Internships are held at the office of a company that already employs professionals in the field.
Usually, a mentor is assigned for internships - answering questions, checking on progress, breaking down standard requirements into more simple components and providing helpful resources (documentation, books, additional sources).
When compared to freelancing, internships are better in terms of learning the day-to-day process of the job. Freelancers work solo (often remotely) and don’t know the actual process an expert goes through - be it structuring a content plan, a marketing campaign, or a development project.
In terms of skills, the internship may be limited to simple activities - depending on the expectations and the pace of the organization. If your mentor (and management) doesn’t expect you to progress fast and become an effective member of the unit within the next couple of months, you may not progress as fast from a technical standpoint.
If you have been mulling over getting internships to jumpstart your journey towards the real world of professionals, then this article is for you. We will discuss the focal points of the 5 crucial stages that you normally go through from looking for an internship towards optimal career growth.
1. Asking for Internships: The One Goal Application vs The Shotgun Approach
Targeting a specific company is different than the “shotgun approach”.
One Goal Application
If you are really excited about a given local company and want to join their forces, there are various things that could be done:
- Check for open applications - that one is fairly obvious, yet some people miss the opportunity. Browse the company’s website, blog posts, social media statuses, and local job boards. You can dig deeper as sometimes you may find some nuggets in forums or even sites like Quora where employees may hang out and talk openly about their applications process.
- Find out who you know there - if you have direct contacts, make sure that you aren’t missing on opportunities. These contacts may come in handy at a later point. It’s possible that some of the employees have led a seminar at your school or you’ve seen a talk at a conference.
- Try to meet some of the people - if there are open gatherings or you’re aware of community events where the staff hangs out at, see if you can attend and connect with them. Given that you’re aware of the company, the initial contact wouldn’t be hard - most folks work in competitive fields so sharing what you know about the company and its work will likely relate to projects that those folks have already been engaged with.
- Interact online - some of our applicants have been active on social media with our accounts, added us on LinkedIn months (or years) ago, shared our latest tutorials, or met some of our staff. This gives some competitive edge given that the applicant had previous involvement with our activities which makes the onboarding easier.
- Discuss an internship with someone - if you have previous contacts or even new connections, ask them politely whether they’re looking for interns or what would it take to mentor someone. You may land a recommendation to the hiring staff, some managers or team leaders who would be willing to help you out.
- Try with the direct HR approach - if you can’t connect with the team, email the HR department or the staff members who are actively engaging online with peers. Send a CV plus a detailed and polite cover letter that explains exactly why you’re so much willing to do an internship with them.
- Consider creative techniques - some folks are spending a lot of time early on working on creative approaches of landing an internship or a job. This may include a five minute inspirational video about your understanding of their work and contributions, a printed pamphlet instead of a standard CV, or even some sample work that is supposedly directly connected to their work.
- Create a limited list of companies that you want to apply at. If you are willing to continue as a junior after the internship, that would be ideal (the opportunity may not be there, but teaching folks for free without being able to onboard right after might be a problem)
- Prepare a cover letter template that could be reused, yet extended
- Build a generic portfolio that showcases your skills
- List out all extracurricular activities which may be of use during an internship
- Apply some of the steps from the One Goal Approach list
In any case, make sure that your requirements are stated in detail upfront. The more flexible you are, the less hassle it would be for the company.
Some internships are paid, others are free. Some are part-time, others are full-time. Some require presence at the office, others are somewhat remote. Some provide equipment while others may expect you to bring your own laptop to the office.
The more flexibility, the lower the cost for a company to do an internship with motivated students or juniors. There are plenty of companies that have junior programs but have higher expectations by most interns which is why they don’t offer internships right away. If there’s an opportunity to get a motivated someone who is willing to do a long onboarding while spending the time and effort on learning, it’s possible that a junior opening would be on the table after the internship.
2. Preparing Your CV: 7 Points Recruiters Note In Your CV
After reviewing thousands of CVs and conducting nearly a thousand interviews, I've compiled my top 7 list of common mistakes or caveats in job applications. My list has been discussed with other tech leads, recruiters, and CEOs in my network and we seem to agree on most points (with certain exceptions across various roles).
Anywho, if you're applying for an internship, a first job, or career switch and don't have plenty of experience in your industry, here's my top 7:
- Accomplishments (what you've done, tools, stack)
- First impression
- Cover letter
- Personalized approach or intro
I have discussed more about these points mentioned above in this video:
3. Acing Your Interview: “Why Should We Hire You?”
Here comes the interview stage. I would like to focus on one question that can be tricky for most applications: “Why should we hire you?”
Based on my experience over the years, this question is usually asked after a series of other questions discussing your skillset and expectations.
There are usually two instances when interviewers ask this question:
- It’s a standard question in their playbook that relates to every single applicant.
- You have already made a good impression and are now shortlisted among the top few choices.
Most decent human resource professionals won’t just ask this question without a good reason. So it’s still worth exploring the second opportunity.
If you’ve already presented yourself as a good fit and the hiring team has to pick among a few candidates, make sure that you combine all of your relevant skills to show them that you are attuned to all of their business needs.
Example for a tech profile:
“My technical expertise combined with my leadership skills in university groups and extracurricular activities have prepared me to join a rapidly growing organization, and start as a responsible and motivated engineer who could also evolve as a team leader if an opportunity presents itself.”
A freshman joining the first company:
“While my corporate experience is still limited, I am fully aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ll work hard and apply my theoretical knowledge to the company guidelines and requirements.”
“I’m a self-driven and highly motivated individual who can work in different environments and collaborate with other team members and stakeholders. I see myself as someone who can grow professionally within your organization and hopefully, achieve various accomplishments on behalf of the company.”
Based on the discussion so far, you have to evaluate the type of conversation and the business culture. Some companies are more friendly and others are extremely conservative. Some of the answers may focus on funny replies which may be suitable to certain human resources professionals or business owners but would result in a red flag for others.
When we interview new applicants, my expectation of "Why should I hire you?" would include a response that corresponds to the applicant's skill set and resonates with our company culture. Examples:
- “I believe that my experience with X,Y,Z would allow me to contribute to the technical team and introduce new perspective on your scalability problems and reaching out to foreign markets with different policies.”
- “Despite my limited experience so far, I'm willing to contribute extra hours in order to fit your company culture and meet your quality standards.”
- “I enjoy your current contributions to A,B,C and I would be thrilled to participate as a X and help your products reach the right audience and close more deals.”
We value answers that are not too shabby and people are self-conscious and aware of what they know so far, what their goals are, and how they would use their experience in order to help our company.
4. Transitioning From Internship to Regular Junior Work
If you want to transition between teams (or just switch jobs) within the same organization, talk to different team members within your company.
Chat with the employees - both experienced ones, and juniors, in order to figure out what are the job requirements in-house and what does their day-to-day look like. You probably have some exposure to that already and can leverage your existing skills while studying more about how they work.
Don’t forget to talk to human resources and managers, too. They can share some valuable insights regarding the hiring process, what matters to them when interviewing applicants and what is the minimum bar you have to cover for a junior position.
Depending on the technical stack, the industry, and the required level of skills needed for the job, you may want to do some background research of the company you’re targeting and check their open jobs as an example.
What is the purpose of a promotion?
- A salary or a salary increase
- A senior title
- More job responsibilities
- Job flexibility
- Other perks
If you are satisfied with your job, the team, the pay, a promotion is a “good-to-have” but not really a necessity.
Smaller companies can’t always plan promotions with their annual performance reviews.
And corporations tend to develop predefined career plans that depend on quota, available positions, selection criteria, etc.
Also, apart from the financial bit, promotions can actually be more demanding or stressful. Additional responsibilities are implied, and response times are usually shorter.
So if you’re comfortable with your job, keep it cool. If you seek for added duties and proving yourself in the field, then figure out what is the usual career growth plan. Either strive for getting there soon or look for a new job that would land you the next upgrade.
5. Advancing Your Career: How Do You Talk About Career Growth?
When in doubt, chat with management. You don’t necessarily have to state you’re worried about the future of the company or your own career.
Ask about the roadmap. The next couple of quarters. The technological advancements in the pipeline.
It’s quite possible that the company is just taking it easy, having signed multiple 5-year contracts and executing accordingly. This isn’t a bad thing, either — it helps to build the culture, refine existing processes, and also invest in some product development or architecture internally.
Some of these have landed a high profile client and don’t consider the future. Now, this is bothersome. And it may justify you looking for another job.
But plenty of companies know what they’re up to. They have a long-term roadmap, milestones in 6 months from now, 18 months, 3 years, 5 years.
If you’re short-staffed, the company may be looking for the right management hire or promotion first. They may be interviewing for new team members. Or strategizing over an upcoming product.
They may be waiting for a major product launch during an international conference.
You won’t figure this out yourself. If you’re a senior tech lead or in management, this is probably transparent (barely, though, most details are left for later). Then again, interns or regular employees don’t tend to participate in management discussions.
So try to have an informal chat or two with your manager. If you inquire two or three times, they will certainly figure out your concerns.
After all, you are happy with your job, and assuming your team is great, there’s nothing to worry about asking your manager a long-term question. It showcases an interest in the future of the company and your career path as well.
Looking For A Mentor?
I was lucky enough to discover my career path when I was a young kid. It was a combination of family support, my volunteering and networking activities, a couple of fortunate job opportunities, and a lot of hustle at school.
Not everyone is exposed to the same opportunities -- and I realize it. I didn't at first, it seemed apparent as a kid, but meeting more and more people lacking direction helped me figure out a common career problem.
So I try to help through my videos, content on my blog and Quora, and personal guidance on private messages and emails. We also plan some working groups at the office, similarly to the way we structure our internships.
If you're struggling to find a job, land an internship, or look for a mentor, hit me up and I'll send some actionable feedback your way.
About the Author:
Mario Peshev is the CEO of DevriX, a global WordPress agency serving industries from publishing to automotive and airline. Peshev focuses the majority of his time on running his business and leading distributed tech teams at DevriX of 40+ people crafting high-scale WordPress solutions optimized for revenue. Mario started with development as a hobby and built his first website in 1999. Sixteen years later, DevriX ranks among the top 20 WordPress consultancies worldwide, scaling both world-known enterprise brands and high-traffic publishers on top of WordPress.
Mario has over 10,000 hours of training and consulting activities for organizations such as CERN, Saudi Aramco, VMware, SAP and many others, coaching business owners on growth strategy, technical architecture, marketing funnels and digital presence. He is a Core contributor to the WordPress project, an Inbound Certified marketer, and a multi-disciplined business owner with a wide scope of skills.
In addition to leading DevriX, Peshev also advises up and coming web developers and tech entrepreneurs, attracting over 2 million views to his transparent Quora discussions on his experience of entrepreneurship and IT work life and he recently authored the book 126 Steps to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur: The Entrepreneurship Fad and the Dark Side of Going Solo. Follow him on Twitter @no_fear_inc and connect on LinkedIn.
Photo: © rh2010 stock.adobe.com