose once a week. If they find out you're moving to their town before officially being notified, you go on the receptionist's "stalker" list.

Second, follow the resume rules. Your resume does not have to be flashy. It does not have to come in 3-D, or even on Astrobrite paper. You would be surprised how few internship or job applicants follow good resume writing rules. Anything that's different about your resume is an excuse for an internship coordinator to chuck your file. Your resume shows whether you're detail-oriented, and whether you understand the conventions of the business world (even at "hip" companies, you need to spell properly and use good grammar. No txt msgs.)

Therefore, proofread the hell out of your cover letter and resume. Have some of your professors read it and give you notes. (The right ones will get all teary-eyed that you trust their opinion so much.) Stick to classic, readable fonts, like Arial, Helvetica, Times, Garamond, or Chicago. Heck, use one of the templates in Microsoft Word -- they're there for a reason! Comic Sans will almost certainly get your resume a trip to the round file.

Again, I'm not advocating or endorsing a lack of creativity here. Resume formats have evolved to push the content forward, not the design. (Would you put a steering wheel in the back seat of a car? Same reasons.) Focus on what you say in your resume, not whether you can blend five cool typefaces.

Finally, work the personal angles. Don't rely on someone opening your package and being thrilled. Use your network -- there are people in your circle of influence that can help you land a dream internship, and you don't even know it yet. Internships are easy ways to pay back favors to old friends.

My first internship was at KYW, and I'd have never gotten in the door without help from one of the sales directors, who happened to be an old playground chum of my dad's. At first, I felt a little ashamed. (Like I had to get my DAD to pull strings to get me the gig.) Once I was within the organization, I realized that EVERYBODY had to rely on SOMEBODY to grease the wheels, because there was simply no other way to get through the big pile of applications. And it gets even more challenging when you're looking for paying gigs.