Those incoming interns who are seeking notice and eventual full-time employment may get left out in the cold come next season. But while factors like fierce competition and less full-time hiring are difficult obstacles to overcome, there are definitive steps interns can take to increase their chances of landing a salary.
So in a cultural world that’s all about me, what are the keys to success? The following tips – many done before you even walk through the door on your first day- are for interns who want to become irreplaceable and respected by their employers:
1) “Learn your industry”
Read trade publications. Advertising interns, read AdAge and Advertising Week. Public Relations interns, read PRWeek; social media interns, read Mashable. Finance interns, Wall Street Journal. Accounting interns, The Journal of Accountancy. Take specific note of the topics, trends, major players, holding companies, and thought leaders.
2) “Google yourself”
Ensure the search results are what companies wouldn’t consider “risky”, but don’t be afraid to show up in the ranks. Everyone knows and expects you to have Facebook beach pictures and strongly worded blog comments, just make sure privacy settings are secure and overall results show up favorably.
3) “Develop your online persona”
In accordance with the above, be present in those search results. Read what industry leaders are saying in the social space and actively comment. Author your own blog and online forums. Don’t focus on your overall industry (you’ll only feel overwhelmed), rather focus on a niche topic you care about (i.e. QR code campaigns in Singapore). Be the smartest person in the room on a topic. Lastly, when deciding on how much of your personality to share, follow this mantra, “don’t be a robot but don’t be Kanye“.
4) “Know new media”
There is an expectation that new media is second nature to you. If you happen to be one of the resistors, it’s time to get over it. More important then using social sites for personal reasons, you’ll need to understand why Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter, for example, are relevant to your industry and company. Go to the data. Observe the trend line of media by demographics, mediums, and industries. Make an educated decision on what technologies are purely novelty and which have lasting value. You superstars have already bought a book on SEO or mobile marketing.
5) “Teach boomers new media”
Your understanding of new media will serve of value in your internship as you’re able to communicate and apply these technologies to senior management. The occasions to share will be rare but very critical. So, learn how to appropriately do so, now. Grab your neighbor, parents, or professors and learn to participate in a “knowledge share”. Take a topic (i.e. location-based services, transmedia storytelling, SMS campaigns) and make sure you only do half of the talking. They need to feel comfortable asking you questions and contributing. After each session, write down your observations with what worked and what didn’t. If they’re willing, ask your participants to do the same. As you prove yourself in the workplace, you will become a sought-after intern because of your ability to listen, apply and communicate with your future boss. And that same boss will invest in you because you’ve already put in the work to invest in them.
6) “Thank you cards”
Write a hand-written note to anyone who assisted you in landing this internship (parents, teachers, internship coordinator, classmates who reviewed your resume, etc.). Get into the habit of personal gratitude. Throughout your internship and at the end of it, write to anyone who taught you something.
7) “Never say no”
Learn now to make a good cup of coffee and how to double-side print on a copy machine. Master the simple things so they become a non-issue in the office because you’ve got it covered. Ask your boss (only occasionally), “is there anything I can help you with?”. It can be a tough question for a boss to answer because they don’t know how much you can handle. But they do need help. So try and listen for those spoken or unspoken needs and be proactive. When you asked to do something beneath you, do it, but do it better than anyone else.