Archive for July 2010

Q. I didn’t receive pay or credit for my summer internship, so how can I make it benefit me?

July 30, 2010

A. Many internships don’t offer pay or credit, but you’ve still made a solid investment in your career future. Here are some ways that you can maximize your internship experience:

  • Networking:  The most effective way to find other opportunities for yourself is networking, which is acknowledged as the primary method to get a job or an internship. A July 20 article in The New York Times says that dozens of young people with connections to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s friends, business associates and government appointees have been awarded internships at City Hall. You’ve probably started a good network for yourself at your internship. Make a list of everyone at your internship and find out if he/she can suggest any other internship possibilities. Keep in contact with people through a social media outlet. Remember, you’re part of their network, too.
  • Next internship:  Your experience at your summer internship is a great building block for your next internship. Now that you have mastered the art of being a professional in a work setting you’re ready to advance up the ladder. With  excellent recommendations in hand, you can apply for more advanced assignments at more prestigious firms. A potential internship supervisor knows that you’re a proven quantity and will “fit in” nicely to another internship. Also, your past summer internship may have opened your eyes to the fact that you don’t really like that field or industry. Now you have time to change your major and explore other fields before it’s too late in your academic career.
  • Course paper or class project:  Every summer internship provides endless resources for a course paper or class project. And you’ve already done the research if you use your material from one of your internship assignments. You can incorporate case studies or company reports (unless they’re confidential) to support your paper. Or if you are a member of a class team that is instructed to collaborate with a company on a project, you could ask your former internship company to fill that requirement. Another way in which you can tap back into your internship is to ask someone at your internship to be a speaker for a campus event. You’ll soon see that an unpaid, no-credit internship is a priceless experience.

Q. It’s been too hot to wear a lot of clothing to work, but my internship supervisor said I’m not dressing professionally. What should I do?

July 26, 2010

A. You’re right about the weather. This summer is the hottest one in recorded US weather history. However, you’re wrong about your wardrobe. You might want to under dress to survive the heat, but you won’t win any points at your internship, according to a recent article: “From booty shorts to belly shirts, some intern fashions make companies cringe,” in The Baltimore Sun newspaper. The article made the following points: 

  1. In Washington, DC, the term “skinterns” has evolved for the scantily-clad summer staff.  Remember Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton’s compromised intern?  Your own reputation may suffer or staffers may start calling you “Monica” if you refuse to wear an accepted intern uniform, such as a white blouse and dark slacks or skirt and closed shoes.
  2. Other unprofessional clothing includes booty shorts, thigh-grazing dresses, flip-flops, ripped jeans, cleavage-baring tops, see-through skirts…If necessary, you could wear such items on the way to work, but make sure that you take proper clothing with you and change into your professional outfit before you enter the office.
  3. The Sun article reminds interns that students may incorrectly think that being “dressed up” for work means being in their best, night-on-the-town outfits. But leave your bar clothes at home because employers first judge you by your appearance. You may meet clients and customers, and your appearance reflects the company’s image. Career experts urge you to err on the conservative side.
  4. Thank your internship supervisor for taking the time to discuss your appearance. Then, ask for some tips on the dress code, so you can conform to company standards. Your gracious acceptance of constructive criticism may earn you some points with your supervisor. And make sure to follow through immediately. Also, check with your school’s career center to see if they offer a course in business etiquette, so you’re better prepared for the next internship.

Q. Are there internships available during the school year?

July 23, 2010

A. Yes, lots of them in lots of different places. And since many students only take summer internships, you may have a better chance of getting an internship during the school year. The good news is that more and more companies want to keep interns coming all year-round. After the company educates an intern supervisor and sets up a working program, it makes good sense to maintain the routine—and capitalize on the extra help—365 days a year. Here are some of your options: 

  • Start with your own school, especially if you live on campus. Begin at the career center, asking the staff about on-campus internships. Or visit the different departments, such as your major department, in which you’d like to intern, present your resume, and ask about openings.
  • Next, scout out the surrounding companies that are geographically within reach by public transportation or car. Again, check in with your career center about local internships and make application. You may want to request an information interview with a company about internships in order to get your foot in the door.
  • Look into a virtual internship (Check out these great virtual opportunities!), which allows students to sample different fields or concentrate on a niche industry while still going to classes and working. The most common ones are in information technology, software development, research, sales, marketing, blogging, and social media. If you’re a self-reliant, self-starter who is comfortable with Web conferences, emails, and phone calls, a virtual internship during the school year might work well for you.
  • Create your own internship by networking with other students, faculty, and staff professionals at your school to discover any potential internship sites. Many companies that have never had professional internship programs are interested in setting them up. If you locate a local company in which you’d like to intern during the school year, but it has no established program, suggest that your school help the company initiate a good program. 
  • Explore the opportunity of an internship during the school year in a company in a different locale. If it’s a full-time internship with academic credit, you may want to talk with your academic advisors about rearranging your classes or going to school an extra semester in order to take advantage of a great internship. Keep an open mind, and the right internship during the school year will be yours.

For an intern’s perspective on doing an internship during the school year, check out the new Eye of the Intern blog, “Tracey’s Angle: Is a school-year internship worth it?“.

Q. I’m only going to be a freshman. Should I start thinking about internships?

July 19, 2010

A. Yes, it’s not too early. Lots of students in high school are now thinking about internships to strengthen their college applications, resulting in the field becoming more and more competitive. If you start with an internship during or after your freshman year, you’ll be able to build up to better and better internships by the time you reach your senior year, which will strengthen your graduate school or job applications. Here are a few tips on how to proceed:

  1. Transition:  Your first semester is going to be a period of transition. You should visit the career center on campus and explore your future internship opportunities. The fall semester is not as busy as the spring one at the career center in terms of internships, so it’s the perfect time to get to know the staff and register your interests. Then, when an internship in your field comes up, you’ll be first in line to apply. Use this time to network with older students about their internships and get tips from them on good internship sites.
  2. Type:  Like many freshmen, you may be uncertain about your major. And what better way to discover your talents but through an internship. Ask the career center to administer some assessment tests to help you figure out what types of internships are best for you and take the Internship Predictor on internships.com Also, consider the company in which you’d like the experience. If you see yourself as working for a big corporation, investigate those options. Or you may prefer a small company or a non-profit for a first internship, especially since it may be easier to get an internship in those organizations.
  3. Timing:  In the spring, you might look into a virtual internship that you can perform at your computer without leaving your room. Or you could explore the options for the coming summer. Review your budget to see if you can afford to take an unpaid internship or if you have to get a paid one. Meanwhile, revise your resume and create a general cover letter that you can customize for different internships. The career center can help you with those items. And educate yourself about all the new internships available by checking daily on internships.com.
  4. Details:  Check to see how many college credits you are allowed in the internship category. If you’re limited, you might want to simply take a summer job for pay or perform volunteer work, saving your internship credits for later in your college career. Talk with family and friends about potential locations of future internships. Do you want to do one in another country? If so, do you need to start learning a second language? Or is there a part of the United States that you think you might enjoy living in after college? An internship would help you decide if you really want to move to that area.

Q. How can I best update my resume to showcase my new internship accomplishments?

July 16, 2010

A. You want to highlight your new achievements in your resume, emphasizing your duties and the resulting benefits from your efforts. The reader should understand how you added value to the company. Yet you also want to keep your resume to one page in most cases. Here are a few tips on how to update and improve your resume:

  1. Start your Experience or Career Progression section off with the new entry regarding your recent internship. List the company first, the department in which you worked, and your general assignment. Then, make a list of your accomplishments, such as “Created survey and distributed it to 500 customers, generating new data that resulted in improved service.” Design as many bullets as necessary, starting with an action verb and ending with a result.
  2. Feel free to shorten the older entries to gain more space for the new internship accomplishments. You can either tighten up each line or eliminate old items, especially ones that are not relevant to your current career goals. You may also want to remove other non-relevant items, such as listing reading, golfing, etc. as hobbies.
  3. Make a list of the new skills that you’ve learned at your internship, including IT or computer skills or new software expertise, and add them to your Additional Information or Skills section of your resume. If your internship required extensive travel or if you attended any conferences, list them in your resume, too.
  4. Rewrite your Summary of Qualifications at the top of your resume to highlight your new skills. You may have to cut out some of the older information about yourself, but you may be able to add new soft skills, such as “verbal and written communication skills with ability to collaborate with team to reach goals” or “decisive, direct, and results driven to succeed.” Your revised resume will reflect more about your work ethic as well as your new accomplishments.  

For more information on writing and updating your resumes, check out the Intern Tool Kit on internships.com.

Q. Whom should I ask for a reference and when?

July 12, 2010

A. References are important! The letters validate and document your hard work as an intern. You’ll want at least one reference letter as well as verbal agreements to give their names and numbers as contact people for future references on internships or jobs. The sooner you get started on the reference process the better. Here’s how to proceed:

  1. Meet with your supervisor. Make an appointment with your intern supervisor. Be sure to thank your intern supervisor for the guidance you received during your internship. Then, ask him/her to write you a general reference letter that you could use to get future internships or employment. If you have a specific position in mind, you may want to ask the intern supervisor to write you a reference for that posting. If graduate school is in your future, you may like to have a reference letter geared for the Admissions Committee at that school. Request permission to use your supervisor as a general reference, finding out the proper contact information for future use.
  2. Consider other appropriate references. Draw up a list of any other people at your internship who could be good resources for references, such as the team leader if you worked as part of a team, or different department heads if you moved from department to department. You may have found a mentor or advisor who informally helped you—he or she may be willing to write a reference letter for you, too. Sometimes, the human resources or personnel department can be called upon to provide a reference letter for you. You can never have too many reference letters.
  3. Consider timing. Consider when you should request reference letters. To make sure that you receive them before you leave the internship, start making your requests about two weeks before your internship ends, giving people enough time to write good letters. At the beginning of your last week, check in to see if anyone has completed his/her letter. Thank everyone in advance for taking the time to write you a reference letter. Mention the date of your last day and that you’ll be back to pick up the letter that day if not before. If you’re feeling uncertain about getting the letters, call your school career center counselor and ask for advice on speeding up the process. Your counselor may have already requested reference letters for you.

Q. My internship is wrapping up. Whom should I thank and how?

July 9, 2010

A. You’re right to start thinking about thanking people as your internship is coming to a close. You can never say “Thank you” too many times or to too many people. Here are a few points to ponder:

  1. Who to thank:  The first thank-you goes to your internship supervisor. Other people who might be on your thank-you list could include co-workers, department heads, volunteer staff, Human Resources, your Career Center counselor or staff members, and any individual who went beyond the call of duty in helping you. For example, the parking lot attendant who made sure you had a convenient parking space or the newsletter editor who interviewed you for a complimentary article in the company publication. You could consider writing a thank-you to the company president, mentioning how much you appreciated your supervisor’s excellent guidance. It’s a wise move to get your name in front of as many people as possible. And your supervisor will remember you kindly for putting in a good word for him/her.
  2. How to express thanks:  You have many options here, depending on the corporate culture and your own style. A hand-written note is always safe. Do choose simple note cards in white or pastel shades. Double check employee titles, so you don’t make any embarrassing errors in addressing the letters, which should always be sent to the office address. However, if you feel more comfortable producing your thank-you notes on a computer, select an informal type face and sign the letter with an ink pen. Use a good cotton or linen stock with matching envelopes rather than standard copy paper. To eliminate the possibility of jealousy, compose all your letters on the same stationery, so you won’t be showing favoritism.
  3. How not to express thanks:  An email thank-you might be fine to a friend for cooking a delicious dinner, but it’s not a professional statement. Please don’t buy cards with pre-printed thank-you messages inside and then just sign your name. It’s much more meaningful to write a personal message yourself, naming specific ways in which that person helped you. You may not have much time to write thank-you notes but do refrain from sending general thank-you letters addressed to “To Whom It May Concern,” or “Hi Everyone,” or “Hey Guys.”  Don’t wait too long to express thanks—try to finish your thank-you notes and distribute them by your last day, saving postage and ensuring that they reach the right person.
  4. Other ways to say thanks:  You could bring home-made cookies or pick up donuts or a special snack for your office mates on your last day. If your supervisor has been exceptional, you may want to offer to take him/her to lunch on your last day or after your internship ends as a way to stay in touch. If you wanted to do something special for your supervisor, you could buy him/her a book, a coffee mug from your school, or a small gift. However, keep the cost to a minimum.

Q. What takeaways should I have from my internship to show what I worked on?

July 6, 2010

A. Good for you for thinking ahead! You do need to collect examples of any project on which you worked in order to build your portfolio. Whether your major is marketing, finance, design, nursing, or whatever, you want do have a strong record of your accomplishments. Here are some tips on what to collect: 

  1. Documents:  These items can be reports, surveys, technical problems you helped solve, sales materials you helped write or design, or a press release or article about a special event. Your company may have also featured you as a new intern in an employee newsletter, so save several copies.
  2. Photos:  Graphic depiction of your efforts, showing you at your desk or with co-workers, is tangible evidence of your involvement. Make sure you document your presence at both work and social events. You may want to include informal photos of colleagues to illustrate the quality of people with whom you’ve worked.
  3. Company materials:  You can impress future internship or job supervisors by letting them know that you’ve worked with companies that accomplish their goals. You want to be associated with successful companies, demonstrating that you bring added value to your new internship or job.  Collect company annual reports, newsletters, brochures, press releases, etc. to demonstrate the high quality of the company with which you’ve interned.
  4. Correspondence:  Letters of reference or recommendation, thank-you notes from employees or final evaluation forms can go in your portfolio. Your Career Center or professors might also have relevant letters or correspondence that promote you as an outstanding student. If you’ve written an excellent paper on some aspect of your internship, which earned you a top grade, include that, too.
  5. Online exhibits:  If your internship included lots of online or IT work rather than paper assignments, you might want to develop a section listing websites, printing out materials, or even producing a DVD or CD to showcase your work.
  6. Presentation:  Consider asking the company for a professional folder or binder with the company name in which you can display the above items. If necessary, create labels and descriptions to expand on the materials. Be sure to make copies of all your items to protect against someone misplacing your portfolio or not returning it to you after an interview.

Q. How do I evaluate what I learned at my internship?

July 2, 2010

A. Good for you for wanting to make sure that you had a successful learning experience at your internship! Your internship supervisor and your Career Center will probably offer you assessments, but you also want to perform a self-assessment. Here are a few ways to measure the growth of your learning curve:

  1. Review your goals and expectations as listed in your pre-internship or first-day documents. Check off the ones that you’ve met. Examine the assignments that you’ve completed and note the new skills that you’ve developed. Assess your internship supervisor’s final evaluation report and write down the positive comments in terms of your work ethic and attitude.
  2. Compare your confidence level and self-esteem after the internship as to before your internship. You should not only feel better about yourself but also feel better prepared for your prospective career. You may find that you’ve gained new knowledge that you can turn into a class paper or use to improve your academic standing. If your school gives grades for an internship and you’ve earned an A, then you’ve raised your grade point average, another sign of your success.
  3. Collect all the items—reports, projects, documents etc.—on which you worked and include them in your portfolio. Write up a paragraph on each, explaining the challenge and how you performed in each instance. You’ll be surprised and pleased at what you find.
  4. Count the number of new contacts made during your internship, ranging from your internship supervisor to other interns and to company personnel in various departments. These people will serve as valuable resources when you start networking for future internships or jobs. You’ve probably also developed improved relations with your Career Center staff, which will be helpful in reaching career goals.
  5. Study your resume before and after your internship. You’ll find that you now have additional entries to strengthen your resume, including new work experiences and achievements as well as software or technology skills. Be sure to detail your assignments and accomplishments, adding value to your resume. When you’ve completed all the above self-assessments, you may want to go out and get another internship, inspired to learn even more. 

 


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