Prepare for Internships

photo credit: TH(i)E photography Film on film via photopin (license)

photo credit: TH(i)E photography Film on film via photopin (license)

It may seem early, but if you are in College it is time to start thinking ahead to your Spring and Summer internship opportunities. People on regular season TV shows will be planning their hiatus projects and there are new pilots for the summer series being planned too.

Many film schools and colleges have a person whose entire job is to place students in useful college-credit internships. Make that person your friend by keeping in regular contact, and asking them about what is coming up. My clients have found that these folks are usually HR trained people, and tend to want you to design your resume around ATS formatting. This will generally mean a chronological, duties-based resume, with your Education first and the Work Experience written:

COMPANY, City, ST     Job title    Month, Year – Month, Year

with the dates aligned to the right-side margin.

I generally recommend that you follow these instructions, rather than antagonize that person, but also include your properly formatted credits after the chronological Work Experience. Chances are these will be mostly your student films, but that is to be expected at this early stage of your career.

Another source for internships is EntertainmentCareers.net. The most valuable and prestigious internships are reserved for paying members of that site. It could be worth it to pay for membership for a time, to have access to those listings, especially if your college has a limited internship program.

Internships are valuable for several reasons:

  • They are the beginning of your professional network. Connect with as many people as possible and show your willing attitude. One of my more successful clients found that she quickly finished the tasks her internship supervisor set her, so she took it upon herself to offer to help as many different people as she could, in other areas of the office. Later she was on the spot when a problem came up that she could solve, and was offered a paid job on the strength of her great performance.
  • Unlike some other entry level gigs, spending resources teaching the college intern is part of the expectation. The best training will come from companies who specify that they want enrolled students, who will get course credit. These people plan and intend to offer training, often in a multiplicity of areas, in exchange for the work value that the intern gives.
  • They can be the start of your resume and credits list, especially if you get to work on some actual productions.
  • You will be able to apply your college studies to real world situations.
  • You may find a mentor here, who will be a resource for you in the future.

Tips for success:

  • Always send a handwritten thank you note at the end of the experience. Or perhaps a couple of notes.
  • When you finish your internship, leave your supervisors a clean copy of your updated resume that includes the internship you just completed, and continue to forward updated resumes periodically.
    • If it is with a Production Company, leave them an industry formatted resume leading with your credits
  • Sometimes people use the word “intern” to mean free labor on basic tasks. It is OK, in fact desirable, to ask questions about the kind of training you might expect.
    • Ask in advance if you are expected to bring your own laptop, and use your own phone.
  • Research the company and the people involved. Understand the company culture and the company mission.
    • The best internships are with working production or post companies, with several projects green lit or actually in production. If they only have a bunch of things in development, without past productions, it is doubly important to research the people involved. The company could be a start-up, but the people involved should have a demonstrated history of success. Without a solid history, for either the company or the principals, the learning value of this internship might be limited. Caveat Emptor.
  • Arrive early for your scheduled days, and be ready to volunteer energetically for jobs. Some places expect their interns to compete for the best assignments. Diffidence won’t help you there. Focus on what you can offer, and how you can help.
  • Be aware of your personal presentation, fitting in with how your colleagues and immediate supervisors dress – but ensure that you have comfortable shoes. Chances are you will be asked to run errands and do fetching and carrying.
  • Keep a record of the dates, productions and duties/tasks for your future resumes.
  • If you are a veteran, be aware that some companies have internships set aside for vets.

Good luck, and have a great time.

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Posted in Blog, Career Advice