The Real Hunger Games: Summer internships


May might as well be known as “open season” for summer internships. Companies know very well that thousands of young people will have a lot more time on their hands with the spring semester ending. In fact, they depend on it. From August until spring, they have complete access to fresh-faced college students too eager to work for free. Meanwhile, the not-so-new grads who have enough sense to demand some compensation equivalent to a living wage are turned down because they can’t afford to pay them. I happen to play on the latter team, which is why I couldn’t help but think of THE HUNGER GAMES premise.

I feel like summer internships are similar to the epic battle faced by Katniss and friends, especially in the film and TV industries. Once a year, from May to August, companies are compelled to offer paid positions due to the fact that students aren’t as willing to exchange job experience for academic credit when they’re not in school. The floodgates have opened, folks! Let’s face facts: the intern IS the new entry-level position in today’s job market.

I just had a phone interview for a paid internship and it immediately brought back all of the nerves I felt approaching graduation almost a year ago. Yes, even after graduation, the job application process is just as stressful. Perhaps even more now that the grace period has expired about someone’s student loans. Out here in the “real world”, it feels as if it’s every indie for themselves. But why should it? We all have different aspirations and skills, so why do we fall for the idea that we’re pitted against each other in some epic postgrad employment war? It’s so much easier to build allies, instead of seeing everyone with a resume as a potential threat.

For example, I know my friends interested in working on film sets won’t be going after the film festival administration jobs I’m sweating over.  Why not help each other out? It’s really nice to have a support system in your corner. A friend and I once spent the summer hunting for jobs for each other in preparation for our semester internships in Los Angeles. If you’ve ever searched for internships in metropolis cities like LA or NYC, trust me, another set of eyes never hurts. I even noticed that my eyes seemed much sharper when I was looking for job postings outside of my field for someone else. For one thing, you don’t gloss over the same posts you’d see repeatedly if you were only job hunting for yourself. I’m not advising that you just pimp your peers as potential career counselors. We do also have to put in the individual effort for ourselves too.

In the post-college life, it’s too easy to be your own career services. If you have a Twitter or Facebook account, follow your favorite company’s profile. I’ve noticed a lot more jobs are posting openings as status updates and tweets since they are easier to share with potential candidates. This is a great benefit for any indie! Just have to keep your eyes peeled, especially this time of the month. My favorite Twitter handle lately has been @LAEntJobs (the full website is LosAngelesEntertainmentJobs.com). If the social networking sites are your thing, subscribe to you favorite organization’s weekly e-newsletter. Often they’ll post job listings there too. Endless job search databases give you a headache? Entertainmentcareers.com and idealist.org allow you to subscribe to daily and weekly updates on job listings, some even specified to your particular interests.

If you happen to be a graduating college senior, this is probably the best time to make an appointment with your campus career center to polish up that resume/cover letter. I remember wracking my brain, trying to spin undergrad production course experience into professional expertise for internship applications. Actually, I’m still doing that, except now it’s trading resumes/cover letters for proofing back and forth with my fellow grad friends. Bottom line, this is a looming monster of an industry we’re breaking into, but I’m confident that an informed indie makes an employed indie.

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