7 tips for internship preparation
Published on May 19, 2015
“I’ll meet you at the subway“, said Tom, a former classmate and now summer intern whom I’d be borrowing floor space from for the next couple weeks.
I arrived at 125th Street and Broadway in Harlem, confused and dripping with sweat from carrying my luggage. At the top of a long escalator was the “1 train” subway platform but viewable across the street was a Subway sandwich shop.
“Wait, did he mean Subway or subway?”
I nervously chuckled to myself (after all, this was my first time to New York City) and hauled my bags across the street and inside the sandwich retailer. Turns out I was right and Tom arrived forty minutes later to guide me back to his 5’x5’ dorm room. The next morning I put on a suit and arrived in SoHo to begin my internship at a mid-size advertising agency.
Soon, we’ll begin to see the arrival of summer interns. And this year in particular, we’ll see a whole lot of them. According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, 93% of the 266 surveyed employers plan to hire interns. In fact, those same employers are hiring 7% more interns than last year. The main reason is cheap labor in a down economy. A lessor, but more refreshing reason, is the need employers have to maintain relevancy by hiring digital-is-second-nature-to-me students.
The former reason poses a bit of a problem: those incoming interns who are seeking notice and eventual full-time employment may get left out in the cold come next season. But while factors like fierce competition and less full-time hiring are difficult obstacles to overcome, there are definitive steps interns can take to increase their chances of landing a salary. What’s number one? Knock the chip off your shoulder. I recently posed a question on what the biggest cultural issue with interns is to a room of fourteen HR directors. Their answer: entitlement.
So in a cultural world that’s all about me, what are the keys to success? The following tips – many done before you even walk through the door on your first day- are for interns who want to become irreplaceable and respected by their employers:
1) “Learn your industry”
Read trade publications. Advertising interns, readAdAge and Advertising Week. Public Relations interns, read PRWeek; social media interns, read Mashable. Finance interns, Wall Street Journal. Accounting interns, The Journal of Accountancy. Take specific note of the topics, trends, major players, holding companies and thought leaders.
2) “Google yourself”
Ensure the search results are what companies wouldn’t consider “risky”, but don’t be afraid to show up in the ranks. Everyone knows and expects you to have Facebook beach pictures and strongly worded blog comments, just make sure privacy settings are secure and overall results show up favorably.
3) “Develop your online persona”
In accordance with above, be present in those search results. Read what industry leaders are saying in the social space and actively comment. Author your own blog and online forums. Don’t focus on your overall industry (you’ll only feel overwhelmed), rather focus on a niche topic you care about (i.e. QR code campaigns in Singapore). Be the smartest person in the room on a topic. Lastly, when deciding on how much of your personality to share, follow this mantra, “don’t be a robot but don’t be Kanye“.
4) “Know new media”
There is an expectation that new media is second nature to you. If you happen to be one of the resistors, it’s time to get over it. More important then using social sites for personal reasons, you’ll need to understand why Foursquare,Facebook and Twitter, for example, are relevant to your industry and company. Go to the data. Observe the trend line of media by demographics, mediums and industries. Make an educated decision on what technologies are purely novelty and which have lasting value. You superstars have already bought a book on SEO or mobile marketing.
5) “Teach boomers new media”
Your understanding of new media will serve of value in your internship as you’re able to communicate and apply these technologies to senior management. The occasions to share will be rare but very critical. So, learn how to appropriately do so, now. Grab your neighbor, parents, or professors and learn to participate in a “knowledge share”. Take a topic (i.e. location-based services, transmedia storytelling, SMS campaigns) and make sure you only do half of the talking. They need to feel comfortable asking you questions and contributing. After each session, write down your observations with what worked and what didn’t. If they’re willing, ask your participants to do the same. As you prove yourself in the workplace, you will become a sought after intern because of your ability to listen, apply and communicate with your future boss. And that same boss will invest in you because you’ve already put in the work to invest in them.
6) “Thank you cards”
Write a hand-written note to anyone who assisted you in landing this internship (parents, teachers, internship coordinator, classmates who reviewed your resume, etc.). Get into the habit of personal gratitude. Throughout your internship and at the end of it, write to anyone who taught you something.
7) “Never say no”
Learn now to make a good cup of coffee and how to double-side print on a copy machine. Master the simple things so they become a non-issue in the office because you’ve got it covered. Ask your boss (only occasionally), “is there anything I can help you with?”. It can be a tough question for a boss to answer because they don’t know how much you can handle. But they do need help. So try and listen for those spoken or unspoken needs and be pro-active. When your asked to do something beneath you, do it, but do it better than anyone else.
Good luck interns.