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Next Step Academy | Internships

Summer 2017 Internships: Start Looking Now!

January 17th, 2017 by

The spring semester has just begun and summer break seems years away. However, in reality, there’s just short of 15 weeks until finals are finished and summer begins. If you’re hoping for an internship this summer, it’s time to start preparing now. Here are three questions you should be asking yourself to get the internship search started.

Do I even need an internship? Many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields require entry level applicants to have prior experience in the form of internships. These include careers in architecture and the medical field, as well as all forms of engineering or research. Careers in the business, law, art and communication fields don’t necessarily require internships, however, internships are a great way to learn about your field and gain experience before entering the workforce.

Intern-1What do I want out of an internship? First, you may want an internship to help you decide what you want to do after you graduate. Over the course of your undergrad, you could potentially have two to four internships, each in a slightly different field so you can learn firsthand what your preferences are. For example, a communications student may want to get an internship at a newspaper, a radio station and at a public relations firm before deciding which career path they want to follow.

Second, you may want to use an internship to help guarantee yourself a job after graduation. If you’re already certain what field you want to work in, a summer internship can be used to build a relationship with a company. (Hint: Read Next Step Academy’s blog “How to Turn an Internship into a Career”)

How do I find an internship that fits my needs? Your first step should be speaking with an academic advisor in your department. Department advisors often have lists of open or upcoming internships. It’s also likely that your academic department already has a relationship with companies in your community that are always open to taking interns from your school. An academic advisor will be able to help you choose an internship that fits your current needs and career goals.

You can also use websites such as InternMatch.com or general job search sites such as Indeed.com which have filter options specifically for internships. These sites are great if you want to look for internships outside of your local area. Also, make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and up to date. LinkedIn will send you job and internship suggestions and some companies recruit interns based on the information you put on your profile.

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Showing Gratitude in Business

October 24th, 2016 by

There will be many times over the course of your professional development where it is respectful and useful to send a thank you letter to show gratitude. This could be to a potential employer after an interview, at the completion of an internship, to a teacher who has been a significant role model or to someone who has agreed to write you a reference. There is no downside when it comes to taking the time to be thankful for opportunities and guidance.

thank-you-515514_960_720The value of saying thanks. Sending a thank you letter, first and foremost, will make you stand out. If you’re trying to gain employment, an interviewer will look more favorably upon the candidates that chose to reach out and say thanks over those who didn’t. Thank you notes can also help build and maintain strong connections. Upon leaving an internship, a thank note could ensure you are asked back as a permanent employee in the future. Regardless of the circumstances, people respond well to being thanked and are more likely to give you opportunities if they know you are grateful for their help.

Make it personal. This starts by addressing the letter appropriately, especially if you are writing a post-interview thank you note. Don’t just address the note “To whom it may concern,” learn the name of who interviewed you and address them specifically, “Dear Mr/Mrs last name.” You should also avoid generic phrases. Give specific details highlighting what you’re thankful for, why you are thankful and how their time will help you grow in the future.

Choose the right medium. A handwritten letter is more personal and shows that you put a lot of thought into the process of saying thank you. In most cases, this should be your first choice. However, there are exceptions. If you have exceptionally bad handwriting, a word processed letter may be a better option. Sometimes you may not have a physical address, especially with a professor, in which case email is an acceptable choice. Email is also acceptable if most of your prior communication has occurred via email.

Proofread. This cannot be stressed enough. Even if you are typing your thank you letter or emailing it, proofread it several times before you send your final draft. Autocorrect doesn’t catch everything and one small mistake could ruin the effect of the letter. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes, so consider asking a friend or colleague to proofread your letter as well.

Send a gift. While inappropriate in certain situations, such as a post-interview thank you, a gift can be a little something extra to show how much you appreciate the time someone spent helping you. It doesn’t have to be huge, just something small to show the person you value them. For example, a gift card to the campus coffee shop for a professor, or offering to take a business reference out to dinner. A small gesture to accompany your letter can show your genuine appreciation.

Need some help proofreading? Next Step Academy’s “Basic Grammar/Writing Toolkit” for useful tips and editing advice.

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How to Turn an Internship into a Career

September 26th, 2016 by

Surveys show that employers hire more than a third of their interns as full-time employees. Give yourself an edge by following these proactive strategies for turning an internship into a career.

Choose the right internship. If you want an internship to turn into a full-time position, make sure you choose the right internship for you from the beginning. Internships can be a great way to gain experience in different fields, but not every opportunity is the right place for you to start your career. Choose an internship that relates closely to your dream job or can help you get there. If you wouldn’t be interested in a full-time position at the company, then don’t choose an internship there.16928125254_55e94fdb77_b

Be professional and bold. Throughout the course of your internship, it’s important that your employer sees you in a positive light. Remember, when you’re an intern your every move is being scrutinized. Always dress and act professionally while you’re in the office. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at meetings or to take on extra work. Show your employer that you are assertive, but not overbearing and willing to go the extra mile for the company.

Meet with your manager and set goals. At the start of your internship, ask to meet with your manager. Be honest about your interests and career goals. Let them know what you want to accomplish during your internship and what you want to accomplish throughout your professional life. This isn’t the time to flat out ask for a permanent position, but it is a great way to lay down the groundwork and show your dedication and interest in the company. Also consider meeting with your manager regularly and asking for feedback to see where you can improve.

Attend all intern activities and work events. Larger companies that hire many interns often hold events for interns, as well as general work events. Attend most, if not all of these events. In addition to showing interest in the company culture and getting to know your peers, these events can also be a great networking opportunity. Making a good impression on the people within the company — especially those who make the hiring decisions — can only help you when a position opens up.

Keep in touch after the internship. If the company doesn’t hire you after the internship ends or if it was a summer internship and you’re continuing school in the fall, make sure you leave on good terms and keep in touch. Don’t be afraid to be persistent. Contact the company periodically, letting them know you’re still interested in working for them and asking if there are any openings. If you’re looking for a position after graduation, ask if you can continue to put in 5-10 hours a week during the semester. That way you are still involved with the company even when you can’t direct your full attention to the work.

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Building a Stellar Resume

July 25th, 2016 by

Your resume is the first impression you leave with a potential employer. Before the interview, they’ve already reviewed your skills and accomplishments. Don’t let a bad resume be the reason you can’t get your foot in the door. Follow these tips to help you create a stellar resume as you take the next step towards your dream job.

A well constructed resume includes the following sections:

Summary statement. This is the first section of your resume and it should be short and sweet. Just a quick blurb about who you are and what experience you have to offer. Ex. “Public relations professional with 5+ years experience using innovative social media tactics…”

Notable skills. Now is your chance to tell your potential employer what useful skills you have that make you the perfect candidate for the position. You can include soft skills such as teamwork and time management, but most employers expect that from all candidates. Try to highlight the specific skill sets you have and include software you are familiar with.

13903383190_5920c870e1_bProfessional experience. Where have you worked, what have you done and how have you used the skills you mentioned? You do not need to include every job you’ve ever had. Only include relevant experience to the position you’re applying for and make sure you are honest. Omitting irrelevant experience is fine, including experience you’ve never had is not.  

Key projects and accomplishments. This section can actually be included as a subsection for your professional experience. Describe impressive projects you’ve worked on, especially if you received recognition or an award for your accomplishment.

Additional experience. Include volunteer work, internships, freelance and consulting work. Make sure you describe the work and create a connection between your skills and your professional experience.

Education. Where you went to school and the degree you received should typically be the last section on your resume. Unless you are using your resume to get an internship or entry-level position, your major and GPA are often less important than the experience and skills you’ve acquired.

Don’t overshare.

Believe it or not, some people put everything on their resume, including their favorite color and how many kids they have. Stick to skills and experience and leave the personal details about friends, family and non-professional hobbies out of your resume.

Remember to proofread for spelling and grammar and keep things consistent. This means using the same punctuation, using either paragraph or bulleted format, not both, and keeping text the same size and style throughout.

Take Next Step Academy’s “Career Readiness” course for more professional and career building tips.

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How To: Find A Great Internship

February 23rd, 2016 by

Today, internships are an integral part of most college undergrad programs. It’s more than likely you’ll need to complete at least one internship in order to graduate. Need some guidance on finding a great internship? You’ve come to the right place.

eye-15699_1920Where To Start:                                                                                    Part of the problem is knowing where to look. Start by speaking to your internship director, they usually know which employers offer internships. Your internship director will also need to approve your internship before you begin, so requesting information from them could save you a bit of time. If, for whatever reason, you’re internship director is  unable to provide you with information, make an appointment with the student career-center. Not only can they help you find an internship, they’ll help you put together a resume that aligns with the internship you’re looking for.

If you feel confident and want to search independently, there are  fantastic online resources. Websites like indeed.com, monster.com and CareerBuilder.com are not just for job hunters or job recruiters, they’re for anyone looking for professional experience. You can even search specifically for internships in your local area. If you’re looking for internships in the non-profit market check out idealist.org. Maybe you’re feeling adventurous? GlobalExperience.com can help you find internships all around the globe!

Do Your Research:                                                                                                                                   So, you’ve found a handful of internship positions you’re interested in. You’ve submitted your resume and applications, and now you’re waiting to hear back. This is the time to do some research. You don’t need to launch a CSI: Cyber investigation for this; keep it simple. Visit each companies’ website and their social media.

Here’s what to look for: What’s their mission statement? What’s their work-place culture like? What type of clients do they work with? This information helps you develop a better sense of the employer and if it’s a place you’d like to be a part of.

Ask Questions:                                                                                                                                   Because you’re awesome, you’ve landed interviews for all the internships you applied to. You’re prepared for the questions they’ll ask you, but what questions are you prepared to ask them? An interview is an excellent opportunity to find out more about the employer. Here are some questions you may want to ask: What kind of projects have your interns been part of? Have you hired any of your interns? How many different departments do interns get to work with?  Answers to these kinds of questions will help you ultimately decide which internship is the best fit for you. Be prepared to ask the questions that matter to you.

Your fellow classmates and school alumni are also great resources. If you know anyone who interned with an employer you’re considering, talk to them about their experience. Your internship director may also be able to share other insightful experiences with you.

It’s never too early to start thinking about the types of internships that interest you. You may even want to do more than one! If you have any other questions about internships or related topics, don’t hesitate to ask! Send an email to info@nextstepacademy.com or contact me directly at jackie@nextstepacademy.com.

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Internships: The good, the bad and the ugly

February 16th, 2016 by

Internship concept with young woman working on a laptop

Two popular anecdotes dominate the world of college internships. In one tale, the intern is a scapegoat used for coffee runs and menial, thankless tasks. He or she eventually gets fed up, dumps the coffee on the copy machine and storms out with pride. The other tale describes the Cinderella story of a lowly intern who gets his or her big break on the second day, and ends up running the company by 23. While these stories may be founded on true, albeit rare, experiences, there are far more tales to tell with numerous realistic complications and rewards. Let’s be honest, some internships are good, some are bad and some are down right ugly.

The Good: Ideally, you land an internship in the “good” category the first time. The best kinds of internship are ones that allow you to take on meaningful responsibilities, contribute to the team, learn new skills and make strong professional connections. You need to take action to ensure you end up with a valuable internship like this, they won’t just fall into your lap. Apply for positions that align with your professional and ethical interests at organizations you would actually want to work with. When your internship comes to an end, maintain the relationships you created with your supervisor and co-workers. You might end up with a mentor, references, or even a future job offer.

The Bad: Sometimes you don’t get the ideal internship and you wind up somewhere you don’t want to be; you’re not learning anything of value, the work consists of those dreaded menial tasks, or you may just be bored. If this happens, talk to your school’s director of internships about possible solutions. Chances are, that person will urge you to ask your internship supervisor for more responsibility. You are as much of an asset to the organization as they are to you. If the work you want simply doesn’t exist, consider moving on to another internship. You are not expected to stick it out in a position you aren’t learning from. If you do decide the best solution is to move on, be respectful when you leave the organization; never burn bridges. While the work may not be what you were hoping for, those connections you made could help you in your future career.

The Ugly: It’s rare to find an organization that hires interns they don’t want around, but it does happen. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable or degrading situation (the boss expects you to take his adult kid out on a dinner date, your co-workers expect you to go through hazing, etc.), then it’s time to leave. This is a situation in which your comfort and safety are far more important than maintaining professional connections. Still be respectful when you leave the position, but don’t hesitate to leave that ugly internship behind. Consider talking to the organization’s human resource department and notify your school’s internship director to save another student from being subjected to an ugly internship.

While not all internships are perfect, you can learn a lot about the type of position and work culture you do enjoy by being as involved as possible, but don’t settle for an internship that isn’t benefiting you. There is no glory in suffering through a bad or ugly internship. The goal at the end of your internship is to come out wiser and more prepared for your future, with a better understanding of what the career is really like. So keep an eye out for the the markers of a good internship, a bad one and an ugly one.

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