Swipe right only for the best one(s)
An internship is one of the first ways to shape your professional career, so you should only swipe right for the best one(s) for you. The first internship experience matters in terms of job prospects, soft and hard skills and, most importantly, your passion about doing what you love.
I had my first internship in 2014 at the main quarters of BRD - Groupe Société Générale in Bucharest, Romania. I had just finished my first year as Economic Informatics student and I had received an e-mail saying that they are in need of interns. I started the usual work schedule Monday - Friday, from 9 AM to 6 PM, and I was assigned in the Letters of Guarantee Department, which, needless to say, wasn’t exact my specialization. Even so, besides working in their systems, I had learnt about the work environment, departments’ interconnections and passion about what you are doing.
Since 2014, I had another three internships: one at a technical lyceum (I was a substitute teacher), one at a bearing factory (working with technical drawing and CNC machines) and the most recent one, for my bachelor thesis, was at INCAS - the top research institute in the field of aerospace sciences in Romania.
Here are some tips & tricks about how to get this ‘most wanted’ thing as a Bachelor's or Master's student:
- Have a really well structured CV and have several CVs. If you’re applying for a graphic design internship, the first thing that the recruiter should see is your detailed experience as a graphic designer. You can only mention your other extracurricular activities.
- Keep your LinkedIn profile updated. If you meet someone at an event, you most probably don’t have a printed CV with you. LinkedIn is a convenient way to show someone, in real time, who you are and what you did.
- Be honest with your experience. It’s not fair to add things in your CV that you didn’t do.
- Always address the Cover Letter to the recruiter and use a semi-formal voice.
- Apply on your specialization. The secret on ‘how not to’ be rejected is simply not applying in a domain you don’t have a clue about.
- Don’t insist. As in personal relationships, don’t spend time on people who don’t want to spend time on you. ‘There’s plenty of fish in the sea’, goes the saying.
- For the interview part, know your Unique Selling Point. Find one clear sentence that expresses who you are, your experience and what you want for your career. Have a strong motivation and a reason why that company would benefit from having you. Be also prepared with your strengths and weaknesses and examples from previous experience.
- Smart and hardworking aren’t enough anymore. Businesses now are in great need of people who can build trust and create a good working environment. Self-development and soft skills are not ‘nice to have’ anymore, but a ‘must have’. Try volunteering and being part of projects that are in your domain. You can try the Meetup concept, if you don’t know where to start. You will create a strong network and, who knows, someone might even recommend you or offer you an internship (or even a job!).
- Do your research on the work environment (values, principles, mentality). You can very much like one domain, but if your work environment is unpleasant, you might end up disliking the very first thing that got you in that place.
Remember that it’s not just about being chosen, it’s about choosing as well. Know your value and don’t be afraid to show it.