Tips and tricks on making contacts for future career paths and learning skills, that your tutors can't teach you.
Loosening up the endless studies with practical experience, making contacts for future career paths and learning skills, that your tutors can’t teach you. An internship has so many advantages. And I am sure that you have heard all of them once, twice or a thousand times. My - definitely very professional – research shows, that doing an internship means going through several phases.
The Phases of an Internship
The first phase is the struggle of finding the right company for your internship. Or rather companies since it is wise to apply for several positions. Upon successfully overcoming the unnerving stress of the interview (You cannot tell me you are not stressed out – everybody is), the second phase starts: The time of great hopes and anticipation. This phase ends the evening before the first day. This is when you feel like you don’t know anything or anyone and that you are, in fact, way too nervous to manage everything right away. That makes the third phase a little mess of getting to know the people, the workflow, and programmes you have apparently never heard of.
And then phase four starts: You know what to do and how to do it, you know which one is your coworker’s favourite mug. Despite the doubts, everything turned out great. Sometimes we find ourselves questioning why we were that anxious in the first place. (But I find that to be a very reasonable thing.). What I want to say is that a bit of stress is worth your while. Internships are a great way to develop your young career. But who said you couldn’t reduce that stress with some tips? Here we go!
Personally, I find it to be a little demotivating starting off with (what I think is) the most annoying step: Searching for an internship. Perfecting your application over and over again is stressful. But do you know what is absolutely nerve-wracking? Job websites with over 400 entries and none seems to fit! Maybe I’m getting a little emotional here. Job websites can be incredibly useful because you can filter practically everything. Location? Branche? Period? Not a problem! So really the chances of success are not that low. But if you are as unlucky as I am, here are some other ideas:
If you are interested in an internship in a specific company look up on their website if they offer internships and see how they want to receive your application. If you can’t find any information, just send your application. Really the worst they can do is ignore you.
What I found to be really helpful is asking around. Family, friends, fellow students… The best chances for success are people you know from workshops, previous internships, or voluntary work in the same sector. Nearly everybody knows someone, who knows someone who works at… and so on.
So, you found the internship of your dreams. There’s just one problem. They don’t know that they absolutely need you. Yet.
I know writing cover letters is… not the most fun. (Anyone else feeling like suddenly all the skills you have are less worthy of mentioning?) To get started you can find a lot of templates online. Read as many different ones as you like and combine them into the ultimate letter. Of course, you should sprinkle in your own style too. Try and hit the right tone for the company, some are more formal than others. If you want to be fancy: Design your CV and cover letter in the colours of the company you’re applying to. It invokes the feeling that you already fit in. For an internship, your application often must not be as extensive as a job application. A one-page cover letter is typically long enough and 1 to 3 pages for your CV are perfect. Write an E-Mail, shortly explaining your request and attach the necessary documents – et voilá. That sounds easier than it is, but I’m sure you got this!
… and the Interview
For interviews, there are just as many tips online as for cover letters. Sometimes they include infinite lists with example questions that make you even more anxious. (Yeah, sure I’ll prepare to answer how I would run an elephant farm on the North Pole, so you can get an impression of my improvising skills.) But the general tips online are really good guidelines. Be punctual, appear confident, prepare questions and answers, and stock up your knowledge of the company. And accept the obligatory glass of water with a smile and a “That would be wonderful, thank you.” You know the drill.
A word on Bureaucracy
A little warning at this point if you’re preparing for an internship in Germany: Take a look at the bureaucracy! We all know how important it is to Germans to complicate everything a bit with very specific requirements and taxes and…
So, there are differences between obligatory internships and volunteer internships. The most important one is that you typically do not get paid for obligatory internships (and therefore, don’t have to pay taxes but also have no claim on vacation). In voluntary internships longer than three months you typically get paid with at least 400 Euros a month. For the specifics talk to your contact person or look up the conditions online.
Internship in Action
Now it comes to being the best intern there has ever been. Maybe the goals do not have to be that big but leaving the right impression is a good idea anyway. If people like working with you, an internship can result in recommendations or lifelong contacts for further job-seeking adventures. Or even employment.
So, be polite, be confident and punctual, the usual. But besides that, a key to success in your internship is asking questions. Questions show interest. And they keep you from making mistakes. Honestly, questions are great! And in most cases, no one is annoyed by asking, even if we tend to fear that people might be. Participating in conversations besides the daily tasks is also a good point. For one it makes you more likable and it also helps you to feel more integrated. Who knows, if you listen to those twenty minutes of Inga telling you about her Ibiza vacation, she might take on that task that you’ve been so bored by.
But between all the kindnesses don’t forget your own needs. Communicate with your coworkers and/or supervisors if something is not right. Ask for help if you need it and try to solve problems even if you think nobody cares! You gain nothing from an internship if it makes you unwell every day. And the company gains nothing if the quality of your work declines because of a thing that can be changed in two minutes. Take care of yourself 🙂
And now, I wish you the best of luck for whatever phase is coming up!
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