by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.As a college student struggling to make ends meet, would you have the courage to swear off typical college restaurant and retail jobs and commit yourself to career-boosting internships -- even unpaid internships? Rising Manhattan College senior Julie Davis did -- even after relocating from Florida to the far more expensive New York City.Marketing major Davis, 21, aspires to enter the music business. With four internships under her belt, additional hands-on experience while in high school, and a budding not-for-profit college radio promotions entrepreneurial venture to her credit, Davis could be characterized as already being in the music business."I've wanted to work in music as far back as I can remember," Davis recalls. "I've always had a love of music, mostly stemming from the obsessions my family had. As I got older being part of the music became more ingrained in me." Davis notes that she can "effortlessly give a timeline of my life based on the music I was into and mixtapes I made at each period."A native of Sunrise, FL, Davis began to truly get her feet wet in music at around age 15. "My brother decided he wanted to be a musician and start planning events, so I think I gained much of my interest in working in the industry from him pushing me to help with recordings and shows," Davis says. "From there I helped him set up a recording studio in my mom's house, and I started recording and managing my friends' bands. At that point I was doing anything and everything to keep working in entertainment -- planning high-school concerts, working with night clubs, programming at [radio station] WKPX and so on."WKPX is a non-commercial, educational radio station owned and operated by School Board of Broward County and located at Piper High School, which Davis attended. Her time there comprised a curricular activity in which she worked in various positions, some simultaneously for the full four years of high school -- as musical director for a year, music librarian for a year, a programmer for two and a half year years, and a specialty show hostess/co-hostess for three and a half years. Davis worked almost full-time at the station during her senior year. After graduation and her time at WKPX, Davis started college at a small private university in a much less lively area of Florida. "It was severely depressing," Davis says, "to start college in the middle of nowhere and have nothing entertainment-related to do. From the minute I started college, I was looking into internships, and there wasn't anything -- except for Disney Radio -- for me."Davis decided she wanted to spend a summer in New York with her dad and try for something there. "Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well," Davis laments. "I had a few phone interviews, but it's hard to rely on a person you don't know physically exists -- especially in entertainment. I couldn't land any jobs in New York for the summer.")."My main goal is getting quality music -- music that means something to someone -- heard while giving artists who are as passionate about music as I am a chance to shine," Davis says." The plan is to work with artists that have upcoming projects they'd like to share with the world, such as new albums, a major tour, etc. It's also giving me a chance to work on developing my web-design skills. I'd like to get a good site set up and create quality video presentations for media contacts as well as potential clients. I wanted to make a booklet, but I feel like this is much more economical and environmentally friendly. Right now I'm still working on spreading the word and getting established as a legal entity in New York, but I'm hoping to start consulting and promoting independent artists all over the country by the end of the year."Although Julie Davis' internship addiction has yet to be tested with post-graduation career success, her experience demonstrates a number of lessons about internships:
- Students will generally obtain more career-propelling learning from internships related to their future paths than they would from working for money in the type of low-level service jobs in which college students often work.
- While it make take resourcefulness and persistence to obtain internships, they are quite possible to get with some effort.
- Even paid internships are attainable. But if you can't find a paid internship, remember Julie Davis. If she could manage in expensive New York City on an unpaid internshop, maybe you can find a way to manage.
- Remaining open to to internships a bit outside the realm of your immediate career plans will enable you to expand your skillset and your network.
- Employers increasingly hire experience, even in new grads, and the more internships you have, the more experience and accomplishments you have to list on your resume.
- With the right attitude -- like Davis's -- you can find silver linings even in disappointing internships.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.