Q&A with “Intern Queen” Lauren Berger

Lauren Berger became the “intern queen” after completing 15 internships during her four years of college. Today she uses her experience to educate students on how to get their dream internship. Lauren’s work has appeared in Los Angeles Business Journal, E! News Online, New York Post, and Seventeen just to name a few.

TSL: How did you get started? What was your first internship?

Lauren Berger: In 2002, I went to Florida State University in Tallahassee. And my mom called me and said, “Well, you better get into this interning thing.” So I went to my career counselor and she said, “You can’t be an intern until you’re a senior.” I said, “Maybe I can do it anyway.” So I called up the company I wanted to intern for, and I started interning there. That was in Tallahessee, Florida in ’02 and I had 15 internships in total between ’02 and ’06. When I was graduating in 2006, I said, “What’s different about me, what do I bring to the table?” I had these 15 internships, and none of my friends had had internships at all. It was definitely something unique that I thought, well, maybe I can start a business and help other students connect with internship opportunities.

TSL: Did you learn a lot in that first internship?

Lauren: Yes, it was a publicity internship. I loved magazines and publicity and all that stuff, so I was thrown right into it. I learned to pitch the media and how to form databases and just things that I never knew how to do before because I hadn’t had an office job like that. It was really exciting, and I was like, “Wow, I’m learning so much here I wonder what would happen if I had some more internships and could learn more.” I never set out to have 15 internships, that was just something that happened.

TSL: As you said before, you went to your counselor, and she said not to try. Did you have to go out on your own or find someone else to help you?

Lauren: Yep. I always tell students to make a list, come up with 10 to 20 companies, locally, that you see yourself working at, call them up, and ask to speak to the internship coordinator. You can always go to their Web site, now everything is online. Ask them how to apply or figure it out online and send in your materials. It’s all about focus and preparation, that’s my constant theme, if you want an internship stay focused and make sure to follow up two weeks later. Don’t let anything fall through.

TSL: What was your favorite internship?

Lauren: When I interned at the drama development department at Fox. It was my first time around television scripts, which I thought were so cool.

TSL: When should students start applying for internships?

Lauren: I would always apply for the internships about two or three months before. [For s]ummer internships you want to start looking [in] November-December of the year before. So now is the time when students want to be looking, not only for spring internships, but summer internships as well. A lot of the bigger, formal programs have long lead deadlines, so March 15 is a very popular deadline for a lot of summer opportunities. Once I got into the internship swing of things, I kind of knew when to start applying, and I would make my own schedule.

TSL: How did you get the idea of turning your experiences into Intern Queen Inc?

Lauren: It started with an idea in 2006, but I was in college and didn’t have money. I was moving from Florida to Los Angeles, and my parents said you have to pay the bills, you can’t do Intern Queen. So I moved to L.A., worked at a creative artists agency for two years where I was an assistant. That’s a very typical, entry-level entertainment industry job. It was there that I met my investor, Marshall Herskovitz. He is a movie producer. He did “Blood Diamond,” “Traffic,” “My So Called Life,” and other movies. He said, “Quit your job and let’s do Intern Queen full time.” It was a dream come true. It was a little over a year ago, in June of 2008. He invested in my company and gave me start-up funding so that I could do it for the first six to eight months with his help. After that it was just me, so now it’s me on my own which is very rewarding at times and stressful at times. But I get to connect with a lot of different students, whether over e-mail or, like today, in person. And it has been going really well.

TSL: How did you decide to organize Internqueen.com? Is it a database type of approach or do you work with people and take them in as clients? Do companies get in contact with you directly?

Lauren: The way the site works is that there are about 430 opportunities on there right now. The internships themselves are in L.A., New York, Florida, we’re getting a few in Washington, D.C. now, and we’re slowly expanding to other cities. Originally it was me making a lot of calls to a lot of people, which is the story of my life—me calling people. But I called a lot of people and asked if they wanted to post internships on my site. The way that my site is a little different from others is that the students are sending me their resumes and then I’m personally forwarding the resumes for the students. The student gets an e-mail back from me, personally, saying, ‘Your resume has been sent’ to which ever company they were interested in, and then, from there, the company can be in contact with them as they wish. It’s very hands-on. Every student can apply for one internship, a hundred percent free. There’s no login or any of that stuff. [If they want to continue], every additional internship they want to apply for is three dollars. That’s because it’s literally me sitting behind my computer like “beep beep beep beep.” Three dollars is small enough that it doesn’t put anyone out, and it eliminates the candidates that aren’t interested or the spam mail, if nothing else.

TSL: Is Internqueen.com just for students, or is it open to anybody?

Lauren: When I just started, it was only for students that were currently enrolled in school. However, because of the changes in the economy and the amount of adults that were laid off and wanted to get an internship as a way to transition into different careers, I’ve had to open the doors and extend it. So it’s really open to everyone now—high school students, college students, adults, anyone that wants an internship. A lot of employers are not considering adult or high school resumes yet, I think they will soon, but right now a lot of employers want to focus on college students. Which is good for the college students! So get in there and take advantage of the opportunities while they’re there.

TSL: Do you offer help with things like resumes, interviewing skills, etc?

Lauren: I do. I don’t advertise it too much because it takes a lot of my time up, but I do have resume and cover letter makeovers. I do other consulting, but I usually tell students to use the website, all your resources are right there, there are some awesome opportunities. When I was a student, I would go to the internet, I would go to CareerBuilder or Monster, and I would get so lost, they would send me around to all these different Web sites. I just wanted a site that would have really cool opportunities, and I’d be able to put the students in touch with the employers directly.

TSL: Is Internqueen.com on a national level right now?

Lauren: It’s definitely a national site, and we bring in international candidates as well as, national candidates. The internships themselves are in L.A., New York, Florida, we’re getting a few in Washington D.C. now, and we’re slowly expanding to other cities.

TSL: What are some common mistakes students make?

Lauren: I say to students, whether you’re applying for jobs or internships today or in the future or not, get your materials together. You should have a resume, a cover letter, and letters of recommendation available. Your experience should go from most recent to least recent, you would think a lot of people know that, but they don’t. Basically, an employer should be able to look at your resume, and they should know who your are, where you go to school, where you’re currently living, what you want to do and what you’ve done before. If they don’t know that, if they get confused by looking at your resume, they’re seeing things scattered and things all over the place, and things that aren’t in chronological order, they’re just going to be confused, and they’re not going to want to take the time to get to know you.

TSL: What advice do you have for students that have been called back for an interview?

Lauren: When you’re on an interview, I always tell my students that you want to make it clear to the employer that you’re committing to this opportunity. That it means a lot to you because a lot of employers are putting a lot of time into their interns, and then their interns aren’t coming or they’re sick or this and that and you want to make sure they don’t have this concern with you. You want to sound confident and friendly and outgoing and like you know what you’re talking about because if they can’t trust you, they’re not going to trust you on the phone with their clients.

TSL: You said that your first internship was in the journalism field. Considering the economy as well as the journalism field, which seems to be suffering lately, do you have advice for students that are interested in entering that field?

Lauren: Absolutely. There are still magazines and newspapers around with great opportunities. Also, new media is huge, and most new media companies have blogs. The nice thing now is because new media is so big, even your big brands, like Nordstrom or Starbucks, they’re all going to have blogs associated with them so all these companies are going to have opportunities for students that are interested in journalism.

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