Archive for the ‘Q & A with the Intern Coach’ category

Q. My internship is almost over. How do I bring up future possibilities?

June 28, 2010

A. First, you may want to spend some time deciding what future possibilities interest you. Second, devise a plan and timeline to present your future possibilities to the appropriate parties. Third, consider what your alternative options may be in case your future possibilities don’t come to pass. 

  1. Future possibilities:  Would you want to continue your internship as an online internship? If so, do you have a specific project or plan in mind that you would want to work on for the company? If your internship is unpaid, would you want to transform it into a paid part-time job? Or if you’re graduating, do you want to apply for a full-time job with your internship company? Or would you like to change your internship into a co-op in which you’re working and gaining credit at the same time? Or would you like a reference to work in a related company or a subsidiary? Would being a paid consultant for the company be in your future? You may want to rank these future possibilities in order of preference and proceed to the next step.
  2. Plan and timeline:  At this point, you may decide to set up an appointment either in person or online with your Career Center counselor and run your ideas past him/her.  The counselor may have a longer history of collaborating with the company than you do and be able to advise you on creating a successful plan. Next in your timeline make an appointment with your internship supervisor at his/her convenience, preferably about one week before your internship ends. Before the meeting, write up an agenda and list your preferences for future possibilities along with the subsequent value that you would bring to the company. Explain each possibility to the internship supervisor and produce a calendar with your proposed dates for your future involvement. At the end of the meeting, thank your supervisor for the consideration and express your hope for a continued relationship with the company.
  3. Alternative options:  The internship supervisor will probably not give you an immediate answer to your future plans with the company but will have to discuss your suggestions with colleagues and maybe even Human Resources. Send your supervisor a thank you note and be patient. However, if you find out that none of your future possibilities is acceptable, research your alternative options. For example, apply those same future possibilities to another company and ask your Career Center to direct you to the appropriate organization. Or develop a list of other goals, such as joining a pre-professional society on campus or applying to be a teaching assistant for your major professor. You could also volunteer to work with a group related to your future career. Whatever you do, maintain a positive attitude and turn your energy into action in another area.

Q. How do I document my internship experience so I can show my value to future managers and employers?

June 21, 2010

A. It’s a smart idea to have documentation of each internship to support your resume and improve your portfolio. Though you might develop a list of references from your internships, that list could be compromised as people change jobs and contact information. Having your documentation in hand when you leave your internship ensures that you have ready proof of performance. Here’s how to get that documentation:

  1. Final evaluation form: Ask your intern supervisor to fill out your final evaluation form, which is usually provided by your school. Some schools request weekly performance reports that can also document your experience.
  2. Letter of recommendation: Ask your intern supervisor for a letter of recommendation on company letterhead. This is a normal request and your supervisor probably has experience writing recommendations. Be sure to write a thank you note to your supervisor—leaving him/her with a good impression.
  3. Recommendations from colleagues: Consider asking other company employees with whom you’ve worked closely to write a recommendation for you. If you’ve been part of a team, ask the team leader to write a recommendation for you. Or, if you’ve worked in different departments, ask the various department heads to write recommendations for you.
  4. Internship journal: Keep copies of your own weekly reports on duties performed, so you can document your own assignments. Collect brochures or annual reports about the company to accompany your reports, especially if it is a small organization that future internship managers or employers won’t recognize. Such attention to detail is certain to help you get future offers.

Q. I can tell my boss isn’t happy with my performance. How do I start an honest conversation about expectations?

June 18, 2010

A. Before you start the conversation, create a game plan to ensure that the meeting is successful and accomplishes your goals. Your proactive approach is admirable. You may be helping your boss start a sensitive conversation that he/she has been postponing. Here are a few tips for a meaningful meeting:

  1. Set up an appointment at a time that is convenient for your boss and estimate how long you think the meeting will take, so he/she can be available. Prepare an agenda that covers your crucial concerns.
  2. Phrase your points with questions, making it easier for your boss to respond. For example, “In what areas do you think I need to improve?” or “Do you have any suggestions on how I can meet company expectations?” Keep your questions to a limited number, such as six. 
  3. Present the agenda to your boss before the meeting, ensuring that he/she has time to reflect on the questions and deliver helpful answers. At the meeting, make sure you have a notebook and write down the answers as a sign of your commitment to change.
  4. Listen respectfully to what your boss says. Refrain from interrupting or from giving long excuses as to why you haven’t met expectations. Your boss wants to clear up miscommunications and help you meet expectations as much as you do. Both you and your boss want the internship to add value to the company.
  5. Keep in mind that an honest conversation is a good goal. But “honest” means in a proactive way that will yield positive results. For example, honesty doesn’t extend to telling the boss that you don’t like your co-workers or that your office is too small, which is why you aren’t meeting expectations.
  6. Use diplomacy. The meeting is a tool for you to improve your situation, not to bring up negative issues that may be irresolvable. Before the meeting is over, ask your boss to help you create revised expectations, so you have a new method to assess your performance.

Q. How do I improve my professional relationship with my boss?

June 14, 2010

A. Congratulations for asking such an important question, which shows that you’re already on the road to internship success. If you feel that your boss doesn’t give you enough time or that your relationship is floundering, please don’t take it personally. Your boss may be overwhelmed with work and under lots of pressure to produce from his/her boss. Here are a few tips to improve your professional relationship with your boss:

  1. Make sure that you perform your assignments quickly and accurately. Then, ask your boss what you can do to help him/her. Working together on a project is a good way to improve your professional relationship.
  2. Demonstrate that you’re a professional by getting to work early, staying late, and working weekends if the boss needs extra help. The best way to establish a professional relationship is to be a professional yourself.
  3. Earn the respect of your boss by dressing professionally, limiting casual conversation in the office, and presenting new ideas on how you can improve your assignments.
  4. Ask your boss if you can attend some meetings with him/her either at the company or at a professional organization. Show your sincere interest in the relevant field and your enthusiasm at learning more, ensuring that your boss will react in a positive manner.
  5. Thank your boss for all the help that you receive at your internship and compliment him/her on being such a great role model for you. By the time your internship is over, your boss will consider you a professional partner.

Q. I’m attracted to one of the employees at my internship. What’s your opinion of office romances?

June 11, 2010

A. Office romances at your internship are a no-no—unless you want to endanger that employee’s career future, and you’re not concerned about your own future with this company. Many companies restrict office romances because they feel such a relationship distracts a productive employee from concentrating on his/her job. Here’s how to avoid such negative scenarios:

  1. Remain neutral. Don’t show any romantic inclinations in the office or play favorites with your co-workers.
  2. Refrain from sending notes to the object of your affection or from calling him/her on your cell phone during office hours. Your co-workers will catch on even if you think you’re being discreet.
  3. Avoid secret meetings outside the office. Someone will inevitably see you and report back to the office, and the gossip will start. Also, you’ll get a reputation for being sly or underhanded, which won’t help your internship be a success.
  4. Be patient. Wait until after you’ve completed your internship to develop a relationship with one of your former co-workers. Keep in mind that if you intend to turn your internship into a permanent job, you might have to find a romantic interest elsewhere or choose a different company.

Q. I’m having trouble meeting people. How do I start networking?

June 4, 2010

A. Starting an internship at a company where you don’t know anyone can be tough. You’re used to a routine at school, and having friends and classmates around to study and socialize with. Don’t worry! You’ll fall into a routine at your internship just like you do at school each semester, and here are some networking tips—soon you’ll be meeting a ton of new people and maybe even making some new friends.

  1. Act friendly. Put a smile on your face and say hello to other employees in your department and building. If someone doesn’t respond in an enthusiastic manner, don’t take it personally. You never know what might be going on—lots of things can cause a bad mood and it probably has nothing to do with you. Actually, your pleasant greeting might cheer him/her up.
  2. Ask questions. The best way to start a conversation is to ask the other person about himself/herself. Good questions include:  “How long have you worked here?” “Any suggestions for a good place to grab lunch?” “Did you catch last night’s game?” Weather questions are always appropriate. And it’s fine to ask about family pictures that are on a co-worker’s desk.
  3. Develop conversations. Now that you’ve established yourself as a friendly, outgoing person who is interested in your co-workers, you’re ready to take the next step—keeping a two-way conversation going. Try joining different groups for lunch but always ask first before simply sitting down. Introduce national news topics or local subjects and ask for other opinions. Then, give your viewpoint. However, don’t get into an argument if your views differ. Keep it light and people will find that you’re stimulating company, engage in conversation easily, and are enjoyable to be around.
  4. Network with new friends. By now, you’ve found a few people—in your department, at the company fitness center, or in the cafeteria—whose company you enjoy. Continue to develop those friendships and professional relationships because each new friend could lead to another acquaintance, and then another. Before you know it, you’ve built a good network.
  5. Set networking goals. You started off at your internship in an environment with total strangers. Draw up a list of people you know now and list their departments. Try to add to that list every day. Of course, your first responsibility is to your internship assignment and team members, so make sure your performance exceeds expectations. Your teammates may turn out to be your new best friends.

Q. I’m not very challenged at my internship. How do I discuss this with my boss?

June 2, 2010

A. Your boss will appreciate your honesty and will identify you as a rising star. Your interest in taking on more responsibility will generate better assignments plus you’ll learn more new skills. And when you finish your internship, you’re sure to receive rave recommendations. Here’s how to ask for more challenges at your internship:

  1. Make sure you’ve done a great job on the assignments that you’ve completed. Can you document that you’ve finished all your responsibilities ahead of time and exceeded expectations? Your ability to demonstrate why you should have more challenges impresses your boss. He/she will know you take your internship seriously and want to add value to the company. (For tips on prioritizing your work, check out “Tracey’s Angle” for an intern’s perspective.)
  2. Be careful not to belittle any efforts by other interns or even co-workers who may be performing the same tasks as you. Choose your language carefully when your boss asks why you want more responsibility. Instead of using words like “boring,” or “repetitive” to describe your dissatisfaction with your assignments, explain that you want to do more to develop your skills and to help the company reach its goals. You may even add that you’re willing to continue your original assignments but want more challenging work in the company, even if it means working longer hours.
  3. Do some research before you approach your boss. In other words, be careful what you ask for because you might get it. You can ensure that your new tasks will be ones that you’ll enjoy if you have participated in selecting them. Also, you’ll be much more successful if you pick fresh challenges that showcase your talents. If you’re excellent at research, ask if you can work on a research project. If you’re a computer whiz, suggest an assignment in that area. Prepare a brief report, outlining potential new challenges along with goals and timelines. How can your boss say no?