My sister, Alisha Sahay, has completed five internships during her time at Barnard College in New York City. I sat down with her to talk about how she earned internships at companies like NBCUniversal and Viacom to help you gain insight on getting that first internship.
So…you’ve done five internships?! Are you an internship monster?
I suppose you could say so! I really just enjoy learning about various functions in media and seeing how content—whether it’s related to news or entertainment—are created, tailored, and distributed to audiences.
What was your first internship?
My first internship was during the spring of my sophomore year with NBCUniversal. I was a research intern with the Universal Kids network.
How did you come across that internship?
I heavily used LinkedIn jobs; every day during the fall semester, I would apply to maybe five or six spring internships in media. By the end of the semester, I had a whoooole bunch of cover letters in my “Career” folder on my laptop.
Why did you do a spring internship?
I’ve always been very proactive about my academics and career, and I wanted an early exposure to the media industry. I still think about this today—how I’m grateful I explored that interest early on. Additionally, as a New Yorker, I wanted take advantage of the countless employment opportunities around me. I also luckily had space in my academic schedule to accommodate an internship—as long as it didn’t affect my grades. (School comes first, and employers are aware of that as well!)
In general, I also believed that doing an internship during the school year would position me well in terms of experience and network for internships during the summer, which can be quite competitive.
What college activities helped your candidacy stand out for internships?
Definitely leadership positions in societies and clubs. I focused on attaining these positions in organizations relevant to the media industry. But really, any position where you can demonstrate your skills and leadership is helpful! All leadership positions allow students to gain a certain set of soft skills that can definitely be extrapolated and applicable to most internships (such as taking initiative, leading a time, or facing criticism/obstacle).
I’d advise other college students to find clubs that are relevant to the industry that you’re applying to. Or, find positions in clubs that are relevant to the function you’re interested in.
What do you think was the most attractive quality on your resume for that first internship at NBCU?
At the time, I was an editor-in-chief at a publication at school, which demonstrated my strong interest in putting out content and thus media.
Additionally, I completed small projects, ranging from building a website for a small healthcare firm to devising business strategy. In spite of these different projects that weren’t necessarily internships or were clearly relevant to the internship, it demonstrated a keen tendency to take initiative and follow through with projects to completion.
I also made sure that multiple people reviewed my resume and gave me constructive feedback on both content and format. (Yes, little things like the spacing between your lines matter!)
But beyond the resume, I also spent time on crafting my cover letters, ensuring that employers could get a sense of why that company, why that position, and why me.
How did you get your second internship?
My second internship was also at NBCUniversal as a research intern, but this time with a different network. The process of getting this internship was more straightforward; since I had already worked there, I was able to apply internally. At most companies, hiring recruiters usually follow-up with well-performing interns to see if they’d like to extend their internships.
How should students prepare for college internship interviews?
For any industry, definitely being familiar with the company’s leadership structure and presence in the news is key—what products have they released? What was the general response? What initiatives are they taking? Any new business strategy they’re implementing? With media internships specifically, it’s helpful to know about shows and content that the company is releasing.
Most importantly, employers want to see a genuine passion for the company’s content or products. (Of course, to demonstrate this passion, you should be knowledgeable about these things.)
How did you prepare for your first internship interview?
Being that my first internship was a research position, I had to refresh my memory on quantitative exercises; specifically, how data can be visualized in the most aesthetically yet concise way possible. I also brushed up on my Excel skills; I went through all the key functions of Excel to make sure I knew how they worked, and I watched YouTube videos on anything I was confused about.
The last and most important step was knowing what was on my resume and being able to talk about each experience in-depth, beyond what’s written on that piece of paper.
How did you get your latest internship at Viacom?
This one was a little different. In addition to honing my resume and cover letter, I spent a lot of time talking with Viacom employees to learn more about the company and its various functions. A referral was helpful here, but this is the case with any internship with which you hope to move forward in the hiring process.
Do you have any final advice to college students looking for internships?
I have many pieces of advice:
Keep applying to places and don’t let rejections discourage you!
Tailor your resume and cover letter specifically to the company that you’re applying to.
Take the time to research companies you’re interested in.
Make use of your college’s alumni network and LinkedIn connections to talk to people who have worked at those companies.
Keep your LinkedIn up to date and continue to connect with others in your field of choice.
It's not easy to balance coursework with a job search during college. But as shown by Alisha, the right amount of research, networking, and preparation can help you land a good internship in college.
Rohit is a software engineer, entrepreneur, and investor with a passion for helping others advance in their career. He interviews experts across different industries, researches job market trends, and provides career advice at every step of the job search process.