A client came to see me just before Christmas. He was a college sophomore looking for an internship. I asked where he wanted to be an intern. Without hesitating, he rattle off the three top companies in the field where he wants to work. He called me today to say that he’ll begin an internship with one of those companies this May. How did he do it? He studied the market and demonstrated that he had what the company was looking for. More importantly, he had enough faith in himself to try. Yes, college students and recent grads are in a tough job market. However, those who are smart in how they look for work can still be very successful. The first step is to look in the mirror and tell yourself: I can do it.
A client called me today to add an internship to his resume. His goal is to be a financial analyst. The problem is that the internship involves little to none of the skills needed by that profession. His primary function is identifying and prospecting new business, which is not the kind of work this client wants to do in the future.
What should he do? He could quit the internship, but I think that would be a rash move. His first step should be to evaluate what he wants and talk to his supervisor about doing extra work that would involve his analytical skills. If the company won’t work with him on that kind of project or assignment, then it’s time to look for something else.
This example underscores the problem with many internships: They have little or nothing to do with the student’s professional goals. Before taking an internship, a student needs to define what she wants to get out of it, how it will be a resume builder that employers will care about. Here’s a simple test: what skills do you want to use in your ideal job? If the internship isn’t letting you develop and practices some of those skills, how is it helping you grow as a professional?
Make your internships work for you.
The only way to find a new job is networking.
The only way a student can find a job is through internships.
No one gets jobs by applying to online posts.
None of these statements is true. People find jobs in all sorts of ways, and no two job searches are the same. I've had clients land great jobs applying to online posts, and others get nowhere even though they did everything right in networking. The key to a good job search is to have a balanced approach. Just as a manufacturer tries to use different marketing channels, a job seeker should try to use different methods to get in front of employers. Yes, networking is still #1 way to find a job, but it's not the only way.
Beware of one way solutions. They're usually the wrong way to go.
I just got good news from a client who wants to work in pro baseball. My client went to the winter meetings, interviewed with 8 teams, and accepted an internship with the Tampa Bay Rays. Was he lucky? To a degree. What's more important is the work he did to get lucky. Beyond his achievements as a player and coach, he studied how people get jobs in baseball. Then he had the courage to risk rejection and failure. He could have gotten no interviews or no offers. Instead, he took the chance and now has an opportunity.
Failure is easy: do nothing and make excuses. Success is hard because you can work hard and still not achieve your goal. However, most people who know their target and how to hit it end up in the right place. It's never easy to find the job you want, but with a little faith and a lot of work, most people get to the right place. Don't stop believing in yourself. Keep working!
I have had clients who benefitted greatly from internships. They worked for companies that offered good experience with a commitment to mentoring. Some of these internships were paid, some not. However, they all gave my clients hands-on experience that could be translated into their resumes. They also enabled my clients to be more confident during interviews because they had real workplace success stories.
Some internships do not advance your career. Recently one of my clients accepted an intense, three month internship that was unpaid. The company asked its interns to research and analyze potential customers. Then they made phone calls to set up appointments for the company’s sales team. The atmosphere at the company was pure boiler room: Work hard – work harder. At the end of her assignment, my client received a tepid letter of recommendation. She had no confidence that her supervisor would give her a good recommendation or even remember her name if an employer called. In essence, she was free labor for three months.
All internships are not the same. Before committing to an internship, you need to analyze what you will be giving the company and what you will be getting in return. If the work you perform will not let you learn new skills or give you resources to use on a resume or in an interview, think twice about taking the position. Don’t let someone take advantage of you. Walk away from a bad internship.
The Chicago Tribune website reports that more companies are offering internships. Some of the applicants for these positions have been in the workforce for more than 10 years, including people who are fifty or older.
There are two ways to look at this story. One is that older works are desperate and will take anything. The other is that older workers are using internships to change careers. People are now working into their 70s, which means the old rules for things like internships will no longer apply. If a 50 year old worker completes an internship and gets a job in her new field, she could be productive in that field for 20-25 years. From this perspective, it makes sense that some experienced and older workers will want internships.
Beware of the sensational, scary headlines. New graduates and those still in school who are seeking internships are facing a very difficult economy. For the most part, however, their competition is not people in their fifties or those who have been in the workforce for more than ten years. Their competition is younger workers who have been laid off. Rather fall for stories that pit worker against worker, we need to ask what our political and business leaders are doing to improve job growth in the U.S.