For Northwestern Sound Arts and Industries students, the work doesn’t stop when summer begins. All students enrolled in the program are required to complete a thesis or an internship, meaning most students spend their summers applying what they’ve learned in the program at sound-related companies.
“This is the last piece of the program,” says Katherine Lelek, the Assistant Director of the Office of External Programs, Internships & Career Services (EPICS). Lelek also teaches the career development class that students take to coincide with their internship or thesis experience.
“They’ve spent three quarters of the program at the intersection of theory and practice, and the class is designed to coordinate a launch for them,” Lelek says.
In Lelek’s class, students complete assignments focused on everything from creating an online presence to updating their LinkedIn pages and strategically growing their professional networks.
But when it comes to finding and then actually landing those summer internships, how do Northwestern students embark on their search? According to Lelek, the internship search process is one that starts as soon as the students arrive on campus.
“We encourage students to start early,” Lelek says. “In the fall, it is important to make connections at Northwestern and in Chicago, to develop a wish-list of companies early on. In the winter, they should be tracking and applying to internships. In the spring, hopefully they have a good sense of their summer plans so they can prepare.”
For Annabelle Howell, Northwestern’s arsenal of career tools were instrumental in helping her land a summer internship at Comma Music and Sound Design. Howell says she found her position at the music agency thanks to the Sound Arts and Industries SoConnect Portal.
“[Northwestern] helped me with the application and interview process,” says Howell. “The course we complete alongside the internship helps make you goal-oriented once you start.”
The SoConnect portal is a job board featuring more than 1,200 employers in the communications arts and sciences. Students can see upcoming career-related events, apply for positions and even make appointments with Lelek for career coaching.
“Most of the employers I work with are coming from music and sound disciplines,” Lelek says. “We build specialized relationships with those in the sound field.”
Beyond the SoConnect Portal, Lelek explains that there’s also Northwestern Career Advancement, a university-wide career office with a job search portal called “Handshake,” and the Northwestern Alumni Association, which is an excellent resource for helping students land informational interviews.
There are also industry-specific resources and events throughout the year geared towards helping students explore different ideas and opportunities for their summer internship. Events include masterclasses, a speaker series, site-visits, and career development workshops.
Lastly, Lelek provides career coaching to empower each student on their individual journey as a thought-partner. She works with students to build a year-long relationship to understand their unique career plans. Asking challenging questions, encouraging students to get out of their comfort zone, and helping students think about all of their professional options paves the way for a successful internship and job search.