Opinions on internships are about as divisive as today’s political climate. Those who don’t agree that they’re beneficial have probably never had one or they’ve blindly applied for the first handful they found on the internet without doing the slightest bit of research. Unfortunately, I fell victim to the latter example in my initial internship journey.
I saw what looked like a great opportunity and went after it like a child in a grocery store candy aisle. However, it turned out to be a different experience than what was originally advertised, which meant I wasn’t the best fit for what the company was looking for. That experience left a bad taste in my mouth, but I was determined to continue pursuing the goal of obtaining an internship.
The experience taught me the importance of having a mentor to guide me along the process. Like me, you probably have someone in your life who can give you advice, encouragement and direction throughout your early career. Anyone can give you advice, but getting it from someone who can back it up with experience isn’t always easy to find. My brother-in-law, Nick, is the first vice president, partner and an equity owner of The Capital ESOP Group – a financial firm that operates under the Swiss multinational investment bank and financial services company, UBS. He had two internships during his college career and credits them to where he is today.
From Nick, I gained knowledge on how to approach and land an internship, as well as what to take away from it. His words are simple, yet vital. Here’s a working professional’s advice on two important skills to cultivate before and during your internship:
Before applying for internships, you’ll want to do your research and make sure you bring the best version of yourself to an interview. Make sure the one you’re applying to fits your expectations and career interests. You should be well aware of the work they do, who they do it for and why they do it.
After you apply and hopefully get an interview, make sure you bring your A game. Find out who’s interviewing you and learn a little bit more about them. When they ask if you have any questions, ask them about their own personal work experience. This will prove you have not only done your research, but that you value their advice. Lastly, make sure to bring any relevant work examples and be prepared to answer questions about your classes, work experience, hobbies and whatever else you feel makes you an excellent fit for the position.
This is a learning experience, and your employer knows that. They want to send you out into the world able to back up the name they let you put on your resume. So, when they offer constructive criticism, take it humbly.
The person providing you with feedback was in the same spot you’re in right now, and it’s the very reason they’ve become so good at what they do. Don’t be disheartened when they tell you to do something differently. Their goal is to provide a learning experience that typically isn’t found in a classroom, and in order to do that they have to provide the same level of criticism a professor would. The good news is, while you won’t come out with an assigned grade at the end, you will have honed skills that will ensure you are ready for life outside of the classroom.
Prior to landing an internship at the Bradford Group, I did every bit of research I possibly could. I wanted to know the company and their employees, thoroughly, including researching the employees who would be interviewing me. They appreciated that I took the time to do it and it showed them that I was dedicated to the position, as well as allowed me to stand out from other applicants. After this internship, I will be more than ready to put my knowledge and skills to work.
If you want to land your dream job, you can’t just rely on your degree. While internships take time and effort to accomplish, the reward is invaluable. Find a helpful mentor, do the extra research and remember that every challenge you tackle now will lead to success in the future.