Q. I’m a college sophomore looking for a paid agency summer internship. I’m running into brick walls or getting no responses from major agencies. Am I seeking something impossible? -LS
A. Paid internships at major agencies have migrated to college graduates, not undergrads. This was driven by the weak economy and plethora of candidates. In addition, this is a bit early to be seeking a summer internship. Most agencies fill openings on an as-needed basis, and they won’t seriously begin making reviewing resumes and making hiring decisions until spring.
As the economy improves, the possibility of undergrads landing paid internships will increase–but it will remain difficult for the next few years, especially at major agencies that expect interns to hit the ground running. Gone are the days when interns join an organization to observe and provide a pair of extra hands when needed. Most are billable within the first week of joining a firm, which underscores the need to pick up experience wherever possible. Undergraduates should focus on any type of internship that builds their resumes. Sadly, unpaid is most likely to be the case between your sophomore and junior year, although paid undergrad internships are more prevalent at smaller agencies, associations and nonprofits.
Read the job descriptions closely and don’t waste your time replying to jobs that require degrees. Unless you have 13 internships dating back to high school (yes, there is such a resume in circulation), you should focus on positions that don’t require a degree.