I interviewed Lauren Berger, “The Intern Queen,” who has built an incredible career so early on in her life. Lauren was ranked #5 on Business Week Magazine’s annual list of Young Entrepreneurs 25 Under 25. America Online says, “If you are going to college and wondering what you are going to do this summer – you need to look her up,” and I couldn’t agree more. Lauren participated in 15 internships during her 4 years of college, so if anyone knows how to get an internship, it’s this Intern Queen.
Read on for more about Lauren, her career and her best advice for fellow Studentbranding.com readers- I just know you’ll be inspired by her.
MK: Where did the idea for Intern Queen come from?
LB: I had 15 internships in college and wanted to tell my peers what I’d learned along the way. While in school, I always found a lack of resources when it came to information on internships. I wanted to create a solution to the problem. What if I could be the person that students went to when they needed internship listings and advice? That was my “ah-ha” moment.
MK: How did you manage to land 15 internships in 4 years?
LB: I started very early. I was encouraged to get focused right away. I had 15 internships, but that is by no means typical or expected. I usually suggest that student have 2 or 3 internships by the time they graduate. It’s just a matter of getting focused early and starting to think about what you want to do when you start college, as opposed to when you are about to leave college.
MK: How did you land those top internships? Do you have any advice for the Studentbranding.com reader?
LB: It’s all about baby steps. My first internship was at the Zimmerman agency in Tallahassee, Florida. I definitely went for the huge out-of-state internships as well, but was rejected. It’s just a matter of taking it one step at a time and realizing that you may not get your dream internship right away.
The biggest mistake students make is applying to only a single internship. Students should be applying for at least 10 internships each semester, and increase that number to between 10-20 internships in the summer. It is especially important to apply for a lot if many of the opportunities you are interested in are at top companies with highly competitive internship programs.
Whatever site you are on looking for job opportunities, really take the time to read every internship listing and description. You may not have heard of a company before, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a great fit for you, a perfect learning opportunity, and even the possibility of being hired for a full-time position later on down the road.
MK: What do you do when you get more than one internship offer? How did you manage that? How did you choose?
LB: Always ask the employer about the time requirements for the internship. Most of my summer internships only required 10-15 hours per week. I spent a summer in LA interning at NBC, FOX, and MTV all at the same time. So you don’t necessarily have to choose between one or the other.
I would suggest accepting the opportunities until you hear from your top choice. If you decide later not to take an internship offer, pick up the phone. Do not send an email to the HR manager, because that can be very passive and can come across poorly. Pick up the phone, thank them for the opportunity and let them know you found something else that better fits your career path. Most internships are unpaid, so you really need to think about what you want and what is right for you and your career at the end of the day.
MK: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see college students making when it comes to their careers?
LB: Many are waiting until it’s too late to intern. They graduate and have little relevant experience under their belt and have a hard time landing the jobs they want. Get started and focused early in your college career.
MK: When you were on the search of internships and jobs, how did you go about finding them?
LB: I always created what I call the “Intern Queen Dream List”- a list of top opportunities that I wanted to seek out. So, it would be a list of 10 companies and then I would set aside a block of time to search on the company websites for the opportunities I was looking for. If I couldn’t find them online, I would make it a priority to call them the next day. I would ask to speak to the internship coordinator or the HR department to find out what I needed to do to get myself in front of that company. And if I couldn’t get a hold of anyone that way, I would do research to find an executive at the company that I could reach out to. I would email them blindly and set up informational interviews with them.
This strategy helped me to find internships and my first job out of college at a top talent agency. I knew about the company and they were at the top of my list, so I called their HR department and they said they were going to set up an interview. But of course, I wanted quicker results. So I reached out to one of my contacts from a previous internship, and that contact put in a call for me. Sure enough, an interview was scheduled for the very next day – and I got the job!
It’s just a matter of being focused and having a list. You don’t have to settle for just the opportunities that you see on a job search website. I always say you should pick where you want to work, and then go work there. You don’t need to deal with whatever is available. You can go and find job opportunities on your own. Personalize your job search experience and go after the exact internships and jobs that you want.
MK: What is the key to getting your dream job?
LB: Focus, preparation, and time management. Three things that can always be improved upon.
MK: Of all the internships you’ve done, did you have a favorite?
LB: I’ve been incredibly lucky, and had a lot of amazing internship experiences. One of my favorites was Fox in the Drama Development department. It was really my first time around television scripts, and I’m really into movies and scripts, so that was very exciting.
MK: Any resume tips?
LB: Take your current resume, no matter what state it’s in, and bring it to your career center for a makeover – it’s free!
MK: Do you have any other tips for college students who are looking for jobs and internships?
LB: 1. It is definitely important to invest in a nice business suit. Also, go to the store and get thank you notes or personalized stationery. After each job interview, send a hand written thank you note! E-mails are just not enough these days.
2. Before you start applying to internships or jobs, you should have all of your materials ready, such as your resume and a portfolio of your work. You want to be able to personalize them as often as possible to each specific job you are applying to.
3. At the end of each semester, you should be asking for at least one letter of recommendation, so that you always have several on hand.
4. Another big thing that employers are doing right now is conducting Skype interviews. So, if you do not have Skype yet, I would strongly advise that you download Skype and start talking to your friends online to help you get comfortable with using Skype as a communication tool.
5. Knowing how to communicate during a phone interview is really important. Be able to speak clearly and articulately- to communicate in a way where you don’t sound afraid or unsure when you get on the phone with a potential employer.
MK: Any final advice?
LB: My last piece of advice for getting a job or internship you want is this: stop talking about it and start doing it. Take time to look at your life, figure out what makes you unique, and start focusing on your future today because anything is possible.
Learn more about Lauren Berger:
Melissa is the Editor-in-Chief of studentbranding.com. She is also an Associate Brand Manager at Time Inc., where she manages brand extension projects for numerous publications including: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, People, MLB, NFL and National Geographic. Melissa majored in Psychology at Hamilton College and currently resides in New York City. To find out more, read her blog, follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.