Many companies recruit through a competition of sorts. It’s called an internship . Candidates are taken on for a short period for little or often no pay. If they do well, they may get a job. If not, they are no worse off than a loser on the TV show, Apprentice.
Not that there is anything wrong with internships in principle. In many sectors an internship is a long-established and respectable way of giving young people hands-on experience, and for employers to sift out the best talent. But the number of internships have grown significantly in recent years, and there have been concerns expressed about interns being exploited by unscrupulous employers.
However, internships are a fact of life. Just check out the WEXO site to see how numerous they are. So what can you do to make the most of an internship, to maximise your chances of getting a good job from it?
Before accepting an internship, you should do some research on the employer. Check them out online, what sort of reputation do they have, amongst their staff and customers? Can you find someone who has already done an internship there, to give you some insight? Use sites like duedil.com to find out about the company’s financial strength and recent new stories. Check out their website, their annual report, and search Google News for stories about them or their directors.
If you know who you will be working with, try to do some research on them. Tweets and Facebook are often a good way of finding out about someone, people tend to let their professional mask slip on social sites. Check them out on Linked In as well. Look at the groups they belong to, and check out where they have worked in the past.
If you can’t get anywhere on social media then see if you can use your personal networks. We’re all supposed to be no more than five connections away from everyone on the planet, so who do you know who knows someone who might be able to help you? If you still can’t get enough information, then you have little choice other than to try the job and see.
Assuming the company checks out OK and you accept the internship (and remember, you have the right to refuse and nobody will hold it against you) then you need to make the most of your time at the company.
Its not rocket science; companies recruit people who do the job well and who are pleasant to be around. Show willing whenever you are asked to do something, but don’t be too obsequious; if you allow yourself to be pushed around too easily you won’t win respect. Build relationships with people; smile and greet everyone, but not too pushily. Go out for drinks with your colleagues if you are invited, and if you are not, ask politely if you can join them. Above all, stay busy. If you have nothing to do, ask what you can do. Don’t sit around idly, waiting to be given tasks.
If things aren’t working out then don’t keep it to yourself. It’s not very professional to walk away from an internship if you don’t like it, but equally you shouldn’t put yourself in a position where you being taken advantage of. Seek a meeting with your line manager, or someone more senior if appropriate, and lay out your concerns. Be firm but don’t exaggerate. Stay calm, tell them you are looking for a solution and that you hope the matter can be resolved n a professional way.
The internship system may have its faults but it also the potential to evolve into a highly successful way of helping you set off on a career path that is right for you. It all comes down to the way we manage it.