If you’re at the start of your career in online marketing, an internship could be a great way to get essential experience and develop your skills.
A good internship can provide you with valuable experience and give you a real advantage in a competitive job market. It can be a great addition to your resume, a cornerstone of your portfolio and a stepping stone to a more permanent position in your field.
Lots of people of different ages and backgrounds take internships: they’re not just for students with rich parents (though many internships don’t pay a salary). You don’t need to commit to working for a whole year, either; internships are often only for two or three months, or will allow you to work part-time.
Why an internship might be right for you
If you fit into one or more of these groups, an internship could be a great move.
#1: You’ve got lots of informal experience in online marketing, but no work history. Perhaps you’ve done marketing for a student group or for your own small business, for instance: you have some crucial skills, but your CV is looking a bit thin.
#2: You’re looking to fill a short-term gap rather than find a long-term position. Maybe you want to do something productive during your summer holiday from uni, or you’ve got two months before you go travelling.
#3: You’re not sure whether online marketing really is the career of your dreams. Sure, you love social media and you’ve read up a lot on SEO – but you don’t know whether you want to do this day in and day out. An internship gives you a chance to try it out without committing yourself.
#4: You have your eye on working for a particular company – and they offer internships. Of course, there’s no guarantee that an internship will lead to a full-time role, but many companies will look first to their interns when recruiting.
#5: You’re at the stage where learning is more important than earning. If you’re still at home with your parents, make the most of low-rent (or if you’re really lucky, rent-free) living. An internship could even be an alternative to university, if you’re keen to get started in the working world quickly.
How to get an internship
Like hunting for a regular, full-time position, finding an internship takes time and effort. You’ll almost certainly find there’s less competition, though – and companies may be much more flexible about how many people they take on.
When you’re looking for opportunities, try:
- Gumtree (for your local city). This isn’t generally a good source for full-time positions, but you’ll often find internships advertised there.
- Companies you want to work for. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, and/or subscribe to their blog: you’ll hear about any new internships that they have going.
- Past interns. If you’re at university, your careers service may be able to link you up with people who’ve interned for specific companies or in specific areas.
- LinkedIn. Use your connections … and their connections. Check out 2nd degree connections (“friends of friends”) and 3rd degree connections. Having someone send an email or make a call on your behalf could help you find opportunities you’d otherwise have missed.
Most internships aren’t paid, though some offer minimum wage or a little mor). The majority, though, will at least pay some sort of travel and food allowance.
Companies seeking an intern won’t ask for the same skillset that a regular job would require, but they will expect you to have some proficiency. For instance, this advert for an SEO intern in London asks for:
- Basic understanding of search engine optimization
- Familiarity with HTML and web design principles
- Proficiency with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other office software
- Interest in web analytics and SEO ranking tools
Don’t just look at the requirements, though – make sure the position will be genuinely useful for you. Check what responsibilities you’ll have, and whether these tie in with skills you want to develop.
Once you’ve found a great internship to apply for:
- Take it as seriously as you would a job application. Craft a great CV and write a professional covering letter, and make sure these clearly demonstrate how you meet all the requirements for the position.
- Emphasise the experience you do have, even if it doesn’t seem like much. A personal website or blog might give you the edge over someone else.
- If you really don’t have much experience, let them know that you pick up new things quickly (give an example if possible) – and show that you really are passionate about the industry, or the opportunity to work with their company.
Two inspiring intern success stories
If you’re on the fence about seeking an internship, read these case studies to see how successful interns can be.
Case study #1: Kelsey Kamentz
David Cohen of Altered States of Marketing took on an 18-year-old SEO intern, Kelsey, who had no prior experience.
He gave her real responsibility − creating a free ebook to get valuable leads – and he writes in How my 18 Year Old SEO Intern Generated $35,364 in Revenue in 30 Days:
The project I gave Kelsey was to write an eBook, for our target audience, which gave them legit and actionable information about how to use the new iPad for educational and learning breakthroughs.
Kelsey rose to the challenge, creating content that offered genuine value and gained the reader’s trust.
Case study #2: Charlie Hoehn
Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek and other books) took on Charlie Hoehn as an unpaid virtual intern in 2008. Three years later, he wrote, in 12 Lessons Learned While Marketing “The 4-Hour Body”:
Now, in 2011, Charlie works for me full-time as my “Director of Other.” This is something like a Director of Operations, but Charlie is also responsible for a diverse range of often unpredictable tasks.
Charlie’s initial email to Tim is quoted in full in the post: it’s a great example of reaching out to an A-lister to ask for an internship. (Note how much time Charlie spends making useful suggestions and offering his help: it’s only in the final paragraph of his email that he asks for the internship.)
An internship can be a fantastic first step in your online marketing career, especially if you’d otherwise have time on your hands, or if you want to get a foot in the door at a big company. Good luck!
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