Finding your first job out of college can be both exciting and a bit overwhelming. As I’m sure you’re aware, companies look for candidates that have some practical on-the-job experience when interviewing and hiring. An internship is the perfect way to get some hands-on experience. The following are suggested steps that you can take to leverage the effort you are putting into an internship. You’ll also find some post-internship insights on how to parlay an internship into a well-negotiated opportunity toward the end.
- Create Role Clarity
Get clarity on your role and come up with a good title for your interim assignment. Your role during your internship isn’t to make copies or make Starbucks runs for everyone. Discuss your goals for your internship with the person you are reporting to. If they don’t have a plan for your internship, suggest that you create a draft that can be reviewed between the two of you. You want to make sure that you’ve got a roadmap, and aren’t relying on your manager to give you guidance every day. It also prevents you from sitting idle wondering what to do, while ensuring you get to do some meaningful projects and work.
2. Be Proactive
You need to realize that whomever you are reporting to during your internship has a full-time job and you are an additional responsibility for them to oversee. While they may be appreciative of you being there, proactively stay engaged and offer your assistance. Autonomy is a good thing when fulfilling an internship, versus needing guidance every step of the way. If you are able to take on more, speak up and let your manager know. The intent of companies bringing interns into the mix can be two-fold. They get additional resources to further work that needs to get done, and gives them an opportunity to ‘test-drive’ and find new talent before committing to a full-time role with you.
3. Get What You Need
Once you are getting close to the end of your internship, you ideally have done a great job with the projects you were assigned. If everything went well, you can do two things. First, you can ask for a reference from your reporting manager. If it’s positive and something you’d want others to see online, you can ask if they will also put it on LinkedIn. Second, you can discuss their plans or needs for filling this role, and what you can do to ensure you are considered. That allows you to get a sense whether this was strictly an internship, or whether the opportunity exists to come back in a full-time capacity once you graduate. This of course makes the assumption that you want to come back as an employee versus an intern.
Internships allow you to rule out specific areas of work that you have no interest in pursuing once you graduate. They also help you get clear on roles that you are particularly interested in. The opportunity to experience different company cultures is also important. No two companies are alike, so get to know the people around you and make sure it’s somewhere you’d want to call ‘home’ for a while if the opportunity presents itself.
Internships are wonderful opportunities to get some practical work experience and test various roles within your area of study. You also get exposed to various companies, team environments, and leadership styles. What works for one person, may not work for another.
We are all unique and based upon our backgrounds, expectations and experience; have a vision of our future endeavors once we graduate. I remember graduating and saying ‘I want to be the VP of Marketing for a Fortune 500 company.’ I accomplished that in 12 years working my way up in the same company from an entry-level employee.
One thing to be cognizant of is that if you are paid minimum wage for an internship and consider going back as a full-time employee once you graduate, you need to be very clear on salary expectations. What is acceptable in an internship capacity is not what you should expect coming on board as an employee. Just because you accepted a lower internship stipend has no correlation to your abilities or potential as a full-time team member.
Do your homework while you’re in your internship. Get a sense for salary ranges by meeting with HR sometime during your internship and discussing salary ranges for various entry level roles you may be interested in. Salaries are negotiable yet typically ranges are established to keep a company’s salary and overall compensation package competitive in the market. Preparing by doing some due diligence on companies you’re interested by visiting GlassDoor.com and talking with other employees who have been with the company for a while while you are in an internship role, are smart moves.
Look Out For Yourself
Finding a job may not be as difficult or as easy as you imagined. To improve your odds of making a good decision, be prepared. Finding out as much about a company as you can before accepting a role is vital to making a good decision. Remember, if you happen to make a decision that turns out not to be what you thought it would be, you have the prerogative to seek another opportunity.
Gone are the days of company and employee deep loyalty. Both sides seem to have a mentality that represents ‘what have you done for me lately.’ This is simply a reflection of how work options, company cultures and entrepreneurial possibilities have shifted the relationship between company and employee.
Many more choices exist today, which can be seen as both good and bad depending upon how you look at it. Nevertheless, when it comes to your internship experience, make sure you get what you need out of the time you invest. Internships are intended to help you experience and build practical skills in your area of study. This experience you will for sure use in the job market once you graduate.