So, you’re halfway into the semester, and you’ve learned to not let you’re your books get in the way of your learning. Now, let’s assume that you’ve landed your first internship… or not. What’s next?
This is a question I had to answer myself, and I wasn’t willing to bury and forget about it. If you’re like me, you want every experience to count, and my first internship was a huge reality check.
In the previous post of ‘Don’t Let Your Books Get in the Way of your Learning, you read about what companies expect from a recent graduate that you won’t learn in class. Here are five areas of professionalism that I found to be the most important to overcome and I explain why… also not found in books!
BE A PRO INTERN
Expectations of an internship (or entry-level job)
I thought internships were a magical door-opening opportunity. The goal was to look presentable every day, finish my daily duties, and when the internship ends, voila!
My hopes were that I would impress the boss enough to get one of two things; a job offer, or a good reference— at the very least… but neither happened. I convinced myself that working with that start-up company was my biggest mistake. I should’ve gone corporate, so I did…
I applied at a gazillion places before being called for an interview. Of course, I was psyched and ready to go. Once again, look presentable, finish my daily duties, and then, voila! I knew what had to be done, and I did it. I felt accomplished every day, but that clearly wasn’t enough.
Real-world internships (or entry-level jobs)
Think of an internship as a gateway, not an open door. The goal is to leave an impression, but not only by looking presentable. Walk in ready to learn, but also ready to apply what you’ve learned. Seems logical, right? And simple? Def!
Internships aren’t just about paperwork. It’s about applying your skills to give quality input and learning from the feedback. It’s also about making professional connections and acquiring the skills needed for the job you’re trying to get. Use your internship to talk to people in different departments, offer help whenever possible, and ask a million questions! In a perfect world, a good internship should end with a great mentor.
BE A PRO NETWORKER
The more you expose yourself, the more confidence you’ll have. What does it take to meet the right people? Say it with me: LO-QUA-CI-TY. The only way you can get better at introducing yourself and talking about yourself is by going out there and getting that practice. Do it over and over and over again.
Most people find it hard to talk about themselves or their company because they’re so concerned with making impressions instead of making connections.
I learned that in professional environments you have to grow up. People don’t always want to hang out with the newbie. If you look “new to the scene” chances are you’ll be the one having to approach everyone. Wouldn’t it be nice to be the one that’s approached, instead?
The best way to make connections is to make friendships. I admit, I only keep friends that I admire and friends that help me progress. I learned early on that if you want to become part of someone’s routine, you have to have value. Show people what you’re worth!
BE A PRO JOB SEEKER
A connection will only get you so far. I’m not a big fan of favors. Instead, I focus on being an authority in the field. The latter has much more value. Nothing speaks more highly than your name coming up in a conversation without asking for it.
But while networking may seem productive, waiting around won’t get you to the next level. Be proactive; learn the best websites for job seeking, update your resume on a monthly basis, learn the industry jargon, and apply EVERYWHERE! If you’re new to the market, you definitely shouldn’t rely on contacts alone for job placements. Most recommendations are based on work experience, reputation, or who you know.
BE A PRO INTERVIEWEE
An interview is essentially an evaluation of whether the opportunity will be a good fit for the employer and yourself. You should be prepared to answer questions about yourself, but also be prepared to ask questions about the company. You don’t want to find out three months into the job that it really wasn’t what you were looking for.
Many people get nervous about interviews because they’re thought to be interrogation sessions instead of an assessment. A company hires to grow their team. In your interview, show the value that you would bring to the company, show your communication skills, and show that you’re a real team player who cares about results. Attitude is everything. Anyone can learn the industry, but not everyone can offer an “I want to win” attitude!
IMPROVE YOUR PRO WARDROBE
Becoming a professional means investing in yourself. Buy items that you can wear year-round and will last more than just a few months. Don’t be afraid to mix and match. Getting out of your comfort zones and thinking outside the box just with clothes essentially makes you more diverse in the workplace. You generate ideas based on how you feel, and the clothes that you wear has a huge impact on morale—trust me.
Improving your professional wardrobe goes hand-in-hand with your personal style. Look into pieces that you can dress up and dress down. Being successful is a lifestyle not a Monday through Friday chore, so looking and feeling great shouldn’t take a break. This concept took me a few months to understand, but once I got into the groove of things, my life changed entirely! I became more motivated to go out and be productive every day.
In subsequent posts of Don’t Let Your Books Get in the Way of Learning, you’ll learn more about the five areas of professionalism; how to prepare for them, how to maximize your experiences, and tips on how to do it best the first time!
Don’t just graduate—Be a Pro!
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