Lauren Berger, founder and CEO of InternQueen.com and UCF alumna, spoke to students Tuesday afternoon about taking risks and putting yourself out there regarding internships and careers.
“Internships are mandatory in 2014. The employer you’re interviewing with isn’t going to ask where you worked, they’re going to ask where you interned,” said Berger.
If anyone would know about internships, it would be Berger herself who had 15 internships during her four years in college. Her ambition and resilience are things that set her apart from other students.
Berger started her college career at Florida State University because of the appeal of football games and partying, but after her mother called to tell her she needed an internship, she sought out FSU’s Career Services for help, where she was told that freshman don’t get internships and that she should come back when she was a senior.
Despite their discouraging advice, Berger went home and did the research herself. After cold calling the internship coordinator at the Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee, she landed her first internship with no experience at all.
“I felt like I could really relate to her situation because the only experience I currently have is working at Publix,” said Quinea Calloway.
What set Berger apart was her timeliness and perseverance. Instead of waiting to send her resume to the internship coordinator at the Zimmerman Agency, she sent it within 24 hours of the request, which immediately impressed the coordinator.
This was just the first of many times that Berger persevered, took a chance and landed something huge. Some of her other internships include FOX, NBC, MTV, Backstage Magazine and BWR Public Relations. She also did freelance writing for her dream job at US Weekly for her last two years in college.
Her friends gave her the advice to start a website that college students could use to find internships, because they found that other career websites like Monster.com could be intimidating and weren’t narrowed enough for internships.
Berger kept her friend’s advice in the back of her mind, but once it was time for her to graduate from UCF in 2006, she decided to pursue a career in Los Angeles instead.
She referred to getting a job as easy as ordering a burger at McDonalds, due to the experience and the connections she had made throughout her time in college.
She worked for the Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles for two years, but left and told her parents in 2009 that she was going to become the “Intern Queen.” Shortly after, she started InternQueen.com
Berger gave students lots of great tips that they can use, not only when looking for an internship, but when applying to jobs after college and keeping up with connections.
For example, two things that Berger said you need for an interview are a business suit and thank you cards. Instead of sending an e-mail follow up, buy a pack of thank you cards, hand write a quick note and send it to the employer. This makes you stand out and shows that you really do care about the position.
Berger also used a simple and funny phrase to remember in regards to staying in touch with business connections: Ralph Called Taylor A Flirt. The first letters of each word represent: Recognize, Connect, Track, Add Value and Follow Up, respectively.
She advises that you reach out to your business connections at least three times a year – in spring, summer and fall. Berger utilizes Google Alerts to notify her when her business connections have been promoted or been mentioned in the news. This way, she can bring up those points when she checks in with them throughout the year.
Not only should you be reaching out and connecting with your fellow employers to form connections around you, but also your fellow interns that you work with. These interns are the ambitious people who you can connect with later down the line too.
Finally, don’t be discouraged if you get rejected.
“You are going to get rejected for the rest of your life, whether that be from employers or boyfriends. I really let rejections propel me to the next thing,” said Berger.
Berger defines the overall moral of her story in one simple sentence. You have to go after opportunities.
“She really motivated me, especially because she’s from UCF. I’ll definitely be getting her new book,” said Bianca Dottin.
Berger has had one book published, “All Work, No Pay,” and will be releasing another book “Welcome to the Real World,” on April 22nd.
You can connect with her on LinkedIn.com and she encourages students to reach out to her with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org