This blog gets a lot of traffic from women (because, let’s be honest, it’s always women) who are interested in the field of child life. I get it, unfortunately there are not a ton of child life resources out there, so I feel privileged when people seek out my blog and email me with all their child life questions. I love getting these emails and I’m always so happy and willing to help out in any way I possibly can. Have a question about the field? Just ask! There’s nothing a child life specialist loves more than preaching about the field to another potential child life-er.
All that to say, these past few weeks I have received a LOT of emails from women who are thinking or currently applying to child life internships around the country. Since hospitals all over are currently accepting intern applications for spring semester, many girls seem to have questions about the application and interview process. So with that in mind I figured, why not write a post about it!? So for all of you potential child lifers out there, this one’s for you.
How to Land a Child Life Internship:
1. Seek out a child life practicum first. Although completing a child life practicum is not required prior to applying for an internship, it will definitely give you a heads up over the competition. We get a LOT of applications each semester and honestly those who have completed a practicum stand out above those who did not. It shows initiative and a commitment to the field of child life and it lets us know that you have experienced a small dose of the amazing-ness that is child life and you now want to come back for more.
2. Be different. Let’s be real for a second, most girls who are interested in child life have very similar looking resumes. A degree in child development, family studies or psychology? check! 100 or more volunteer hours at a children’s hospital? check! (obviously..since this is a prereqrisite for the internship..) Side jobs babysitting/nannying/working at a summer camp? check! An essay stating their love for children since a very early age? check check!! I get it, you all love kids, you work with kids, kids are awesome. But sometimes, you’ve got to do more to really stand out. And guess what, it can still have to do with kids. An internship or job at a children’s foundation like Kids Wish, Starlight or Make a Wish? Awesome. Experience working with at-risk organizations such as Youth In Distress or Invisible Children? Wonderful. Sometimes it’s refreshing and impressive to see someone who has experience beyond the cookie cutter norm.
3. Proof read your application. I know, it sounds silly. Should I even have to say that?? Sadly, yes. Every semester we receive 20-30 applicants for our internship program. Out of those 20-30 we interview 10. Out of those 10 we pick 2. So how do we narrow down the applicants to choose which 10 candidates to interview? We use a very detailed check list and point system based on your application. The 10 applicants that receive the highest score move on to the interview process. Yes, we are looking at your GPA, your volunteer and/or practicum experience and your references, but we are also looking at how well you answer the application short essay questions. And yes, we are mostly looking at your knowledge and understanding of what a child life specialist’s role is in the hospital setting, but even if you write the most amazing child life philosophy I have ever read, I’m going to be way too distracted by your horrible grammar and spelling mistakes to even notice.
4. Sell yourself. I know a lot of times it can be awkward to brag about yourself during your interview, but guess what, now’s your only time to tell us why we should pick you. We phone interview all of our potential interns (since they are applying from all over the country) and we ask them 10 questions. So you have 10 questions to sell yourself and that’s it. When I am interviewing a candidate and she is going on and on about the child life club she started at her college or the research project she completed to help better distraction in the ER, I’m not sitting there thinking, “shut up about yourself already.” Instead I’m frantically writing it all down so I can share it with the rest of my team. I once asked a candidate what she thought she could bring to our team. What new initiatives could she think of that would better our practice of child life and she said “I don’t know.” You don’t know?? Be creative! Make something up!! Do I even need to say that she didn’t get picked?
5. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know. You’re coming to us, bright eyed with your excitement for child life, fresh off of 100 hours volunteering under a child life department and maybe a few hundred practicum hours. So yes, we know you don’t know everything. If you did, then why the heck would you need an internship? Because of this, if you are asked a question during your interview, such as “Please describe in detail how you would prep a child for an EEG,” don’t be afraid to say, “Honestly, I’m not sure what an EEG is, can you please let me know and then I’ll do my best to tell you how I would prepare a child for one?” instead of pretending like you know exactly what I’m talking about while at the same time giving me a super vague answer such as, “So I would tell them about the procedure and use medical play to help explain the procedure and answer any questions they have about their..umm…procedure….” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you have no flippin’ idea what an EEG is. Points will be given if you are honest and just ASK! Points will immediately be taken away if you are too afraid or proud to ask for help.
6. Know your developmental theorists. And I’m not just talking about Erikson and Piaget. I get that we all learned about those 2 in high school and they’ve been pounded into our heads ever since. There’s probably a (very) good chance that you will be asked about other theorists and, even if you aren’t, talking about Bowlby’s theory of attachment and how this could be used to explain the effects of a long term hospitalization on a child’s attachment to their parents and/or the hospital staff is bound to look good. So yes, Erikson’s stages of development are important in explaining appropriate activities for each age group, but let’s not forget about Watson, Bandura, Vygotsky, Kohlberg…
7. Know your hospital. Getting an internship is VERY competitive, sometimes even more so than securing a child life job, so we get that you are most likely applying to multiple internships and that is completely understandable and smart of you to do. However, at the end of the interview you will most likely be asked, “So what questions do you have for me?” Have questions! And the more you know about the specific hospital you are applying for, the better. For example, “I saw that your hospital is the only children’s hospital in South Florida that has a full time pet therapy program. How do you feel this has benefited your patients and families?” That shows initiative. That shows that you found our hospital, researched our hospital, and decided that THIS was the hospital that you wanted to intern at. Maybe it’s because of a hospital’s music therapy program, maybe it’s because they have the largest child life program in the state, maybe it’s because they presented an interesting case study at a child life conference you attended, whatever it is, ask about it! I once asked a candidate, “So do you have any questions for me about our program?” and she legit answered, “What hospital is this again??” Umm yeah…let’s just end this here.
So there you have it; 7 steps to help you secure a child life internship. Can I promise you success? Unfortunately not, but I can promise that if you follow this advice you will present yourself as a strong, capable internship candidate that any hospital would be lucky to have!
*And as always, if you any further questions please feel free to leave a comment or contact me!