Five tips for landing your dream internship or job

Courtesy of Flickr user Flazingo Photos
By Sarah Darby

Fall is finally upon us at Mizzou! The season brings crisp leaves, cups of hot chocolate and also a mountain of internship applications. If you're anything like me, applying for internships and jobs can feel pretty overwhelming. Trying to stand out in a sea of applicants is especially challenging.

Leading up to our event next week, we asked four advisers, professors and journalists how students can stand out when applying for jobs and internships. Be sure to attend our event next Wednesday (RSVP here!) to learn how recent graduates used their online presence to land great first jobs. In the meantime, here are five tips for landing the internship or job of your dreams:

Use your network

A number of those we talked to mentioned the importance of networking. In person and digital networking can help an internship or job candidate stand out in the crowd.

"When all other things are equal, a company will hire someone they know (or who has been referred by a colleague) before they take a chance on a stranger," said Barbara Willis, Assistant Director of Journalism Career Services at the University of Missouri. "To be given a boost in the competition, make sure people who are working in the field know you and know what you can do before you need their help to get a job."

Willis also noted the importance of maintaining a LinkedIn presence. Recent graduates sometimes forget to update their LinkedIn in between job searches, and then struggle to build online connections when searching for a new job, she said.

Stay professional online 

It's easy to forget that our social media sites are visible to just about anyone, but students need to be conscious of their online presence.  

"Students should remember their digital footprint is both permanent and searchable. A friend of mine uses a phrase that I often borrow: 'If you don’t want God, Google or grandma to see it, don’t post it,'" said Annie Hammock, Interactive Director at KOMU.

Students should also remember that a private Facebook message or Snapchat is just a screenshot away from being public. Journalists should also be aware of how their social media posts appear to an audience. Showing obvious bias in social media posts can be a detriment to your credibility as a journalist, Hammock said.

Shane Epping, a senior multimedia specialist at the University of Missouri agrees.

"I would avoid an online presence that might compromise a professional opportunity," Epping said. "Social media is undoubtedly a place where potential employers will look to research an applicant. Over-the-top rantings or extreme posts could become a negative liability. On the other hand, blogs can be a great place to positively stand out. This is where somebody can make his/her voice heard in an easily accessible format." 

Sharpen your resume

Your resume is one of the first things hiring managers look at when considering you for a position. Students should tailor their resume for each job application, provide specific examples of accomplishments and reinforce resume points in a cover letter, Willis said.

Focusing on what makes you different than everyone else applying is also important when building a resume or portfolio, Epping said.

"Employers don’t really care about what they can do for you - instead, they care about what you can do for them," Epping said. "Be specific in your skill set and provide examples of how you can help them do their job better or more efficiently." 

Journalists should also be conscious of how their resume is formatted, Willis said. Many online application systems can't read certain resumes.

"You are applying and impressing a computer program on these systems and if the program cannot read your resume because you used a resume template or formatted the resume incorrectly, you will be eliminated without ever coming under the gaze of a human," Willis said.

Be open to learning

Learning more about the journalism industry, as well as your prospective employer, is always a step in the right direction. 

Hammock suggests you follow your favorite journalists along with sites like Nieman Lab and MediaShift so "you’ll know what’s coming next and be able to smartly discuss trends with potential employers."

Being a life-long learner will allow you to adapt as your career changes, Willis said. 

Avoid simple mistakes

Grammar or spelling mistakes are some of the worst errors you can make in the application process. 

Simple mistakes may even eliminate you for a position all-together. Hammock's friend, a news director in a top 20 market, immediately removed an applicant from the hiring process when they spelled her name wrong in an email. 

"Journalists are supposed to be excellent researchers, so do your research," Hammock said.

Angie Case, Executive Web Producer at Fox21 News, also said that these kinds of mistakes can be costly.

"I am amazed at the number of people who still submit resumes and cover letters with typos on them," Case said. "You have infinite time and resources to put together a resume. If you can't get that right, I'm not going to trust you with a breaking news story you have to publish in five minutes with no editor."

Do you have any additional tips for students? Tweet your job and internship advice @ONAMizzou!

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