There’s a moment in every young person’s life when they realize that they are no longer a young person and that it’s time to get a job. This person is you. This moment is now.
Yes, I know, you’re still in college! Mom and Dad still pay for things for you! But the foundation for your future is being laid down now and the first crucial pillar to a successful career is oftentimes a successful internship.
So how do you land your perfect internship? Well, I’m glad you asked…
- Do your research. – Now, this doesn’t mean just Wiki-ing the company, I mean Google-ing the heck out of every facet of the organization: check the company’s website, read the company’s blog, search your school’s databases, check major news sites to see if the company has been mentioned recently… And when it comes to the people, for every name you get, whether it’s from an email address or a random passing comment, check Google, LinkedIN, your school’s alumni database, and (yes) even Facebook. Funny Cat story: a few weeks back I had a phone interview with a Union alumnus. Naturally, I looked him up on Facebook. When I was in his office building a few days later, he unexpectedly showed up. When I saw him, my eyes lit up out of recognition. Now, this was probably a little creepy, considering we had never met in person before, but I have no apologies. Companies know that we are the social media generation — all of that FB-stalking you’ve done of the kid who sits next to you in econ was actually good practice for stalking potential employers! – so embrace your skills and get a one-up in a game that is all about informational advantages.
- Act the part. – Interested in a job in finance? I hope you devour the Wall Street Journal. Want to get involved in science? I hope you subscribe to Discover magazine. Whatever you career interest, make sure your current lifestyle matches it. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll start reading all of the necessary books and journals for your field when you enter the field, but you wouldn’t step onto the track at a cross country meet not having run since you did the mile in middle school, would you? And really, this part shouldn’t be that difficult. Your job should be something you’re interested in, so instead of working backwards (i.e. choose a career path then pick up all of the necessary reading accessories), work forwards! Look at what you already enjoy doing and reading in your free time and build off of that! You might be surprised where your subconscious interests lead you!
- Do a dry run. – When time permits, try taking a test trip to the office. If you’re driving, figure out how many lights there are and if there is ever rush-hour traffic. If you’re taking the subway or the T, figure out how many stops you need to wait for and if there are any transfers you need to make. Also, figure out alternative routes if (God-forbid) the metro breaks down and you have to get off. It’s also never a bad idea to memorize the office address in case you have to resort to a taxi. And, just to be safe, have some taxi money on you. If you don’t have time to take a test trip, do a dry run electronically. Use Google Earth and literally click-and-drag your entire way to the office. Believe me, it’s tedious but worth it. And in those instances when your first time to the office is your official time to the office, allot yourself three times as much time as you’ve estimated it to take you to get there. Better two hours early than even two seconds late for things like these.
- Dress for success. – Ask yourself: what do modern professionals in this industry dress like? Now copy that and add three buttons of conservatism. Don’t look like a kid and don’t look like you might hit up a frat afterwards. I dropped over $300 on a J. Crew suit skirt and jacket set for my interviews (do you hear my wallet still crying in the distance?), but cost-per-wear and class-per-wear it’s worth it. It fits well (key!), looks professional, and is timeless. A good interview outfit really is an investment purchase; you’re investing in your future.
- Come with questions (and answers!!). – There will inevitably be that moment in your interview when your interviewer goes completely silent. Maybe they’ve asked you if you have any questions for them, or maybe they’re just a tad bit award, but I guarantee you it will happen. In fact, I swear one woman I interviewed with purposely never gave me more than a yes or no answer to everything I said just to test me, but maybe I’m paranoid… Regardless, prepare some questions. Maybe you stumbled upon a few points of confusion when you were doing your research (see 1), or maybe you’d like some suggestions on things to read (see 2), but whatever you do, come armed. And one of the most useful things I’ve done in my interviewing prep is to practice with friends who just went through the process. Sometimes you think you know exactly how you’ll answer a certain question, but you don’t really know until you’ve had to say it out loud to another human being. It’s an awkward exercise, but hey, even that’s good practice!!
- Say thank you, thank you, thank you! – Sure, this interview process might have been a pain for you, but can you imagine how much of a pain it must have been for the professionals on the other side of the table?! They gave up valuable work time to talk with a bunch of (present) nobodies and there’s nothing at the end of the road for them: no internship offer, no job offer, no first-time-I’ve-ever-been-paid-OMGOMGOMG salary. Maybe the honor of potentially working with you is a bonus for them, but let’s stay modest here. In light of this, it can never hurt to thank profusely. Literally thank everyone. For every email address I received, I sent a thank you letter. And for the ones I didn’t receive but knew I had interacted with that person, I asked others in the company if they could forward me the email address. Now that’s a thorough job. It’s a simply and classy move that I assure you will not go unnoticed.
So, are you ready? Have you sufficiently stalked, readied your readings, tested the trip, dressed dashingly, practiced your performance, and typed a thank-you template? If so, I think you’re good to go! This is a scary time in our lives, but also a super exciting time, and the best way to approach it is to grab the bull by the horns. Good luck, my professional peers!!