CLEARWATER — Lauren Berger completed more than a dozen internships before she graduated college. The 27-year-old Clearwater native billed herself as the "intern queen."
Now she has a book in print — All Work, No Pay, a trade paperback published by Random House on Jan. 3. It offers advice to young job seekers. The book's subtitle leaves little room for misunderstanding Berger's purpose: "Finding an internship, building your resume, making connections and gaining job experience."
But the title doesn't convey the fervor and determination that fueled the young author's rapid rise as a writer, businesswoman and professional speaker. "If you stay focused and don't take 'no' for an answer," she said, "you can get the results you want."
A 2006 business graduate of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Berger had only vague career goals during college. She explored opportunities through 15 internships in different businesses and learned to be proactive and confident, regardless of the particular business.
After graduation, Berger got her first job offer — to be an assistant at Creative Artists Agency, a Los Angeles talent and literary firm. In 2008, she conceived an online business plan. A Hollywood producer invested in her upstart business, and Berger launched internqueen.com. On her website, companies seeking interns pay a user fee and are matched with young job-seekers who register on the site.
"It all starts with an internship," Berger emphasizes in her book. "Most successful people in every field begin as interns."
She adds that business isn't the only arena for internships.
"Teach for America is one of the top-rated internships for teachers in the country," she said. "Every industry is opening its doors to interns, whether paid or not."
In her book Berger speaks directly to unpaid internships.
"An internship is about learning and getting experience," she said. "Invest in your future with an internship that will benefit you later, even if it is unpaid."
Berger now speaks at college campuses, hoping to spread the word on how to successfully create one's own future — beginning with an internship.
"I advise students to begin asking questions earlier in life as to what they really want to do," she said, "and then ask what steps they plan to take to get there."
Berger's own example bears witness to the power of desire and determination in creating a successful career. At 27 she has had a book published, developed a growing internet business and is booked for about 40 paid speaking engagements a year on high school and college campuses. Later this month, she'll speak at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
Berger, a 2002 Countryside High School graduate, now lives in L.A. But her parents are still here. Her father is a dentist in Palm Harbor, and her mother teaches at St. Petersburg College.
True to the advice she gives students, Berger took control of her path early on.
She pushed her idea for internqueen.com and got backers. When she wanted to publish a book about securing internships, she got little support from others. "I was told it was a terrible idea and would never happen," she said.
Rather than get discouraged, Berger began making calls.
"I picked up the phone and called book agents," she said. "I was lucky enough to stumble on a young and hungry agent who got me a book deal." A little over a year later, the book has come to fruition. The young go-getter appears to be rolling up her sleeves, taking it one goal at a time.
"Over the next few years I want to find out how to make my brand a household name," she said. "When people say 'internship,' I want them to think of me."