Your First Internship
Getting your foot in the door straight out of university or TAFE can be quite daunting for any bright eyed youngster. In most cases, intuition kicks in and you decide to go out on your own to find that real world experience AKA…your first internship. There are a number of pitfalls to look out for so here are our tips for your first internship.
Resume & Cover Letter
Your entire educational and professional experience condensed down into a few pages. Your resume is always going to be a major source of information for any employer and keeping it relevant and up to date is crucial.
Be aware of the company and position you are applying for. If you are in a creative industry you can be sure that your potential employer will not give your resume a second glance if it has no personality. Employers can spot a well designed word resume to a bad one in an instant. Be innovative, stand out from the crowd and show you employer what they can expect from you.
There are plenty of guides online dedicated to creating a tailored and effective CV, however do not neglect your cover letter. Your cover letter should be specific to the position you are applying for and outline how your experiences and skills cover all requirements. Always avoid repeating your CV in your cover letter (there’s no point saying the same thing twice).
You may also want to have a look at your social media. We may not like it but many potential employers will Facebook stalk you even briefly to get an idea of who you are. You may not be painted in the most positive light if you have any obscene photos or language on your page for anyone to see. Use privacy settings and remove anything you might want to hide before you start applying.
Do your research! – Be a good detective
Before you even submit an application for an internship, you should know the ins and outs and have a clear understanding of the company; Who have they worked with? (past and present) Are they sponsored by any companies and who are they? Do you support the same morals?
A good way to figure this out is to use social media and company websites. Analyse their brand, and have a look at the quality of content they are posting, as this is a good indicator of the professional environment they foster. We also suggest using your current social media platforms to reach out to current or past employees and take note of their insight into their experiences at the company. Go to the office and have a look from the outside. Is their sign all rusted and falling to pieces? If you can get a peep inside as well that would be a bonus!
You will want to choose a company that is better suited to your style of professionalism as well as your personality. Some people prefer an outgoing and chaotic company where as some people are more suited to somewhere more conservative and with more structure. The most important note is to ask yourself – would you be proud to be working under the company and represent their brand?
Make sure your internship is relevant to your degree
Choosing a position that is aligned with your degree will ensure that you will be able to put into practice the many skills and knowledge you have absorbed through your prior education. It will mean that you can finally apply all those theories and ideas you’ve been writing down about 1000 times into real world situations. You may have already experienced the infinite loop of “you can’t get a job without experience but you can’t get experience without a job”. Making sure that your internship is relevant to a professional position means you’ll have that experience that employers are looking for.
If for some reason you have been moved around into another position that you feel is irrelevant to your degree, make sure you voice your concerns to your employer or your educational instructors and they will be able to get you back on the right path. Don’t forget, you are there to take what you already know, build upon those skills and grow. Ask yourself ‘are you learning and doing what you can to move closer to your career goals?’
Gain a wide range of Experience
Finding a placement that will allow you to gain a range of experiences will set you up in a great position for a career in your chosen industry. Don’t be afraid to take on extra responsibilities as employers will be looking for people who are able to go that extra mile. Being knowledgeable and equipped with skills from a range of departments will prepare you and open your eyes up to a wide variety of scenarios that you may face in the professional world.
However, in saying so, we are not telling you to spread yourself so thin that you are unable to focus on your goals. Only take on extra jobs if it will directly help you with your career and if you are able to juggle the work load. If you’re finding it a bit too much, ask for help or seek guidance from a mentor. During your interview, make sure you ask what the specific roles and duties you will be performing, as well as what is expected of you.
Also keep in mind, not everyone is 100% clear on what they want to do in life (career wise). Internships are there to give you a little taster of what the working world may look like. This is a time for you to grow and discover what you are good at, what you are not, what you need to learn more of and what you excel at.
Overcoming professional hurdles
You are going to run into speed bumps during your internship and how you handle these will be detrimental to your employer’s image of you. Problems can range from employees leaving and the re-allocation of their role to resource and time constraints. A great skill to develop during your internship is to keep calm and tackle each problem as you face them. There is no productive use in panicking and making things worse (it also shows you can’t work very well under pressure). Don’t forget you are there to learn so don’t be afraid to ask questions from those who are more experienced than you.
Making mistakes isn’t the end of the world! Identifying your mistakes and learning from them is all part of the experience. Effective problem solving skills is a great trait that many employers look for. Developing this life skill is extremely valuable not only for the work place but in day to day living. No matter what, remain professional! Nothing more embarrassing than a complete dummy spit in the middle of a quiet office.
As cliché as it may sound, work really shouldn’t feel like work when you are doing something you love. Passion and the willingness to learn should drive your internship. If you are not enjoying your time, and are experiencing emotional distress then don’t be afraid to stop and walk away. Looking after your health and mental state is number 1. You should be eager to go into the workplace and feel happy about what you are doing. Don’t forget to prioritise and create boundaries. From time to time we have all fallen into the trap of doing more than is required from us because we are being too nice. Make sure there is a set structure and neither you as the intern or the employer has crossed the line (read your contract thoroughly if applicable).
There’s nothing wrong with making friends and enjoying your time at your placement, this only builds upon the passion and drive to do well. In most cases you will be working with others who are like minded and have the same interests. Make connections and learn from one another.
At the end of your internship, work placement or work experience you should be able to reflect back on it with a smile and be glad that you had seen it through. Reflect on what you gained, and ask yourself if you are able to say the phrases ‘I learnt to’, ‘I learnt how to’, ‘I learnt not to’ and ‘I’m glad I’. Most of all, you should have taken a lot away with you and be proud to have worked at the company.
We hope these tips come in handy for your first internship. Hit us up on Instagram or Facebook and let us know how we have helped you. We would love to hear about your tips as well. Best of Luck!