Overly Obvious But Still Necessary Tips to Landing an Internship

Don't be this guy. Of course if you're young enough to be an intern, it's entirely possible you don't who this guy is. Sigh.

I’ve now been through the internship hiring process four times and have noticed the same trends keep popping up. Despite all the career training and resources offered, some students still seem totally unprepared for the interview or even the application process. And others completely shine.

So in the interest of saving everyone a little time and heartache, my list of the cardinal rules of internship applications and interviews that, unfortunately, are broken quite often:

Proofread everything. Cover letter, resume, writing samples, e-mails. I had one applicant misspell “business” in the first paragraph of her cover letter. For a writing job. At a business school. It even had the MS Word spell-check red squiggly underline.

Talk about ME. Well not me, but my company, my position I’m hiring for. You need to show off your own skills and personality too, but if your cover letter and interview answers say nothing specific about my internship, it comes off as if you’re just going through the motions.

Provide context. Don’t just drop in random work experience without explaining why it’s relevant to this job. If you’re submitting writing samples, please oh please I beg you, tell me what they’re from! It’s ok if it’s a class assignment–I just need to know what I’m reading.

Do research on yourself. If, during the interview, I realize I know your resume better than you, that’s a bad sign. Bring a hard copy with you for reference if necessary. Spend time beforehand reviewing your work history, class assignments, past challenges and successes, etc. especially as they might relate to this job.

Do research on us! Our internship is a writing position that contributes to our news blog and alumni magazine. Both are easily found on our website, and I expect you to have looked at them.

Check your e-mail. I know that’s so old-fashioned, but you’re not going to get an interview request via text or Facebook, so check your e-mail regularly. If you haven’t responded to me within 2-3 days, I start to doubt your interest.

Read instructions carefully. If you don’t submit the proper application materials or complete the writing test as instructed, that’s pretty much a guaranteed ticket to the “no” pile.

Be interested and show a little effort. The intern we just hired had less experience than other applicants, but she displayed the most passion and enthusiasm for both the job and the organization. Her cover letter demonstrated she did her homework on the organization and paid attention to the job description. She was prompt, engaged and professional in all her communications with us. And of course she had the talent and skills to back everything up.

Finally, hang in there. Keep applying. Keep networking. Keep being amazingly talented and connected to your field. I know it’s tough looking for a job. I did it for a year and a half after graduating! I apologize for companies that never respond to you, even if it’s just to tell you thanks, but no thanks. But hang in there.

Oh, and don’t ask if the internship is going to be a waste of your time and then lecture the hiring manager about being unprofessional.

Also check out Todd Defren’s Open Letter to Millenials for more great tips.

Social Media Protesting and Arizona’s Immigration Bill

"alto arizona" arizona police state

Images from Facebook pages protesting Arizona's SB1070 immigration law.

Arizona’s controversial immigration bill, SB1070 was just signed into law last Friday, but its social media footprint has already been firmly established. 

Search “SB1070” on Facebook, and you’ll find 37 Pages, 89 Groups and 55 events (each with their own branding, of course) dedicated to the new law, both for and against it. The term has its own Twitter hashtag. There are dozens of YouTube videos showing protests and news clips of politicians and pundits debating the bill. You can even buy a “Do I Look Illegal?” t-shirt on Cafe Press.

I expect to start seeing bumper stickers and front-yard picket signs pop up around Tucson soon, but it has been fascinating to see the speed at which social media protests and rallies are created and spread. I’m curious to see how it translates to offline behavior.

Will the online calls for boycott really hurt the Arizona economy? Will social media advocacy campaigns look for civil rights abuses or have an impact on efforts to overturn the law? Will state politicians or law enforcement agencies respond to social media comments or even start their own outreach online?

Social media protests didn’t save Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show job, but it did help sell out his comedy tour in a matter of hours and certainly played a big part in the court of public opinion. And as much as I love Conan, illegal immigration is a much more important issue, so theoretically the power of a social media movement is far greater here.

UPDATE: It looks like this is spilling over to higher ed, too. Lane Joplin tweeted this morning about the immigration debate landing on Arizona State University’s Facebook Page:

People started posting immigration-related messages on ASU’s wall on Sunday, many of them filled with profanity and name calling. No response yet from the university.

What Julia Sugarbaker Taught Us About Writing

I was so sad to wake up this morning to the news of Dixie Carter’s death. I loved watching her on Designing Women when I was a kid–I even went through a phase where I was sure I’d be an interior designer. Her portrayal of a sophisticated, intelligent and feisty Southern woman was hilarious and touching. And of course she certainly had a way with words.

I know these are speeches, but they were words on a page first. and I think Julia’s many rants actually hold some good lessons for any kind of writing. In honor of one of the great television characters of my childhood (and one of my favorite female characters ever), let’s look at what makes Julia’s tirades so memorable:

  • Passion – if you can’t get excited about your subject, no one else will.
  • Details – “…12,000 people jumped to their feet for 16 and one-half minutes of uninterrupted thunderous ovation as flames illuminated her tear-stained face.” Tell it, girl! The way Julia paints a picture, I almost felt like I was in the audience at that fictional Georgia beauty pageant.
  • Narrative arc – Julia reels her listener in, steadily builds up, smacks you over the head with a dramatic climax and slams the door on your face with an unforgettable ending. A master storyteller, even when–or perhaps especially when–she’s not pleased with you.
  • Plain language – Julia is an intelligent, wealthy business owner, but her vocabulary isn’t clouded with grandiose fluff. She chose her words carefully and uses them to maximum effect. She doesn’t try to sound impressive and powerful, she just is.

RIP, Dixie.

Out of the Ordinary Things I’ve Done Since Moving to Tucson

One of the things I’ve been struck by since moving to Tucson is how a change of scenery forces you to do things you’ve never even considered before. I knew life would be different here, but I didn’t take into account how the fact of living in a new city and meeting a whole new set of people would bring with it an entirely different set of options than what I was used to in Austin. If people still said “No duh,” now would be an appropriate moment to use it.

Anyway, I decided I wanted to remember these new experiences and lessons and feelings, but I’m too lazy to write about all of them. Instead I return to my dear friend, that little engine of writing–the list!

So, in no particular order, and to be updated regularly:

Out of the Ordinary Things I’ve Done Since Moving to Tucson

  • Completed a 15-mile mountain bike ride on a desert (read: cactus-lined) course with a series of hills called The 7 Bitches
  • Went salsa dancing. In a Halloween costume.
  • Watched a bellydancer backed by a Middle Eastern band
  • Adopted a dog named Maeby
  • Played in the snow
  • Attended a gallery opening of Andy Warhol photographs, complete with live go-go dancers
  • Used my bike for transportation
  • Learned about the horrendously unorganized adoption system in Ethiopia (via others – not our own experience!)
  • Drove two hours just to go to IKEA
  • Ate In-N-Out
  • Tried a Sonoran hot dog
  • Participated in a Moulin Rouge sing-along not at Alamo Drafthouse
  • Saw a javelina
  • Had tofu for the first time. And liked it.
  • Started a photo blog
  • Collected fall leaves
  • Basically gave up shopping
  • Realized UT’s football stadium is just insanely nice for a college facility
  • Felt old
  • Worked on a Habitat for Humanity home
  • Got a tattoo
  • Sold something on Etsy
  • Experienced a dust storm
  • Drooled over the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen

Making Time for Creativity Every Day

Maybe I’m still on a SXSW-inspiration high, or it’s just because I finally finished Anne Lamott’s excellent book on writing and creativity, Bird by Bird, but I decided to start a new project that builds regular creativity into my life.

It’s the Photo 365 Project: My life in pictures. Every day.

And it’s exactly what it sounds like. Every day for the next year, I’ll take at least one photo and post it online. It’s a chance to practice photography, pay more attention to the world around me, force me to think and act creatively and chronicle my life. I know it will be a challenge, but it’s one I find exciting. And if you include my phone, I have 4 different cameras, so I really have no excuse to ever not take a picture. Visit my photo blog to track my progress.

Here’s today’s picture – a shot of my collection of vintage printing blocks. Aren’t they beautiful? I like that taking this photo reminded me of how much I love them.

I must give a plug to the wonderful WordPress theme I’m using for the project: AutoFocus. It’s free, gorgeous, super easy to use and built specifically for photo blogging. I highly recommend it!

Interested in starting your own Photo 365 project? Check out these blogs for great tips on how to make it work: Photojojo | Digital Photography School | Shutter Sisters

16 Things I Love About Baseball

I used to think the first line of our national anthem was “Jose can you see,” because we sang it at Astros games and their star player was Jose Cruz.


  1. Craig Biggio.
  2. Singing. What other sport gets 30,000 people to stretch their legs in the middle of a game and join in chorus to sing about snacks, rooting for your team and never going home? Take me out to the ballgame, indeed.
  3. Food. If it was important enough for the song, it’s important enough for my list. Nothing beats a beer and a hot dog on a sunny afternoon at the ballpark.
  4. Wooden bats. I’m looking at you, college baseball.
  5. Clapping for the fan who catches a foul ball.
  6. Passing your money down the row. Passing the beer/hotdog/cotton candy back.
  7. At-bat songs. Penetrating glimpse of a player’s psyche or just something he picked off his iPod?
  8. Loyalty. Jeff Bagwell was with the Astros for about 57 years. Biggio for roughly 120. They are beyond beloved by the city of Houston. I know this is getting less common, but I feel like baseball has more long-term franchise players than other sports, and it makes a team feel very special for the fans.
  9. The witty, snarky old men who hassle the umps and opposing players at UT games. 
  10. Minor League shenanigans.
  11. Friday night fireworks. This has become a post-game tradition at multiple ballparks, and next to the 4th of July, it’s about as Americana as you can get.
  12. First-base chats between players on opposing teams.
  13. The thrill of extra innings.
  14. Spring Training. My mom and I went to Astros, Braves and Dodgers Spring Training games for spring break my senior year of college, and it was one of my favorite experiences ever.
  15. Dozing off for a few innings when you’re watching a game on TV. It’s the perfect white noise.
  16. A perfectly executed double play.

Photo by Matt McGee

5 Big Takeaways from SXSW 2010 (And 5 Cool Web sites)

I wrote about my general impressions of this year’s SXSW Interactive (hey, people are pretty cool!) and posted recaps of some of my favorite sessions. To finish off my 2010 SXSW blogging, here are my 5 big takeaways. They’re all pretty common sense, but they are themes that kept popping up, and I’m happy to have the reminder.

People need understanding and connection, not just information.
If all you’re doing is blasting your community with content, you–and your audience–are missing out. Both the Future of Context and How to Spark a Movement panels beautifully explained this point. Help someone truly undersand something, connect your community members with each other and unite people around a common mission. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

Think Visually
Three of the best sessions were about this. Dan Roam’s Why Words Won’t Work explained that we’re all visual thinkers, and pictures are key to solving problems. Interactive Infographics showed off how data can come to life if the visualization is done well. And they pointed out that infographics have gone mainsream: How I Met Your Mother uses them regularly (Marshall even needed a charts and graphs intervention because he was using them so frequently) and comedians like Demetri Martin use visualiztions in stand-up. In other words, infographics are cool.

And Visual Note-Taking 101 was the perfect primer and call to action for all of us budding artists.

Stories are powerful
Storytelling, experiences, journey, quest – whatever label you use, a narrative arc is going to resonate with people. Read the rest of this entry »

Dinosaur to Digital: A Museum Convergance Success Story (SXSW Recap)

This session’s description of itself best sums it up: a case study on how the California Academy of Sciences – a traditional museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park — transformed itself into a global online education and research presence and integral social hub for the City, using the best tools and techniques of technology, social media and design.

Jonathan Denholtz, the museum’s director of interactive media and Maria Gidudice, a designer who consults with the museum, explained how they transformed an “150-year-old dusty institution into an organization that’s committed to experiential 21st century learning.”

Sound familiar, higher education friends? 

Their approach covers 4 main phases of a museum visitor’s experience:

  • Inspire (pre-visit)
  • Enhance (during)
  • Extend (post-visit)
  • Export (the virtual experience)

Unfortunately Denholtz and Gidudice were a little too giving with the crowd, so audience questions took over the session and we didn’t hear about the museum’s in-depth approach in each of these areas. But even without that it’s a thoughtful example of a way to frame your audience.

Here’s what they did get to:

Inspire (pre-visit)

  • 70 percent of a museum’s revenue comes from the admissions gate. This is good during the first year, but more challenging as traffic levels off.
  • CAS uses the web, mobile, social media and hybrid exhibits
  • Segmenting the audience
    -CAS uses social media to target 20-30 somethings to publicize Night Life – Thursday evening parties where you pay $12 for a DJ and dancing at the museum. They also sell drinks. Attract 3,000 people every week.

Enhance (during the visit)

  • How do you focus on an experience and not just information?
  • Audio tours for CAS haven’t been super successful. Now they’re trying downloadable tours built around specific themes. Connects different exhibits while giving people a reason to come back multiple times.
  • Look at user-generated vs. curated content
  • What is the epic win for the user?

Export (virtual experience)

  • The museum can only hold 2 million visitors annually, so how can they reach more people?
  • Your Web site can be more than just an information repository. Create new, compelling content that keeps people coming back.

Photo by Kevin Dooley

How to Spark a Movement (SXSW Recap)

Scott Heiferman – founder of www.meetup.com

This solo presentation from Scott was the last session on Saturday, and it was the perfect way to cap off my first day. He did a terrific job of infusing his talk with both enthusiasm and practicality:

There are people everywhere looking to connect. He showed a screenshot of a girl named Erin writing on Invisible Children’s Facebook page, asking if there was anywhere near her in Chicago who would like to do something for the movement together. “Erin’s are everywhere!” he proclaimed. Referred to Erin throughout presentation.

A movement=big change! People identify themselves with it: I’m an… environmentalist, feminist, evangelical

“History of the world is defined by what happens when people meet up.”

You go to a movement’s Web site and it says “Watch us! Download us! Friend us! Follow us!” User thinks “What about ME?”

Many movements suffer from the illusion of engagement. So you signed our pledge – so what? It’s easier than ever to have pseudo-followers, but…

Followers are great if you’re starting a cult, or a dictatorship, or an autocracy.

How to engage followers?

  • Distribute responsibility, not just info or tasks.
  • Get people to self-organize and connect
  • Watch what happens when people connect and share stories.
  • On Meetup, people use “Let’s” in their posts a lot. “Let’s build a business together!”
  • Go from Me to We

“Organizing the world’s people (not information) is really the heart of the internet,” says Scott.

Movement strategy: BE EVERYWHERE! But that’s impossible. So, crowdsource your everywhereness.

A movement is: “universal distribution, leadership factory, local representation, personal care and contact, turn people into participators, turn your audience into an army.” –Rick Warren, pastor

Engine of Sustained Movement
1. Get followers and fans around the mission.
2. Get them interactging online globally.
3. Meetup locally. (“Use the internet to get off the internet.”)

Set things up so that leaders can emerge. “Who’s going to be in charge of____________?”

ASK for commitment! People will surprise you.

Small organization? Think of yourself as a node that ‘s part of a larger movement, and tap into that power.

Epic Lulz: Creating Funny Content on the Web (SXSW Recap)

John Hargrave (Moderator), www.zug.com
Mark Malkof, www.markmalkoff.com – lived in IKEA for a week; went to all the Manhattan Starbucks in 24 hours
Jeff Rubin, editor of www.collegehumor.com
Rob Cockerham, www.cockeyed.com – specializes in pranks
Chris Wilson, cartoonist for web comic Cyanide & Happiness

I expected this panel to be kinda off the wall, but I was pleasantly surprised at how prepared and organized everybody was. Way to go, comedians! Hargarave asked each panelist to share their top 3 tips for successful online comedy:


  1. Put together a great team.
  2. It’s all about the idea: Be original!
    -Something that stands out
    -Something you love
    -Should be able to sum it up in one sentence (Think about it like a media pitch)
  3. Think big; have a long-term plan.


  1. Have a hook
    -The reason you’d want to send it to your friend, beyond just the fact that it’s funny
  2. Think Visually
    -Rubin showed this “Luigi Finally Snaps” bit to the room and noted afterwards that the biggest laughs came from the non-verbal jokes.
    -Even if something is text based, maybe you can make it visual – can you turn it into a chart?
  3. Feel free to ignore comments.
    -If even half of the comments on a piece are positive, that’s great!


  1. Consistency
    -Make something often
    -Give people a taste of your ideas
    -Get them in the habit of coming back Read the rest of this entry »
I write what I know (and love). Mostly higher education, writing and public relations.