A few years ago I sat wide-eyed at my computer eagerly skimming through google results for “How to Make a CV”, “How to Write a Resume” and “What’s the Difference between a CV and a Resume?”. I knew nothing about internships other than the fact that I supposedly needed one. As a law student that still didn’t know if I liked law, an internship meant not only a notch on my (at the time, nonexistent) resume, but also the valuable opportunity to figure out if I was riding my indifferent-but-interested bike down the right path.
Since then, I’ve had three different internships at two different law firms and, while that certainly doesn’t make me an “expert intern” (thankfully, because that doesn’t sound like an appealing job title), I do think I’ve learnt a few things that I would have been happy to have casually read during the weeks leading up to my first job.
- Applying is not as easy as it should be
This one is for the gals like me who tried a “How to Apply for an Internship”-esque Google search and quickly realised that a lot of the answers were not exactly relevant. Living in a small, Caribbean island, I get this a lot when I turn to trusty google for (life, love, work) advice and I’d imagine that the same applies to those coming from small towns. Advice like, “check the company’s website for information on their internship scheme” is just not applicable. I’m yet to find a local firm that has information about internships on their website (although it would be embraced with open arms!). Something as simple as finding the email address to send your CV to can end up being a similar venture to cracking the DaVinci Code. My advice: always assume that a company takes on interns. Don’t send an e-mail unless your CV is attached – no one has the time to respond saying, “Yes we take on interns, can you send your CV?”. And if your mum’s boss’s bank teller knows the lady that does the photocopying, contact her and ask her, with all the cherries on top, to help you get in touch with whoever it is that deals with applications.
2. Don’t be afraid to make phone calls
I hate calling people. I’m not sure how common this phobia is and therefore this point might be here just for my benefit. But I say it all the time, I would gladly send 6 emails, two texts and a raven before I pick up the phone. I can almost get away with this as the world seems to be moving further and further away from telephone communication. However, it’s no secret that you can usually achieve more in a thirty second phone call than you can in four emails back and forth. When it comes to finding out who to send your CV to (as discussed above), checking on whether its been received and inquiring as to when you should expect to hear back from them, the phone call will always be the most effective tool. If you are a fellow member of the Phone Phobia Club then maybe try this embarrassing thing I do where I write down my opening sentence and bullet points of what I want to achieve during the call before dialling.
3. Follow Up
Ok, this one Google told me. But I didn’t want to listen. I remember saying, “But I don’t want to be annoying!” when my family urged me to make a call asking about the status of my application when a couple months had passed without being contacted by a firm. When I eventually made a call to HR, it turned out that they had sent me an email offering me a placement a month back that had went straight to my junk box. If I hadn’t made that call, I would have assumed that they weren’t interested in me and they would have assumed that I rudely ignored their offer.
4. Interview Prep is Overrated
Before my first intern-interview I probably read twenty articles and drove my mother absolutely mad begging her to help me decide what my “biggest weakness” was (I think we settled on “indecisiveness”). When I was actually in the interview, all the questions I was asked were ones I didn’t need to think twice about. Being an intern and not a potential employee, they mainly centred around the courses I was taking at school, my areas of interest and points on my resume. Of course this won’t be the same at every company, but I found that even the “hard” questions were so much easier to answer when I wasn’t thinking about what Google told me the right answer was.
It goes without saying that applying for the internship is “just the beginning”. However, in some cases, it might just be the hardest part. Get past the pleasantries and procedures of the application process and I promise that the intern experience will be well worth it (if not for you, at least for your CV).