Internships Matter

WeissingerAime Weissinger had to bring her best game to the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP) to which she applied last summer, but it paid off.

“Hundreds of students apply to the program which has a multi-step process with in-depth assignments,” said Weissinger, a Mandeville native who graduates this month with a degree in graphic design.

The application process involved essays, a creative assignment, recommendation letters, and a resume. After becoming a semi-finalist, Weissinger had to interview with a MAIP representative before becoming a finalist, at which point Digitas, the award winning globally-integrated advertising agency, chose her for their intern. Digitas, whose clients include American Express and Delta Airlines, is a MAIP member company and has about 60 employees in their Atlanta office.

In the end, Weissinger landed the internship, which paid $10 an hour plus overtime, came with free housing in a furnished apartment at Emory University, and provided her with MAIP mentors who showed her around Atlanta and shared career advice. After her supervisors got to see her work in action, Digitas flew Weissinger twice to their New York office last summer; once for an internship orientation and then again for MAIP graduation activities. And best of all, they offered her a job upon graduation at their New York office, which she accepted and will start this summer.

Good internships that pay, like Weissinger’s, are increasingly rare and highly coveted, specifically because they are often a foot in the door to great job opportunities such as the one this College of Art + Design graduate landed. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), internships are an integral and important part of the college recruiting scene for many corporations. The survey found that employers had expected to increase internship hiring by about 7 percent in 2012 and would draw approximately 40 percent of their new college hires for 2011 from their internship and co-op programs.

Not only does experiential education play a central role for companies recruiting employees from college campuses, it also allows students to see what various types of work in their field will really be like before they commit to that first job, even dispelling any illusions and helping students to refine their goals before graduation.

At Digitas, Weissinger says she learned how to work on a creative team, how to develop concepts for clients and how the various departments in an advertising agency work together. “My big project there involved art directing a direct mail piece,” she said, pairing up with a copywriter and following the project from start to finish, concept to distribution. “The whole creative team helped me grow as a professional and encouraged me to dream big.”

Graphic design junior Roland Parker, was dreaming big when he threw his hat in the ring for a paid internship this summer at the New York office of the advertising agency, Young and Rubicam (Y&R). The international advertising agency founded in 1923, is headquartered in New York and has about 16,000 employees with offices in more than 90 countries. Their interns are paid and their program is prestigious and highly competitive with more than 150 people vying this year for the spot that Parker recently discovered he had landed in their creative department.

“Expectedly, I was thrilled,” Parker said. “New York was where I had my eyes set, and the offer for a paid internship working in a renowned agency in Columbus Circle, just steps from Central Park made my year.”

Parker took the business of applying for his first internship seriously, sending out about 15 applications and beginning his search last fall. To expedite the process, he tailored a template cover letter he created for individual companies, and either submitted them by email or via the account he set up on Linked-in.com, which he said was the easiest and most efficient way to apply.

While he got a Skype interview and had an offer from the satire news organization, The Onion, within 48 hours, he only heard back from a handful of those companies to which he had applied. And it took two months to hear back from Y&R, he said, “But it was worth the wait.”

Had he not gotten any offers, Parker jokes, his backup plan was to “flip burgers and cry.” Joking aside, Parker’s real backup plan was to look for more of the freelance graphic design jobs he has been doing throughout his college career, and which he suspects were responsible in helping him get his summer job at Y&R. In addition to working at the Graphic Design Student Office (GDSO), Parker has also been a cartoonist for the The Daily Reveille, and a graphic designer for LSU’s Legacy Magazine, as well doing various freelance jobs for the School of Music at LSU and the LA Key Academy, a new school children with dyslexia. He has also done design, layout and illustration for three books.

“I think having a strong portfolio of extra-curricular projects made the difference,” Parker said. “I have gone through school knowing that my classwork is integral in refining my process, discipline, and experience with tools of the trade, but my professional worth, and more importantly, sense of fulfillment will come from outside gigs.”

Parker will work for 10 weeks in the creative department at Y& R where, in addition to his job responsibilities and daily exposure to industry professionals, he will attend weekly seminars given by speakers from various advertising functions at Y&R New York.  Interns at Y&R also work on a special summer internship project, which they will present to a panel for review toward the end of the internship period.

Architecture students Emma Greenberg and Kirk Edward Oldenburg II were pleased to find they would have internships this summer working on historic building survey with the National Park Service this summer, competitive government positions available by applying online. Oldenburg, a third year graduate student, said the internship, based in Washington, D.C. at the Department of the Interior, with a project site in Boston, pays “very well” and will involve travel from D.C. to Boston for about a week and a half for on-site research and documentation. The entire program will last three months, with the possibility of employment afterwards, as Oldenburg will have graduated. Oldenburg will complete Historic American Building (HABS) and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documentation for the National Park Service Heritage Documentation Program. His project site is an old chain and forge warehouse, known as Building 105, in Boston that provided more than six million pounds of anchor chain for navy ships and submarines over a 60 year period. He will work with licensed architects and engineers as well as historians to fully document the extent of the building’s history and construction,” he says, adding that numerous classes in the College of Art + Design have prepared him for the job, including Materials and Methods, Structures, and Architectural History. “I must be able to go into the building and have a general idea of how it is constructed, why it is constructed the way it is, and knowledge of the tools required to fully document our findings,” he said.

In the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, students Allie Davis, Alex Ochoa, Ryan Benton, Sean Passler, and others will be interning this summer at firms in New York, Boston and Houston, among cities across the country. Visit the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture’s dedicated blog where students have been posting weekly on their spring internships at http://rrslainterns.blogspot.com.