Posted tagged ‘internships’

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. 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. 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. 

 

Tip #3: Active listening wins more offers

March 2, 2010

Did you ever hear the quote, “Nature has given men one tongue and two ears that we may hear twice as much as we speak.” by Epictetus? Employers want to hire interns who understand their organization’s goals and objectives. They want you to listen to them, understand them and commit to acting in their best interest. They want you to be focused on the company, not on yourself.  

In fact, did you know that more offers are extended when the interviewer talks more than the interviewee? Yes, that’s right. More offers are extended when you get interviewers to share more about themselves and the company, as opposed to when they spend time listening to you talk about yourself.  You might ask “why is that”? Asking good questions and gathering information on the interviewer and their company transmits the message that you’re interested in their needs. You are saying through your actions that you are concerned about doing a great job for the company. That creates a great first impression!

You might be wondering, “How do I get the interviewer to talk about the company rather than drill me with endless questions?” After all, that is how most of us tend to imagine a typical interview. Well, it is a good question.

Here are a few of my favorite questions to ask to get the interviewer talking:

  • I’d love to hear your opinion on what you believe are the most important things I could do to be a great intern if you chose to hire me?
  • I’ve been told that “fitting in” at the company I work for this summer is really important. I’m really interested in learning about what the company is like and how past interns have been effective at fitting in and contributing  as part of your team?
  • I want to be the intern who can help the company do more for less because I am here to contribute. If you could put me anywhere to get some things off your plate, what would you want me to do? I’d like to convince you that I can do those things.   

These questions are just a few of the possible opportunities for interviewers to engage and share perspectives. They also demonstrate good active listening skills. You can tell them you recognize how important their time is and want to use it wisely. Tell them that you’d like to know as much about their goals and needs regarding a summer intern so that you can give them the most relevant and valuable information about you.

Tip 2: Be prepared, not fake–authenticity is everything

February 26, 2010

The best way to be authentic in your interview is to pursue an internship in an industry and/or profession that truly interests you!  

It is really hard to fudge PASSION. People can detect real excitement for their work over those faking it. Employers want interns who are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty because they love the opportunity to be involved in a role/function that is helping to expand their scope of knowledge, skills, and abilities. For these guys, there is no such thing as grunt work. Getting coffee for the boss is the opportunity to get a glimpse of his/her world every morning and pick up on snip-its of conversation that impact a leader’s life.  Boring or mundane tasks quickly transition into opportunities to get face time with people in positions that you otherwise couldn’t easily meet or interact with, if not interning there.    

It is very true that when you are doing what you love – it really doesn’t feel like work. That’s not to say that all of us don’t do tasks that are less enjoyable than others.  I know I certainly do, but it is completely worth it because I recognize it as the minor cost I pay in order to do what I love the rest of the time. It is not only important to choose a summer internship that “fits” you because you will interview better, it is important because it will be a more exciting summer.  

When you are in the wrong place, it is like being right-handed but having to perform your daily functions as a left-hander. That would be completely exhausting! If you are reading this and thinking, “Well that’s just great IF you know your interests, but I don’t,” that’s okay because we created the Internship Predictor to help get you started down the path of career exploration. Try it out and let us know what you think.

Stay tuned for additional tips coming soon!

Believe you are the right one for the internship

February 22, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I watched the Super Bowl and now I’m enjoying the 2010 Winter Olympics. I love watching sporting events in general, but in particular, I love it when athletes or teams, who are not favored, come from behind and win. I think part of the reason they overcome unfavorable odds is because they have such a strong belief that they are going to win. They don’t see themselves as the underdog or less powerful contender. The athletes in these sports win because they think like winners. Take for example the outcome of this year’s Super Bowl. It was surprising to all of us when the favored Indianapolis Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints. Whether it was surprising to the Saints or the people of New Orleans, who knows? But chances are, they went in to the game sure they would come out on top.

Before the Super Bowl, the sporting world favored the Colts. Considering what life has been like in New Orleans the past few years—the team and city continuing to face incredible challenges since Hurricane Katrina, it would have been easy to adopt a “give up” attitude. The Saints, instead, clearly brought out great resolve to come back better than ever. 

As you prepare for interviews to secure a summer internship, go in believing you are the best candidate for the role. Put any and all fears, doubts, and concerns out of your mind. Become perfectly clear within yourself that you should get this offer. Half the battle is looking past your obstacles and embracing an amazing opportunity.  

Interviewing for internships can be tough because you are frequently put in a position to convince someone you are well-suited to a profession and/or industry you are not that familiar with, hence the purpose of the internship. This can be tricky for even the most confident of people. My hope is that you’ll give yourself permission to be confident that you will be the winner. You deserve no less.

How to find a summer internship: three MUSTs

February 14, 2010

Three must BEs for securing a summer internship:

  1. Be humble
  2. Be confident
  3. Be thankful

Be humble.  This economy has many employers concentrating on keeping business alive–not always the best time to develop new internship programs. But companies are still doing it—offering their time and experience to help prepare the future workforce.  In brighter times, internships were typically considered a form of corporate community service—taking the time to prepare America’s young adults for a multitude of careers. Then, a hiring manager might have expected an interviewing intern to ask the question, “What will this internship do for me?”  But these are different times and being humble will serve you well.  By Humble, I mean your focus should be on ‘what you can do for them, NOT what they can do for you.’

Be confident. Being confident means believing you are worth a company’s time. Confidence is different than being self-absorbed (a trait common among insecure people). It’s a quiet glow of strength and self-awareness that comes from owning the courage to seek out and acquire the professional skills, industry exposure, and coveted connections that make internships so valuable in the first place.

Be thankful.  Some students get internships through their parents, friends, or relatives. Others find them through their school career centers.  Regardless of how you get an internship, gratitude is essential. The number of interns that take the time to write thank yous after an interview hovers at about 5%. This low percentage means the thank you note is a huge opportunity to stand out. Everyone appreciates a person who truly appreciates an opportunity extended to them. Thank you should be the first thing you say when you BEGIN an interview and it should be the first thing you say when you end an interview. You cannot express your gratitude enough when it comes to letting employers know how appreciative you are to be considered for an internship. Let the manager know you are worth it and that you appreciate their time.  

Got feedback? Bring it here – I’d love to hear it.

Internship opportunities — a chance to explore

February 12, 2010

How many of you watched the Super Bowl last weekend? I’m guessing more than a few of you tuned in, if only to see the commercials!

It was definitely an exciting game, showcasing two of the best teams in the NFL. At the party I attended, however, the football didn’t draw the biggest reaction. Rather, it came during the Casual Friday commercial.

The commercial starts with this regular guy, dressed in a golf shirt and khakis—looking pretty good for a casual Friday at work. Then the camera pans out, and the audience gets an eyeful of skin (or in some cases, hair in unfortunate places) and very, very bad underwear. Clearly, golf shirt guy, was the only employee who had a clue about how to dress on casual Friday. My fellow party goers groaned each time the poor guy with the golf shirt and khakis came in “contact” with his scantily clad co-workers.

This commercial underscores the need to be selective in your career choice. As a student you have a fabulous opportunity to research and experiment with the best possible career fit by trying different internships, with the obvious goal that the job you ultimately land will involve wearing more than just bad underwear each Friday. Don’t let these internship opportunities pass you by or you could end up like golf shirt guy–in a company, job and environment you hate.

Before you pursue an internship, determine the companies, industries or functions that hold the most interest for you. If you are unsure of where to start, check out the internships.com Internship Predictor, and further determine preferences that will help to guide your internship search for the perfect fit.

During your college years it’s possible to have multiple internship opportunities to try out a variety of companies and settings to find the right place for you. Take advantage and save yourself the painful experience of golf shirt guy and his hairy, mostly naked co-workers.

Getting an internship: the changing role of the intern

February 2, 2010

In the past year, the role of the intern has shifted dramatically. The employer mindset has gone from viewing the internship as a form of corporate community service to a method for accessing free labor. In a thriving economy, employers want to invest in the future workforce by providing opportunities for young emerging professionals to learn about their industry and professions. However, when times get tough, employers want to simply stay alive long enough to get through the recession.

As an intern, you need to adjust to this new mindset and approach the internship differently than in the past. Instead of approaching your next internship as an opportunity to learn about a profession or industry, you’ll want to pursue an internship with the goal of contributing your skills in a way that generates value and substance for the employer. As a result of your contribution, you will no doubt learn about the profession and industry but the goal should be contributing not learning. Employers in this tough economy are trying to make their dollars go farther and their people produce more. Internships help them accomplish both. Promoting yourself as the intern who can help them do more for less is a great way to get noticed.

So what does this mean for you? Well for starters, when asked in an interview, “Why do you want this internship?” focus on what you can do for the employer. Do not talk about how this is a great opportunity for you to learn about the industry and profession. While that might also be true, it is not the most important reason to highlight in the interview. What’s important to the employer is your ability to take initiative and produce quality work as a member of their team.


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