A fun summer job AND valuable career experience? Yes, it’s possible!

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Grace and a coworker watched the sun rise over Lake Michigan on the last day of their summer job.

Written by Grace Smith, junior creative writing major and office assistant for the Career Center

Last November, I was in my junior year of college, in a major that doesn’t have obvious career prospects, and a desire to work in a highly competitive field. That is the life of a creative writing major who wants to work in the film industry. I needed to find ways to build up my résumé, make myself more marketable, and probably most importantly, gain experience in this daunting field.

I needed a job for the summer that was at least somehow related to the film and television industry. Except, here’s the thing. Internships in film and television are not abundant but are highly competitive, especially during the summer. Thousands of students, just like me only more qualified, are applying for probably a grand total of a few dozen internships. I applied for more than 30 internships, mostly at television networks and film studios. I didn’t care if I had to live in Los Angeles for a summer, paying a ton in rent and earning absolutely no money, making copies and getting coffee for semi-important people. I just wanted to do something—anything—related to my field. I did not want to waste another summer doing a job that wouldn’t help me at all in my career.

I was on a mission. Step Number One in that mission: Find Openings. I was an RA, and I had told my residents over and over again to go to the Career Center, and yet I never had. So, that was my first course of action. I left with pages of information, dozens of sites where I could look for internships and sample résumés. I had an action plan.

Step Number Two: Apply Everywhere and Often. Every single day I looked online for internships. I was not very selective. Anything that was remotely related to my field, anything that I had the tiniest amount of experience in, I applied for. I had copies of my résumé and cover letter, not just for each company, but for each individual position I applied for. I had to make a file on my computer to keep them all straight.

Step Number Three: Wait and Hope. This one was probably the hardest for me. I was never a patient person.

Step Number Four: Repeat Step Number Two. It was March now. Most of the positions I applied for were still open, so I had no reason to expect to get a call from any of them, but like I said, I was never a patient person. Finally, I remembered a site that I was told about in my months-before visit to the Career Center, which should have been my obvious first visit: JobTracks. A job searching database specifically for MSU students. Why hadn’t I visited before? I will be honest, though, when I did finally go to JobTracks in late March, it wasn’t with much hope. I figured it would mostly be jobs in and around Springfield, and what is here for people like me (a lot, apparently, but I learned that much later). But, still I looked. I was shocked to see that there were hundreds of jobs listed. Still, I thought to myself, there are probably no jobs for me on here. Still, I looked. And I saw this one job posting. It was for a Resident Assistant/Faculty Assistant at a film camp at Northwestern University, the National High School Institute. It was a job where I’d get to be an RA, which I had been for a year and loved, and I would get to work with a bunch of awesome young filmmakers.

I applied. Less than a week later, on March 31, I got an email asking if I could have a phone interview the next day. The following Tuesday I had a second interview on Skype. On April 15, I received a job offer.

This job ended up giving me one of the best summers of my life. I worked with 80 high school students who were all crazy smart and crazy talented. My coworkers were incredible. I even got to be a faculty assistant in the screenwriting classes. I’m a crier naturally, but the last day, when all the students left, I cried nonstop all day. My last morning, I sat on the beach of Lake Michigan with one of my coworkers and watched the sunrise (there is a picture on my Instagram to prove it), and I knew that summer would be one that I would not soon forget.

The experience that I gained working at NSHI was invaluable. The things I learned, the relationships I formed, the experiences I had. My job this summer was not just a really fun summer job. It was a learning experience. It was an opportunity to work with some really amazing people. And most importantly, it was a really fun summer job that gave me experience for my career, which is pretty much the most anyone can hope for.

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