Wednesday, February 3, 2010

3 Tips for a successful internship

A successful salesman "sets customer expectations and then meets (or barely exceeds) them." The first time I heard this was at an HP training event and it has stuck with me ever since. The wisdom in this strategy is undeniable- oversell and the customer is disappointed (or worse, loses trust); undersell and you risk losing the sale altogether. However, setting and meeting expectations is a skill- not always easy to do. Social entrepreneurship is all about selling (your idea, your business plan, your dream, your team .... whatever) and internships are a great way to hone selling skills because an intern has the benefits of a student status, yet is exposed to real life ambiguity. If you have secured an internship, it means the employer has already made an investment (time and /or money) in you. The top 3 things an intern can do are:

Do the Research: Before your first day on the job - research the company, industry and their strengths. Examine your own background and identify skills or reasons why the company wants to invest in you. If you can, figure out a way to make a contribution that would be beyond expectations or make that a goal during internship. Read related professional journals, magazines; keep up with the latest developments

Attitude- Professional, positive, punctual, enthusiastic: Its a job and all the rules of professional conduct apply. Stay away from gossip and drama and make sure to offer to do some grunt work. However, take advantage of your student status to ask questions beyond the scope of the internship. Network with people who interest you professionally. If possible find somebody who will let you shadow them to a relevant meeting. All this of course, providing you have met your assigned internships tasks - (meet and only then exceed). If you can, find a mentor in the organisation. If things go wrong don't take it personally- help others if you can.

Followup: Closure is important. Ask for feedback; ask if you can keep in touch; prepare some written reports; give feedback professionally keeping it factual and unemotional. Above all, remember that the employer wants you to succeed just as much as you do. Make sure they know you understand that.

Go ahead - make it a win-win and convert an internship into a job offer. You can do it!

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