My name is Molly Lamendola, I’m a senior at Fairfield University and I… just got a job! Woohoo! It’s all incredibly exciting, but of course, a heck of a lot of work went into it. I’m a student in the College of Arts and Sciences and that led my parents to immediately start with the, “Well, how are you going to get a job?” questions.
To be transparently honest, I never had a perfect answer for them. I just knew I was going to try and try hard. But, as someone who’s now had many internships and has secured a job, I’m full of sound advice for the next generation and can give you the perfect path to success on how to secure your first internship and/or job.
Firstly, if you don’t have a LinkedIn, start there. Students of any and every major need a LinkedIn and you need a lot of connections. Unlike any other social media site where it’s cool to have a lot of followers but not follow a lot of people, LinkedIn works like a branching tree. The more people you’re connected with, the more people you can connect with ease in the future.
Furthermore, LinkedIn is a great, great way to network. Once you have a LinkedIn, you can go through a list of all of the Fairfield University alumni and see where they’re currently working or where they’ve worked before. You can also narrow down your search results by a major or specific company to find alumni you’re interested in.
Now that you found an interesting alumnus, it’s time to connect with them. So… connect with them, but you’ve got to add a note. I typically go with something like, “Hi [Their Name]! My name is Molly and I’m a [Class Year] at Fairfield University. I’m totally fascinated by your role as [Job Title]. I’m interested in a [Career or General Job Field] and would love to chat about your path if you ever have the time?! No worries if not! Thanks!”
You’ve got to keep it short and sweet as you only have a few characters to squeeze it all in. The goal here is just to get them to connect with you and then the world is your oyster in terms of character amount, as you have unlimited space using the message function once they’re connected to you.
Then if you meet with them, we call this an “informational interview.” You’re not interviewing for anything, in particular, just asking about how they got to where they are, what internships they had, what classes they took at Fairfield, what skills have made them successful, etc.
I’m 100% honest in these meetings about stating I’m not sure what’s right for me yet, but I’m trying to figure it out and just hoping they can help. Everyone was once in their late teens/early twenties without a clue of their future! So tell them you don’t know what you want to do, or what you like about what they do, be as open and free as you’d like.
Once you’ve done this leg work, the time comes to actually start applying. The tricky thing is, this is the most complicated and highest chance of failure step. You could apply to 150 things and not hear back from one. This often leaves a lot of students frustrated, but there are ways to avoid this frustration.
Firstly, you might be applying for the wrong jobs. If you’re a first-year or sophomore student with no job experience or very little job experience, you shouldn’t expect to score an internship at some prestigious company. If you’re interested in journalism, your first internship just isn’t going to be CNN or NBC, you’ve just got to work up to it. You need smaller experiences first.
So before you start applying, re-evaluate your skills and what internships are right for you. Your informational interview can help with this, or you can even make an appointment with your designated school’s career counselor. But, as a general rule, if you’re a first-year or sophomore student you should start really small with clubs or local activities first. Then start applying to some off-campus, but still local opportunities, and then by your junior and senior year, you have the experience to get those bigger internships.
Let me walk you through my path as an example of what might work for you.
I became the Social Media and Marketing Intern for the University’s Career Center my freshman year. I also was kind of interested in journalism, so I began writing for The Mirror. At this point, I fully believed that I would get an internship at CBS News or the Wall Street Journal as a first-year student and thus wasted hundreds of hours applying to hundreds of internships and heard back from not one. But, at least it helped me figure out how to write a cover letter and make my resume perfect.
By sophomore year, I studied abroad in the fall semester and was very interested in working in the art world, as I’m graduating with an art history degree. I worked as an intern at the Westport Contemporary Art Museum in the Spring before COVID. I then decided art history wasn’t for me, but I liked political campaigns. So, I worked on the Christy Smith for Congress and the Justin Krebs for City Council campaigns. At this point, I was also the Vine Editor for the Mirror and was getting really into investigative journalism pieces… but still had no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Senior Year, I got an internship at EMILY’s List, a campaign fundraising organization, after applying to 85 internships and also became Editor-in-Chief for The Mirror. I wasn’t able to score any summer internship because I refused to do something unpaid, but I worked at the Conference and Events office on campus. Then in early February of my senior year, I applied and was interviewed for a news production job… and got hired.
If my story tells you anything it should be that you shouldn’t fear trying new things or straying from the path. I’ve heard concerns from underclassmen students that they’re worried they have to have it figured out now and if they don’t have it all figured out “today” then they’re behind everyone else. But, to be completely honest, I still don’t know if journalism will be my lifelong career. I just know I like it, I’ll put my all into it, and if it doesn’t work out… it doesn’t work out.
My advice is this: try everything, apply for everything, get involved in clubs, do all you can to get things on your resume and utilize the Career Center! I believe in you, and I just know that everything will work out in the end!