6 unsolicited tips for students applying for an internship

I help run my company’s internship program for our office. Each season, I’m amazed at what I see in terms of resumes, cover letters, emails, etc. Each season I keep a list (for myself) of some of the crazy things students do to hurt their chances of getting an internship – all of which could be avoided!

So, this semester, I’m doing something about it. I’m sharing some tips for students (or really anyone applying for a job) when applying for an internship. Really, these are things to AVOID when applying for a job. And yes, I’ve seen all of these things in the past few years.

6 unsolicited tips for students applying for an internship:* (*I’m not an HR professional or a hiring professional or a spokesperson for my company – these are just tips in my opinion)

  1. If you can, personalize your initial outreach. If the document says to send your resume and cover letter to Melissa Koski, please send it to Melissa Koski. Not “hiring manager” or “whom it may concern.”
  2. If you personalize your outreach, spell the person’s name right! If the document says to send your resume and cover letter to Melissa Koski, please send it to Melissa Koski. Not “Malissa Koski” or “Melissa Kosky” (how did you spell my email address melissa.koski correctly??) 2b: spell the company’s name right. Just as important. And yes, people spell the company’s name wrong all the time.
  3. Personalize your outreach, but don’t make it obvious. I understand you’re applying for multiple jobs and multiple internships. I was once in your shoes. But please don’t send a cover letter with everything in one font and size, and the company name and my name in a different font and size.
  4. Take a little time to apply for the position. Don’t send a blank email with your cover letter and resume simply attached. At the very least, you can write “attached is my cover letter and resume” or simply copy your cover letter into the body of the email! A blank email says to me “I don’t care about this job enough to spend the time writing one sentence.”
  5. Proof your document – but don’t show me you proofed it. Hopefully all of the above can be avoided by a simple proofing of your resume, cover letter and email. Read it aloud! Read it backwards! Have someone else read it! But, don’t keep track changes on in your document and show me how your teacher/mom/friend edited your cover letter and resume. I’m glad you had someone take the time to read it – but you don’t need to prove it. (Again, yes, I’ve gotten documents showing track changes).
  6. If you’re applying for a job where you’ll use social media, share your experience with social media – but don’t overshare. Do you include a link to your LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter account on your resume? Awesome! I LOVE to see that. It shows me you’re fluent with some of the social tools we use in our industry. But please please PLEASE make sure you’re censoring your profile first. What does this mean? Don’t include a link to your Twitter profile on your resume if all you’re tweeting about is parties, drinking (are you even 21?), skipping journalism class and hating Ohio.
There are so many more tips I could share and things to avoid, but I’ll save that for another time. In the meantime, if I haven’t scared you off, and you’re interested in working with me this fall as a PR intern, send a resume and cover letter by August 7 to melissa.koski@fahlgren.com, indicating “Cleveland Fall Internship” in the email subject line.

A Series of Unfortunate Travel Adventures

Over the past month, I have traveled more than usual. And that’s putting it lightly – I was on a plane 9x (and it should’ve been 11 except 2 flights were cancelled), spent 40 hours driving in road trips, and spent 9 nights sleeping in beds that weren’t my own (no, not in that way.. I’m talking hotel rooms, condos, etc.) That may not sound like a lot for you veteran travelers, but this was after 2 months of no travel at all and before that it was just a trip home for Christmas. With all of this travel time, I’ve had some funny/crazy/frustrating experiences (let’s say a bout of bad luck) – all of which could not be explained in one blog post.

This post, then, will serve the purpose to share with you some customer service stories – and 2 lessons.

Customer service reps do not always know what they’re talking about: On one flight, I had two legs to get to my final destination. When I booked the flight on Continental.com, it appeared I was on two Continental flights. But when I went to check in for my flight, it showed that my first flight was Continental, and the second was United. And of course, I was unable to check into the United flight. So after calling Continental, and being told I had to call United (yes, they are soon to be the same company), I was put in touch with a customer service rep who clearly didn’t know how to help me. His solution for not being able to check in? During my 50 min layover in Houston, leave the secure gate area and check in at the United check in counter – and then go through security again and catch my flight. Ridiculous? Yes. Plausible during a 50 minute layover where I had to dash from one end of the airport to the other? Not at all. When I asked “Charles” if he’d ever been to the Houston airport, he said “Oh yes … this is very doable.” Did I listen to “Charles”? Of course not. I ended up being able to check in to my United flight when I arrived at the airport for the first leg of my trip. Did I still have to make a mad dash across the airport? Yes.  But if I had listened to Charles, I probably would’ve missed my flight.

Patience, when it comes to customer service, really does pay off: On one trip, after my hotel room was mysteriously cancelled (I found out the night before my stay and the other hotel rooms were booked due to high school basketball games in the area), I then somehow ended up with two different hotel rooms, booked with hotels.com. Of course I couldn’t be in two places at once, so I called hotels.com to explain the mishap and get the same hotel room for 2 nights. After waiting 35 minutes for my call to be answered, I was told by the first rep that they could not cancel my hotel room, because the reservations had been made more than just a few minutes ago … I explained to him that the reservations had just been made – but I’d been on hold for more than a half hour. So he put me on hold as he “tried to connect with the hotel.” When he came back 15 min later, I was told that he was unable to reach the hotel, because the reservations department at the hotel had already closed for the day and I’d have to try back tomorrow – at which point there would be a charge for the room because it was the same day. At this point, many would’ve given up. But not I. I was determined to take advantage of hotels.com’s free cancellation policy an get the hotel room that I needed.

So after the first call to hotels.com (yes there was another), I called the hotel and was put in touch with the reservations department right away. They told me that they had not been contacted by hotels.com and they were open for 24 hours.  They said they’d happily cancel my room if they got the confirmation paperwork from hotels.com. So I called hotels.com back, and waited another 40 min for my call to be taken. This time, the woman told me she was unable to confirm with the hotel because nobody was answering the phone. I assured her that they were, indeed answering their phone and were waiting for her call, as I had just spoken with them. So I was put on hold again as she tried to reach them. When she returned, the hotels.com rep then told me that she had spoken with somebody but their phone kept hanging up on her so she was unable to get their fax number. Of course, I had gotten their fax number so I gave it to her – to which she said she needed to physically speak with someone. After this went on for some time (each time she “tried” the hotel I was put on hold for 5-10 min), I finally told her I would be happy to call the hotel on my other phone and put them on speaker phone  so the could communicate directly. She responded that she would try again and see if their phone was working again. Then, she came back and said she had spoken with the hotel and they would not be able to cancel my room, because it was part of a larger reservation, for 5 rooms, and they had to be cancelled all at once. I luckily had asked the hotel about this – and told her what they had told me, that it was no issue at all to just cancel my room. So I waited another 10 min while she “talked over the issue with the hotel.” Sure enough, she came back and the situation was taken care of and I would receive the refund.

I nearly screamed for joy at the end of this saga. I had won the battle of customer service! But did I really win? I had started my calls/inquiries to solve the hotel problem at 5:00 p.m. and got off the phone with hotels.com at 7:30 p.m.  I had lost 2.5 hours of my life just so my client wouldn’t have to pay $150 for a hotel room that  I did not need. Was it worth it?

PS – I will never use hotels.com again.

Social Media For New Year’s Resolutions – Part Three: Using Social Media to Go Green

Is 2010 the year you’re going green? Have you vowed to help the environment, start recycling more, use reusable grocery bags, drive a hybrid car, etc? If that’s the case, then social media can help. Social media offers a variety of resources that help you make greener choices, find environmentally friendly solutions and meet like-minded environmentally conscious folks.

Some places to check out if going green is your goal for the new year:

Bringing new meaning to reduce, reuse, recycle

Freecycle: Hate throwing out things? Wish you could find someone who needed your old stuff? You’re not alone – the Freecycle Network is for you. It’s a grassroots movement of people throughout the world who are donating and receiving stuff for free in their hometown. Freecycle is an online community of more than 4,800 groups and nearly 7 million people worldwide, all devoted to recycling and “keeping good stuff out of landfills.” To join in the movement, go to freecycle.org, type in your location, and the site will take you to local group’s homepage (sponsored by Yahoo Groups) where you can browse current listings of free stuff or post your own.

Making greener choices throughout your life

Sustainablog: So you made the commitment to living a greener lifestyle. But where do you even begin? If you’re looking for information on how to make your home or business more sustainable, Sustainablog provides a huge database of products designed to help you live a greener lifestyle, including products in or a variety of different categories, such as home & garden, bed & bath, health & fitness, eco child, clothing, cleaning and food. Sustainablog has it all – where else would you be able to find eco friendly staplers, green bedding, eco laundry products and a fair trade basketball all in one place?

Get informed and take action

Treehugger is another great resource if you’re looking to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s a green news site with daily newsletters, blogs, videos, an online community and more. If going green is a completely new concept for you, visit Treehugger to get educated on all the issues and trends, from green fashion to sustainable energy. Nielsen rated the site the best sustainability blog in 2007.

Connect with people, organizations and causes

Care2 is an online community devoted to those who want to make a difference in the world. The site has four main sections: causes and news (with info about causes such as global warming, animal welfare, etc.), healthy and green living, take action (where you can find causes that need volunteers, create and sign petitions) and an online community. If you’ve decided to live a more sustainable lifestyle this year, consider joining this social networking site to learn about what you can be doing and meet others with similar goals.

And there’s more:

Not satisfied yet? Here are some other sites to check out:

Terrapass: site provides tips on how to stop global warming by reducing your carbon footprint. The website even has a cool carbon footprint calculator.

WikiaGreen: Launched by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, WikiaGreen is an open-source online community for the environmentally conscious. Think of it as the Wikipedia for green-minded people, with its content written from an environmental focus and featuring a call to action.

Skin Deep Cosmetic Database: Very specific site, but one of my favorites. One of my best friends from college showed me this site – it provides a database of all the cosmetics, creams, lotions, etc. that you could use and ranks them by how many chemicals they have, testing on animals, etc. You can search by product, ingredient or company and learn more about if the makeup you’re using is just as sustainable as you think!

Using Social Media to Be Charitable in 2010: A Case Study

Case In Point: Haiti Hurricane Relief

To better illustrate how you can use social media for your charitable goals, I thought it’d be a good idea to highlight social media and its involvement with the recent hurricane relief in Haiti. The situation is a perfect example of how social media is connecting people to a cause they’re interested in. Here’s how:

Twitter: The number of organizations using Twitter to spread the word of relief efforts is too high to count. A good example – the Red Cross.  According to Nielsen, the Twitter account for the Red Cross has gained more than 10,000 followers since the earthquake (as compared to its usual growth of 50 to 100 per day). The Red Cross continues to tweet about how people can help out. Its biggest campaign, a texting fundraiser (a user texts HAITI to 90999 and a $10 charge as a donation is added to your phone bill), has been highly successful. Within a week of initiating the campaign, more than $8 million was raised for relief efforts via this texting campaign.

President Barack Obama is even using Twitter to help raise awareness. In his supposedly first tweet ever, President Obama sent a message from the Red Cross’s disaster operation center. (Note: I’ve gotta give the Red Cross more kudos – they also have a blog, an online newsroom, and in addition to using Twitter are involved on Facebook, Flickr and YouTube)

Musician Wyclef Jean (born in Haiti), among other celebrities, is also using texting and Twitter to raise money. Right after news of the earthquake hit, Wyclef tweeted to his nearly 1.4 million followers: “Please text ‘Yéle’ to 501501 to donate $5 to Yéle Haiti. Your money will help with relief efforts. They need our help.” This message was retweeted in the days following (and is still being retweeted!), along with a Twitter video he posted about relief efforts. “Yele” was even on the top of Twitter’s Trending Topics list at one point.

Facebook: The Red Cross is not alone in its Facebook efforts. The Causes application has helped users donate funds to the relief effort. According to CNET, Joe Green, founder of Facebook Causes, posted a video of the destruction in Haiti. The Causes page also provides links to donate as well as a ranking of the members who have shared the video the most. The Oxfam American group is raising awareness about relief efforts and helping people donate. They had had 117,000 fans at the start of the week of the 18th and as of that date the group’s Cause application had raised more than $110,000 for the Haitian quake relief.

Craigslist: The site posted a list of relief organizations, mentioning (in addition to Oxfam and Red Cross) Doctors Without Borders and CARE.

Donate photo courtesy Flickr user Mindful One. Some rights reserved.

Social Media For New Year’s Resolutions – Part Three: Using Social Media to Help Others

*Note* This entry is part three of my blog posts in the 2010 series, Social Media For New Year’s Resolutions, as explained in this post.

So you’ve made a resolution this year to help others – good for you! You’re not alone, either. E-Philanthropy is on the rise (it grew 4% in 2008 and is growing each year) and it’s no surprise why – social media provides nonprofits, charities and other organizations or causes the ability to tap into a large, focused and connected network. Whether it’s donating your money or your time, social media can help you connect with the charities and causes you’re looking for.

 

Some tools you may find useful:

Good search: If you’re anything like me, you use Google (or Bing if that’s your fancy) on a daily, nearly hourly, basis. Wouldn’t it be great if searching online actually helped someone out? It can – check out GoodSearch.com. A do-gooder friend of mine showed me this site in college, and I’m glad to see it’s still up and running. It’s easy too – you choose a charity you support, search the web as usual, and they donate to your cause each time you search. You can add a Good Search toolbar to your browser to make searching (and donating) even easier.

Facebook Causes: Facebook describes its Causes Application as such: “Causes provides the tools so that any Facebook user can leverage their network of real friends to effect positive change.” Causes is a Facebook app that allows nonprofits (any U.S. registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit or Canadian registered charity) to raise money and alert Facebook users about the issues facing their organization today. If you’re looking to use social media to directly learn about a cause, hear what your networks or saying and/or donate directly, I suggest you browse the causes available.

If you’re sick of Facebook, there are other social networking sites that you can use to show your support and talk with others about a cause. Check out Care2 and Change.org to learn about issues and raise money for the charity of your choice.

YouTube: YouTube is so much more than laughing babies and drugged children coming home from the dentist. [Check out my post entitled YouTube…Why You Should Take It Seriously for some proof] If you’re a visual learner, why not use YouTube to get involved with a charity?  If there’s a charity you’re particularly interested in, you can search YouTube to see what they say about themselves. You may learn something you didn’t know about them or find out about a new campaign. Or, check out the full listing of Nonprofits on YouTube and see which ones interest you. Some YouTube channels even let you donate to them right on their YouTube page via Google Checkout (see the pages of Autism Speaks and the ONE Campaign for examples).

Get Involved! There are some great sites that can let you know where help is needed and how you can help. Check out DoSomething.org and VolunteerMatch for an ever-growing list of local volunteer opportunities. Idealist.org also has a listing of volunteer openings, in addition to its record of paying jobs at non-profits.

Beware:

Because of the lowered transparency level that comes with social media, you’ve got to be careful about donating your money – you don’t want to be scammed. Never ever give your credit card information (or any other private info) to an organization or a cause you’ve never heard of – and always be wary of providing personal information you wouldn’t need to give out in real life (e.g. social security number, etc.). [Sidebar: Check out this post I wrote about a common Money Order scam on Craigslist] If something feels wrong, it probably is – trust your gut. The San Francisco Chronicle just did a nice piece on what to look out for when donating to Haiti relief funds, but the tips apply to all charities.

Speaking of Haiti relief funds, the use of social media for the recent Haitian hurricane relief is a great case in point. Stay tuned for a post about that!

Social Media For New Year’s Resolutions – Part Two: Using Social Media to Get More Sleep

*Note* This entry is part two of my blog posts in the 2010 series, Social Media For New Year’s Resolutions, as explained in this post.

Another popular New Year’s Resolution is to get more sleep.* It may seem counter-intuitive that social media can help you get more sleep; after all, doesn’t staying up and playing on the Internet actually prevent you from going to bed and getting that sleep you need? (Especially you – estivator – who commented on my resolution introductory blog post past midnight!) In reality, it may not. A recent study, as highlighted in this University of New Hampshire news release shows that social media use does not affect students’ sleeping habits — so why should it affect yours?

Not only does social media NOT hurt your sleeping habits, but it can actually HELP you get more sleep. Here’s how:

1.  Social media can provide the education you need to get more sleep: If you look carefully, there are plenty of sources of information about what exactly a good night’s sleep is, how to get it, etc. A good resource that I like is The Insomnia Blog, by Dr. Michael Breus, who also has a Twitter Account. Another informative sleep account to check out on Twitter is the Sleep Foundation.

2.  Social media holds you accountable! If you make it a goal for yourself to get more sleep and share this goal with others – wouldn’t you feel like you’re letting them (and not just yourself) down when you reported a failure? Take, for example, what Arianna Huffington from the Huffington Post and Cindi Leive from Glamour are doing – they’re taking their New Year’s Resolution to get more sleep to the next level by blogging about it and calling it the Sleep Challenge 2010.

Arianna introduces her challenge on her latest blog post (an excerpt of which I’ve included below):

As women, we make a lot of New Year’s resolutions — “lose 10 pounds” and “finally write that novel” and “lose 10 pounds — seriously.” But this year, the two of us (that’s HuffPost‘s Arianna Huffington and Glamour‘s Cindi Leive) are suggesting you make a New Year’s resolution that could improve the status of all women in this country, starting with you … If you ask us, the next feminist issue is sleep. And in order for women to get ahead in this country, we’re all going to have to lie down and take a nap …

We’re saying no to the zombie side of things and, as of January 4, resolving to get a full night’s sleep every night for a month … Inspired? Then join our one-month sleep challenge. We’ll be blogging on glamour.com and the Huffington Post every Monday and Thursday about how our quest for more sleep is going. You’ll get tips from health experts like Dr. Michael Breus and answers to some of your own personal questions about how to work more sleep into your life.

3.  Social media provides the tools you need to make sure you’re getting a better night’s sleep. I haven’t been able to look too deeply into any of these, but would love to check out:

  • Yawnlog: This site tracks the number of hours you sleep each night and charts your progress for you so you can look at patterns over time (and relate it to how you feel each day/week/etc.). It also lets you log and tag dreams. If you want, you can also use the site to see how many hours your friends are sleeping and what they’re dreaming about too.
  • iPhone Apps: There are so many cool apps for your iPhone (and hopefully soon, Droid!) to help you sleep better. The Sleep Cycle App (via LifeHacker) supposedly can tell how deep of a sleep you’re in so that you’re only awoken from a light slumber, therefore feeling more rested. A Good Night’s Sleep iPhone App (via iPhone Application List) provides a series of sounds and music for you to fall asleep to and also has a feature to “gently awaken users,” to ensure a “gradual, peaceful start to each day.”
  • Another new add-on for your iPhone: Check out the iHome+Sleep: This “social music alarm clock” was just announced at the recent CES. It’s an iPhone app that works with a whole new line of home music players. It has some really cool features, including “Sleep Cards,” which let you set different alarm templates with their own settings, such as certain settings for weekends, etc. Another cool feature for us social media geeks – you can wake up to your favorite RSS feed, or a list of what your Facebook and Twitter friends were doing during the night (thus allowing you to sleep soundly knowing you’re not missing anything!). Another way the iHome+Sleep helps you sleep better? According to Macworld.com, think of the product as “the Nike + iPod Sport Kit, except, you know, for sleeping.” Its unique feature, Sleep Stats, lets the user “view a running record of the times you sleep, naps you record, and average hours of bedtime and per-night sleeping. If you’re find yourself dragging and exhausted every now and then, this might be a great way to help track down a possible reason.”

If you find any other cool ways to use social media to help you get a better night’s sleep, let me know.

*Disclaimer: I work for a client in the sleep industry. While they’re not related to any of the services mentioned above, they still lead me to know of and want to stress the importance of a good night’s sleep!

Social Media For New Year’s Resolutions – Part One: Using Social Media for Weight Loss

*Note* This entry is part one of my blog posts in the 2010 series, Social Media For New Year’s Resolutions, as explained in this post.

I’m pretty sure that one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions each year is to lose weight. And while I give kudos to those who are trying to get healthy and better their lives, I can’t stand how crowded the gym gets this time of year! But enough with my rant – if you’re one of those people who uses January 1st as the time of year to get in shape, now that mid-January is here, you may find yourself slacking off. And you may not know – there’s more to getting in shape and losing weight than just diet and exercise. That’s right, in my non-medical view (disclaimer- I am in no means a weight loss/diet/exercise doctor or professional), social media can play a big role in your journey to getting fit.

Losing weight and getting in shape is all about motivation and accountability. Social media can help you with all of that. Here’s how:

  1. Social media is all about sharing. If you’re sharing your progress with people (whether it’s your workout, what you’ve eaten, or how much you weigh) you’re being held accountable and are then more likely to stick with your resolution.
  2. Social media helps you meet and connect with other people. If they’re trying to lose weight also, they can help provide motivation. You can motivate them – they can motivate you and you won’t feel so alone on your journey.
  3. There are so many cool social media tools out there that make counting calories, finding recipes, finding workouts, and everything else associated with weight loss both easier  AND funner! Here are some of my favorite tools, created specially for your journey to getting fit:

Dailymile is one of my favorite exercise-related sites [I’ve raved about it before in this post]. It’s an online community for people to share their fitness habits. I use it to track runs (it lets me map my runs, track them, etc.), ask questions of the community, participate in challenges to motivate myself, find races, see what other people are doing, etc. It also is integrated with Twitter and Facebook so that you can brag about your workouts inspire others. The site is relatively new and they keep coming up with new fun things to add to the site and inspire you. For example, they sent me this training report that sums up all of my 2009 runs. If that’s not motivation to do even better in 2010, I don’t know what is!

Sparkpeople is an online community for people trying to lose weight, get healthy, etc. You can join groups, challenges, find recipes, track your calories and food intake, find new workouts, track your exercises, track different goals, etc. There’s so much you can do here and it’s a great all-in-one tool for someone looking to eat healthier, workout more and lose weight.

Honorable mention – Nike Plus: I used to love my Nike+ – it was a small add-on that I plugged into my iPod and it kept track my runs. When I plugged in my iPod to my computer, it logged my runs for me online in the Nike+ community, which, like Dailymile, has challenges, reports, races, etc. My gripe? The tracking was inaccurate and inconvenient for me. I’m not sure why, but no matter how many times I synced my Nike+ up on a treadmill, it always ended up being a tenth of a mile or so off when I would run outside. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but when I was training for the half marathon, those tenths could add up to be whole miles! Also, I’d have to plug my iPod into my computer to get any data – and that’s not something I do on a regular basis and isn’t convenient for me to do on my phone, at a remote computer, etc. I also found it would lose my workouts every so often, and not let me manually log in anything (like I can do with Dailymile). I know lots of people who love the Nike+ community – so just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean you should give it a go!

Here’s a list of some other sites that people have found helpful – it’s a decent sized list from a few years ago, but many are still around.

In addition to using these sites, I’ve also found that many non-weight loss related social media tools can be helpful anyway. Here’s how:

Twitter: There’s a whole weightloss community on Twitter- just search for them! The most popular that I know of, #Twit2Fit, now has its own Ning site.

Foursquare: Just knowing that I can become the mayor of my gym motivates me to go there more! I’ve just recently joined this location-based social networking site, but I am already determined to log more visits at my gym than at Chipotle.

YouTube: I’ve found SO many exercise videos on YouTube. No kidding, but on some occasions you can find me in my basement doing yoga, per instruction from a YouTube video. Just look – it’s there!