8 Tips for Getting Hired after Your Fall Internship
“6 don’t for fall internships,” a recent post by Lauren Berger on her USA Today College blog, dishes out some pretty good advice on how to get hired for a fall internship. I’d urge you to give the post a read if you are angling for one of those internship slots. Here’s a quick summary of her advice . . .
DON’T demand they read your resume . . . DON’T shove materials in someone’s face . . . DON’T talk without listening . . . DON’T over-communicate . . . DON’T pretend they are your BFF . . . DON’T waste the employer’s time
That all makes sense. But today from my post here at the StraighterLine Blog, I’d like to carry the ball a little farther down the field and offer some advice on how to behave after you get hired for an internship. The way you present yourself in day-to-day life at a company can make all the difference in whether you get a job offer and can start working after you graduate.
So here’s some advice to follow . . .
- Don’t act like a smartass student. The fact is, the same skills that professors prize in class – your eagerness to be the first to raise your hand, your probing questions, your ability to get a giggle from the class – will kill your job offer before you even get close to it. In the real world of an internship, the people who are training and supervising you want to give you the answers, not the other way around. So keep your mouth shut at least 95% more of the time that you do in class and let them look smart. Chances are that some of the people who are training you were interns only a few years ago and are probably inclined to dislike you for reasons that are hard to define.
- Don’t complain about dumb assignments. Sure you just got an internship to work for a posh hedge fund, but now the company only wants you to clean up an email list or enter data for five days. Yup, it is frustrating, but just sit there stoically and get the job done and show your great work ethic. Don’t roll your eyes, gripe to other interns, or slump in your chair to show you are frustrated. You are under scrutiny at all times.
- Don’t gripe or act up about long hours. Your internship is your “trial by fire,” and part of that fire means going home at 2:00 A.M. after a 16-hour work day. Just sleep and then shower and then go back to work looking your eager best. Think of your internship as though it were Marine basic training. Only the tough will survive, and griping or looking tired will work against you.
- Don't look rumpled. With a crazy schedule, you probably won't have enough time to pay a ton of attention to what you wear. And with a tight budget, you probably can't invest a lot of money in a big wardrobe. But you can iron clothes before you head off to work, and you can make a friend of your local dry cleaner. Arriving at work in a skirt or pair of pants that looks like a washboard won't add to your image.
- Watch what you eat. That sounds like odd career advice, but food is usually part of the internship experience. If you have to work until the wee hours – like, every day – the company will often bring in food or give you an allowance to order dinner or head out to a restaurant before you get back to your analysis of zinc production in Peru. When food is brought in, don’t descend on it like a starving bobcat. Take a small plate back to your desk and keep working. If you and your team head out to dinner on the company tab, never drink alcoholic beverages, and order a healthy entrée like a salad or a lean piece of fish. What you eat is part of your professional image. If you have prime ribs followed by a chunk of lemon merengue pie with whip cream on it, word is going spread that you are a chow hound. Gaining weight during your internship is another no-no. Also: Don’t smoke during your internship. Sure some employees are meeting outside the company’s front door to puff on a Camel, but don’t you do it too. Companies don’t want to hire smokers or add them to their health insurance policies. If you smoke, your internship should offer you a strong incentive to quit today, cold turkey.
- Remember, you are being watched at all times. If you and the other interns are herded onto a bus or plane, avoid the temptation to snore in your seat while listening to music on your headphones. Playing solitaire on your laptop for hours and hours doesn’t reflect well on you either, so take out your laptop and do some internship-related work while you travel. You are on the company tab, and people will be watching what you do.
- Endure dumb training without a whimper. Although you are going to be exposed to some good learning materials and training during your internship, you can also expect some really dumb stuff. I heard about one company, for example, that made its interns participate in a weekend of team-building exercises that were, in the words of one intern, “the same stuff that I did with my class when I was in middle school.” This is another time when you have to suck it up, look enthusiastic, and do your best.
- Don’t howl if you are offered a provisional job. More companies are doing it to interns these days. Instead of offering the best interns a full job offer they say, “We will give you a one-year job and if you do well, we will make you a permanent job offer.” That’s dirty dealing, right? Sure it is. It means that your fall internship just got extended for a whole blistering year. But in today’s tight job market, it is probably an offer you have to accept. The plus side is that you have a paying job.
Here’s a surprise for you to think about. After you are hired, a lot of this same advice will still apply. Even though you will be a real employee, you are going to have to do a lot of that same dumb stuff that you did during your internship, including low-level grunt work, training that insults your intelligence, and worse. Most companies require their employees to do stupid stuff, along with all the really great stuff that comes with a really great job.
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