Don’t Have Your Girlfriend Call Me

It’s always internship season somewhere; either it’s a class requirement, or continuing education project, or a summer of figuring out what you want to do. In any case, applying for an internship should be approached like applying for a job, and being an intern should be taken seriously. First impressions matter and when the mentor you are interning for is giving you an insider’s look at the industry, the least you can do is be professional.


I received a call from someone I assumed to be a potential client. Her voicemail said, “Hi, I got your number from Adam. Apparently you photographed his wedding? Can you call me back? 416-555-5555.” She didn’t leave her name. She didn’t tell me why she was calling. I assumed maybe she needed a wedding photographer, and phoned her back.
It turns out she was a student of one of my clients. She was calling to see if her boyfriend, a photography student at a downtown college, could intern for me. His end-of-term assignment was to job-shadow a photographer and write a paper on the experience. “It’s due in one week, so if you have a shoot before then that he could come to, that would be great. But he’ll probably have to get an extension.”

Here’s what runs through my head:

1) You’re a procrastinator. No college springs an end-of-term job shadowing paper on students one week before it’s due. You either haven’t been paying attention, or haven’t been looking very hard for an internship. If you can’t organize your time, why should I trust you with mine?

2) You’re lazy and/or unprofessional. Why is your girlfriend asking around for loose connections to photographers? Do your own leg work. There are people who work harder than you looking for jobs; I’ll hire one of them instead.

3) You need to grow up. This is not your mom arranging a play-date for you; you’re asking for a job – phone me yourself. Why should I help you if you’re not going to take this seriously?

Asking for an internship is essentially asking for a favour. You’re contacting a business, individual, or organization that functions perfectly fine without you, and asking to be brought on board and taught everything they know. You may have an awesome skill set, but you’re not necessary. A few thing to keep in mind:

1) Be polite and professional. Your first contact may be all you have to get your foot in the door. An email with typos will likely not get a second look. A voicemail without a call-back number will certainly not get called back. Send a link to any related work you’ve done to show your capacity to do the job you’re asking for.

2) Be respectful of their time. Saying something like “The program I’m in suggest a three-week placement. Is there a time between now and December when that would be convenient?” is much more respectful than “I need to have this done by the end of next week.”

3) Understand that most businesses are not waiting around for an intern. They may be creating a position or project just for you. This is a lot of work on their part, for your benefit. Appreciate that.

And it goes without saying that no matter how wonderful she is, you shouldn’t have your girlfriend call me.

Image Source: Wikimedia & Clemson
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