Top 10 tips for interns


Top 10 tips for interns

As a member of generation Y (or, perhaps more appropriately, generation 'whyyyyy?!'), it's quite possible that post-graduation this summer, you'll be joining me in the no man's land between student-hood and adulthood that is the world of interning.

In some fields, this has come to be the expected way in. Certainly, if you're anything like me and attempting to break into the elusive media world, you'll have to strike incredibly lucky to land a job without any real-life work experience.

But in the uber-competitive world we now find ourselves in, unfortunately, even unpaid work can be a hard thing to secure. And once it has been, how do you make sure you get the most out of it? With several internships under my belt since last year, I've put together a list of the things I've learnt through personal experience (and, ahem, a little eavesdropping…) which I hope might be of some use:

1) Use who you know

Hailing from university towns home to £1.50 doubles, us graduates are no stranger to the concept of lost dignity. This should stand you in good stead for shameless appeals to long lost relatives and family friends for potential employment help.

The more time that passes since graduation, the more I'm realising that the old adage, 'It's not what you know…' really is true. If your dad's second cousin twice removed happens to work in the field that you'd like to work in, now really is the time to get in touch. If, like me however, you know nobody useful, this next one's for you…

2) Think outside the box

And the job sites! In fact, most of the placements I've ever acquired were not through applying to a specific job advert, but through sending speculative applications, or merely inquiring whether the company could use some help. That way, even if you're only given a few weeks' work experience, you can use the time to make an impression and forge handy connections with people who might be able to help you out in future.

Don't just stick to the big name companies, either; it might not look quite as impressive on your CV, but you may well learn far more at a smaller place. Plus, thanks to the delights of e-mail, asking won't even cost you a stamp.

3) Don't get complacent

Landing the placement is just the start - you need to make sure you get the most you possibly can out of it. Internships should mean more than companies just receiving free, or at best, minimally paid labour; if there's an aspect of work that you're particularly interested in, there's no harm in asking whether you can try it out for yourself.

At this stage in your career, having 'nothing to lose' has never been more appropriate. Do your best to make sure that you show off far more than just your (no doubt excellent) tea-making skills.

4) Know where you stand

While demanding a paid job day one is inadvisable, there's no harm in inquiring early on whether there's even a possibility that the placement might turn into a permanent one. That way, you know whether you need to be ensuring that it's you who'll be first in line for the job, or, of course, keeping your options open elsewhere.

5) Know your rights

Don't let yourself get used and abused. It's all very well older generations talking about the supposed chips on our young shoulders, but would they really be prepared to work for years on end without so much as any travel expenses being paid? Of course not. And you shouldn't either.

6) Be confident

Coming across as cocky or arrogant is obviously not the way to go, but equally, being a delicate wallflower isn't likely to get you very far. Make yourself seem indispensable, and hopefully you really will be!

7) Listen up

Seems obvious, but sometimes you can be so busy perfectly your 'politely interested' face as you're being given instructions for a task, that you find you're not absolutely clear on the details. Listen to what's been asked of you, carry it out as best you can, and don't be afraid to ask if you have any questions - they can't ask for much more than that.

8) Keep in touch

Full time employment may be hard to come by these days, but it'P s really quite easy to become a professional stalker. Not lurking creepily outside the office until they offer you a job, of course, but rather using all the gifts that social media bestows upon us - LinkedIn, Twitter et al are a great way to keep yourself on the edge of people's consciousness, so that if something comes up in future, you'll hopefully spring to mind.

9) Ask for feedback

It can be all too easy to get stuck on the intern hamster-wheel, going round and round and getting nowhere. As horrible as it sounds, and nobody wants to have their dreams crushed, it's worth finding out whether you really are cut out for the career path you've set your sights on. Of course it might just be the saturated job market that stands in your way, but it's still worth asking if there's anything you can improve on.

10) Stay optimistic

While job hunting is definitely not the most happy-inducing of activities, it's worth at least attempting to channel your inner Pharrell. You may well be lumbered with the boring admin jobs that let's face it, no one else wanted to do, but doing them with a smile could well pay off. If a job comes up, it's the enthusiastic intern who'll be in the running, not the one 'with the attitude'.

Job hunting can be an absolutely soul destroying activity at times, but try to remember, every new door opens another one. Good luck!

By Sian Gardiner, University of York

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