Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lesson 8: Internships

Financial Planning for the Recent Graduate

Does anyone else get frustrated with the paradox we’re faced with when recent graduates are applying for a job that requires experience?  The position you really want requires 2-5 years of experience in that field, and you’re just graduating.  Of course you don’t have that much experience in your field yet.  You’re probably going to be faced with an entry level position or an internship to kick off your professional career.

If you haven’t landed your dream job yet, internships are a great way to get your foot in the door with the company, industry, or to get experience with the line of work you want to work in.  Paid internships are ideal, but some are unpaid.  It’s important before you take an unpaid internship to consider the outcome of all of the time that you will spend at this company.  Will this unpaid internship ultimately lead to paid employment with this company, or do they have enough influence in their industry (connections with competitors, clients, the community, name recognition), to list on your resume when the time comes to leave for someone else who will pay you for your time and talent? 

Personally, I work for a nonprofit in a development (fundraising) role.  I volunteered part-time for this organization for 3 years and was blessed to receive a job offer my senior year working for this organization.  The volunteer work that I performed helped me to realize how much I love doing what I do, and I was also able to meet the staff and create valuable connections with their volunteers and supporters in the community.  By volunteering there part-time, I knew it was something I wanted to do full-time if I was ever offered the position.  The message I was sending was, "I love doing this job so much that I'm willing to do it for free", and that's the message you send when you take an unpaid internship.  

Whether you’re offered a paid or unpaid internship (temporary, or long term), it’s now your job to impress and meet as many people you can at your place of employment.  Come to work early, leave late.  Dress for the job.  Work as hard as you can, and volunteer for as many projects and opportunities that have to be completed.  This is your opportunity to show your stuff.  This is why you went to college, to expand your education and land a skilled job that you love doing.  Employers are looking for you to create value for their business, so don’t be afraid to step up, ask questions, eat lunch with the employees, and attend staff parties. 

Tip 1: Update your resume constantly.  If your school has a Career Services department, it’s usually FREE.  Set up an appointment and get another set of eyes on it.  They have professional experience helping students and recent graduates with making a resume, specifically designed for your industry. 

Tip 2: You never have a second chance to make a first impression.  Gain your employers’ trust early on, and you’ll be moving up from photocopying, faxing, and data entry in no time. 

Tip 3: Ask for honest feedback.  Request a meeting with your supervisor (or supervisor’s boss), to evaluate your work after a few months.  This shows initiative, that you care about the work that you’re doing, and that you value their opinion of the work you are doing.  Oh, and be prepared for the unexpected with feedback.  You may not like what you hear, but remember: this is a growing opportunity.

Tip 4: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have, but that doesn’t mean you have to go to Jos A Bank or J. Crew to look good.  90% of my closet is from Goodwill (The other 10% is $19.99 shirt and matching tie combo's).  You can find some incredible clothes at Goodwill, and you can’t beat the price.  If you do go to one of the large department stores, before you check out, look up coupons on your phone at that the cashier can scan to get you a discount.  If you can’t find any, ask the cashier “What coupons do you currently have that apply to my order?” **hint** they’ve got a copy hiding under the cash register.  For more on young professional wear, Deryle Daniels, a good friend of mine, has an incredible blog on professional men’s wear.  Check him out! Ladies, I’ve got your back too.

Images courtesy of by stockimages, image ID: 10092745, and by Stuart Miles, image ID: 10055252