Internship Interview Mistakes: 5 Mistakes to Avoid [Students]

If you’re shopping around for an internship opportunity that’s going to pad your resume, build your professional network, and round out your college experience (perhaps by awarding actual credit!) it’s time to take your search seriously. Site supervisors report that one of the most frustrating things about internships is the actual hiring process, which is often approached haphazardly by students who just don’t yet understand how to approach a job opportunity. Here’s what NOT to do:

Indian business woman sitting on a row of chairs

  1. Do not slack on the in-person basics. This is not “old school” stuff. It’s basic professionalism and if you fail on this front, you’re going to have a tough time. So make sure you’ve got the following habits solidly in your arsenal before you meet anyone in person: firm handshake with polite greeting, eye contact, good posture, a smile, and no fidgeting or interrupting.
  2. Don’t neglect your research. By the time you get to your interview, you should know the organization, and the person interviewing you, inside and out. You should know what the company expects from an intern, (and if they haven’t made that clear, that should be at the top your list of interviewee questions) and you should be prepared to discuss why this particular organization is of interest to you.
  3. Do not act uninterested. The biggest mistake applicants make when seeking out internships is to hit “apply” as if pressing a magic button is all it takes to land an opportunity. You’re competing with other internship candidates. And chances are, the student who lands the job isn’t going to have the highest GPA or the most impressive part-time job history. It’s going to be the candidate who expresses that she’s interested in the job, talks about why, and is excited and motivated. If you get that interview, don’t walk out the door without saying “I really want this opportunity. I’m excited about it, and I think I could learn a lot from you. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.” You’ll blow away your interviewer and solidify in his mind your interest in the position.

This is a job search, so treat it that way! Be competitive, be aggressive, and be focused. Make sure your application reflects your interest, reiterate that interest during your interview, and remember that the impression you make is all the information your supervisor has when making a hiring decision.

Project List: How to Keep Your Interns Busy [Employers]

An intern is a tricky animal. Not quite a volunteer, not quite an employee, interns are part benefit, part major responsibility for the employers who take them on.

The key to a successful internship, for the employer, is to keep interns engaged in productive, educational tasks that further the mission of the organization. It’s a tall order, but one that results both in a legitimate resume building experience for the intern and a valuable mentorship experience for you.

Support new employees

Here are some tips for building an excellent learning experience while maintaining engagement and interest along the way.

  • Have a task list prepared. The list should be more than the day’s duties. It should encompass several shorter tasks as well as some longer-term projects, which are what your intern should pick up when she’s done with the little stuff. Whatever isn’t completed today rolls over to tomorrow, and something should always roll over. Make a concrete, complete list of work, and you’ll incentivize your intern to keep at it rather than falling back on Facebook.
  • Take your intern along. Got an important lunch meeting? An HR matter to handle? A tough customer to deal with? Let your intern sit in. Stressful moments for you are learning opportunities for him. It’s okay to toss out a quick “this is a sit and listen event, so just observe,” before getting started, and make sure to explain to other parties that your intern is there to observe and learn.
  • Use your intern’s youth and inexperience to your advantage. Have your intern evaluate your website, social media presence, and marketing efforts. Ask for her perspective as a young person, and have her write up a report with suggestions based on market research. Remember that youthful perspective is important for progression in business, and tell your intern as much.

Remember that your intern is inexperienced and may make mistakes along the way, and be patient. Mix positive feedback with constructive criticism, offer opportunities to observe new and interesting things, and provide real work where possible. Above all: Keep. Interns. Busy. With these tips in mind, enjoy your experience as a supervisor, and know you’re making a real impact on a newly minted professional!

Personal Branding: How your brand can help you get a job [Students]

Here’s the unfortunate reality of life in the digital age: whether you intend it or not, you have a brand.

Your digital footprint has been expanding for years, whether you’ve tried to form it or not. That footprint is the basis for your “brand,” the configuration of web-based info that identifies you to the world. Here’s how to put it to work for you.

boost your brand  in wood type

Learn your brand

If you’ve never tried this experiment, it’s time: Google yourself. Add some identifiers – hobbies, social media groups, even something as simple as the name of the city where you live. Inevitably, you’re going to find a series of links to information about yourself, including photos. Some of it isn’t going to be ideal – tweets that shouldn’t be public, internet commentary best kept between friends, perhaps a candid photo. But those are the building blocks of your brand, and they’re out there for the world – and for employers – to see. So, what to do about it?

Manage your brand

The first step in putting your brand to work for you is to take immediate steps to manage it. Start with social media and work out from there. Log into your accounts and change your privacy settings so that your political opinions, group selfies, and check-ins disappear from public view. Profile photos are okay to leave public, but make sure they won’t negatively inform a stranger’s perspective. A shot of you with the family dog? Totally fine. If you’re unsure, keep it private.

Attach your brand to other brands

With which organizations would you like strangers to associate your name? Remember to imagine yourself as a job applicant. Start with academics. Join alumni associations and University social groups, and subscribe to mailing lists for events that interest you. Like those same groups on Facebook. Got a hobby that you think makes a good impression? You want perspective employers to see it, so attach yourself to that brand through Instagram and LinkedIn. Perhaps most importantly, make sure that people can see your interest in the work you’d like to do.

Learning to manipulate your brand to your advantage opens up a whole new level of opportunity. It takes some time, so take charge now, and ensure that your new boss has a glowing opinion of you before you ever shake hands for the first time.

How to Pitch an Idea to your Boss as an Intern [Students]

If your internship is going well, you’re busy, productive, learning new things every day, and getting along well with the other members of the organization. Maybe you’ve even come up with some thoughts on how to fix a problem or smooth out a process.

If you want to talk to your supervisor – or any manager – about your idea, we’ve got a few suggestions for how you should proceed. Think through these steps before starting the conversation.

Businesspeople working in office

Introduce your idea succinctly

Come up with a quick “elevator speech,” a sales pitch that encompasses your whole idea, and why it could be beneficial, quickly and cleanly. You may not have lots of time for impactful conversation with the boss, so make it count. Think about capturing a problem, suggested solution, and potential outcomes in a few short sentences. “A coupon generated with a Facebook ‘like’ could incentivize new customers to check out your new product line and bring in some foot traffic from millennials who use social media to source retail goods” is an example of a brief, complete sales pitch. Follow it with “If we could generate 100 more fb ‘likes’ this month, we’d increase our web following by 15%” and you’ll show you’ve done your homework, know the market, and want to make a lasting contribution to the organization.

Anticipate failure

Being denied, or even ignored, by supervisors is sometimes an unpleasant reality of the working world. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! But it does mean that you should anticipate the possibility of being shut down, and understand that it isn’t necessarily personal and doesn’t reflect on your success as an intern.

Know your chain of command

Approach your direct supervisor first. Don’t go over that person’s head without asking, or you’ll likely ruffle some feathers. If you think you’d like to move up the food chain with your idea, ask whether a conversation with a higher-up is appropriate, and be sure to show that you appreciate your supervisor’s support and input.

Your internship is a learning opportunity, but it can be a chance to make real contributions to an organization, too. Tread carefully, and plot out your suggestions in advance. Then, go forth and knock their socks off!