Tag Archives | internship

5 Ways to Kickstart Your Career Without a University Degree 

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

Whether it’s a frugal desire to avoid the financial strain inherent in student life, or simply that you feel university isn’t the best path for you as an individual, there are many different ways to get your foot on the first rung of the career ladder that are worth keeping in mind when looking towards the future.

Apprenticeships
An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to be trained on-the-job, learning as you go under the guidance of experienced workers already well established in the business. In addition to gaining job-specific skills within the industry that interests you, time will generally be kept aside to allow for some study in the relevant field (typically one day a week), making it a comprehensive way to learn about the role. To qualify, you need to be at least 16 and not in full-time education, meaning it’s an ideal alternative to an academic path for many people.

Internships
An internship works in a similar way to an apprenticeship in some respects, in that it’s a position offered to prospective workers that allows them to gain first-hand experience in the workplace itself. It differs from the former however, in that it’s typically carried out over a shorter period of time (anywhere from a week to a year), meaning less time commitment if you don’t want to be tied down right away, but also in that they are generally offered with the intention of hiring any promising talent into a more permanent position.

What’s more, since an internship is classed as a work placement, you will usually be entitled to payment of at least the national minimum wage throughout the duration of your position.

Working your way up
In lots of industries, it’s possible to apply for an entry-level role that requires little to no specific experience or qualifications, and to simply learn about how the industry works from the inside as you gradually work your way up through the company. This route may take a little more time, but it can bring with it a lot of job satisfaction as you are promoted up the ranks, and would leave you with an intimate knowledge of all areas concerning the business.

Classes and courses
It’s always worth checking out what classes and courses are on offer at your local college or night school. You can find all kinds of training groups and short-term qualifications that can sometimes require as little as a couple of hours, one evening a week for a few weeks, at the end of which you have newfound skills and certificates to put on your CV.

Self-employment
It would be foolhardy to think that everyone could just go it alone in their career and make a success of it right away. That’s not to say that self-employment doesn’t work out for a lot of people, however, and it is indeed a perfectly valid option worth considering. It requires a lot of hard work and self-discipline, but if you’ve got the drive to make it happen, it can lead to many perks, such as complete control over your own working hours and holidays, the ability to set your own rate of pay, and creative freedom with regards to the work carried out and the very business itself.

This article was contributed by guest author Julie Cheung.

0

Things to do in NYC during your summer internship

Image by rawpixel.com, unsplash.com

For a college student moving to the big city for a new internship, New York can be a little intimidating. There are so many people rushing around, and the subway system takes a minute to master. First, get the basics down such as how to get to your internship and where the best deli is nearby. Once you’re settled, check out this list of fun (and affordable) things to do:

Get your grub on at Smorgasburg. The largest open-air food market in America, The New York Times calls Smorgasburg “the Woodstock of eating.” The market launched in 2011 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and has since expanded to a weekend event that attracts up to 30,000 people. Try some delicious melted cheese at the Baked Cheese Haus, or churro ice cream sandwiches at Dulcinea Churros. Smorgasburg happens every Saturday in Williamsburg and Sunday in Prospect Park 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Combine art and music at the MoMA PS1 Warm Up concert series. The series is celebrating its 20th season this year, and it features the best live and electronic artists from around the globe. Headliners this year include A$AP Ferg, Jacques Greene and Laurel Halo. The concert series takes place under this year’s outdoor installation by Jenny Sabin, called “Lumen.” The installation features more than 1 million yards of digitally knitted and robotically woven fiber creating a cool canopy during the day and an amazing light show at night. Warm up takes place every weekend through September, and tickets are $18 on the day of the show for students with a valid ID.

Take a break at the New York Botanical Garden. Make sure to plan some time for the visit, as the garden is the largest in any city in the U.S. This summer features sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly. Called “CHIHULY,” the installation is the artist’s first major garden exhibition in 10 years. His work is easy to spot, with vibrant colors and unique shapes. There are also drawings and early works on display so people can see how his creativity evolved. Another must-see exhibit is the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden. With summer as its peak season, there will be more than 650 varieties of roses in bloom.

Pack your beach bag and head to Coney Island.
The theme park at the island dates back to the late 1800s, but the rides have obviously been upgraded since then. Stop by Luna Park and ride the historic Cyclone Roller Coaster or The Mighty Thunderbolt. There are plenty of other activities on Coney Island, including the New York Aquarium and the boardwalk. Try Nathan’s Famous Hotdog, created by the hosts of the annual Hot Dog Eating Contest every Fourth of July. Fun fact: This year’s winners were Joey Chesnut and Miki Sudo. Chesnut broke a Coney Island record, eating a total of 72 hot dogs.

Stop by the High Line Park and gaze at the stars. Every Tuesday, the Amatuer Astonomers Association of New York brings their high-powered telescopes so everyone can get a close look at the night sky. The event is free, and the association invites stargazers to stay afterward for dinner and dessert. Look for far away stars or nearby bright planets such as Venus or Jupiter.

Get some exercise with a nice view of the city at Dumbo Boulders. According to the park, the climbing area is the largest outdoor bouldering facility in North America. Nestled right under the Manhattan Bridge, the bouldering walls are bright blue with 4886 square-feet of climbable surface area. The entire facility can fit about 250 climbers. The climbing area comes with a view of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge. Be sure to let staff know if you are a first time climber, so they can give a quick orientation. A day pass for the bouldering walls is $9 and includes rental shoes.

Bounce, slide or rope-swing off a boat at Rockaway Water Park. Opening in August 2016, the water park is the first of its kind in the Rockaways. The main attraction is the Tarzan Boat, which is basically a water jungle gym. The boat has trampolines, diving boards and a short slide. The water park also offers jet ski rides and paddle boards. The water park is under the same ownership as the nearby Thai Rock, which serves Thai food and summer cocktails.

The only thing better than a concert is a free concert. Check out one of the Vans House Parties at the iconic footwear warehouse in Brooklyn. The shows are completely free to attend — all you have to do is RSVP. This year’s lineup includes Royal Headache and Descendants. The warehouse also features an immersive art experience by Los Angeles-based Nathan Bell. Using black and white as his medium, Bell’s work embodies the “Off the Wall” attitude behind Vans.

This article was contributed by guest author Jayson Goetz.

0

7 Ways Studying Abroad Will Prepare You For an Internship

Image by kychan, unsplash.com

Image by kychan, unsplash.com

Last January, I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. I packed up my bags and moved 6,074 miles away from my college in San Diego to study at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. During the four months that I studied in Milan, I traveled to 11 different countries and 22 different cities. While I was abroad, I experienced and learned something new almost every day. I did not recognize at the time that my experiences abroad would eventually help me in my career.

I am currently interning for eREACH, a marketing consulting firm in San Diego. My time as an intern has made me realize that I am a better employee because of how I apply the life lessons I learned abroad to my professional life. While there are countless reasons I’d recommend studying abroad to any college student, here are seven ways that studying abroad can give you a leg up in your internship:

1. You’ll Be Pushed Out Of Your Comfort Zone
To say I was terrified of moving to a foreign country is an understatement. I was so afraid of traveling alone that I had multiple anxiety attacks leading up to my departure. Today I am so grateful that I did not let my fears hold me back. If I had given up and stayed in San Diego, I would’ve passed up on the best four months of my life. Today I continue to push myself out of my comfort zone. I was nervous to apply and interview for my internship, but I didn’t let that stop me from doing so. It is completely natural to be afraid and feel anxious about trying something new – but don’t allow your fears to stop you from going after what you want.

2. You’ll Learn To Keep An Open Mind
One of the best parts about traveling is having the opportunity to try each country’s specialty foods. However, what some countries consider to a “delicious delicacy” might seem repulsive to the average American. I am absolutely nauseated by snails – but while I was in Paris I kept an open mind and I tried escargot (also known as cooked snails). As it turns out, escargot was one of my favorite dishes that I tried while I was abroad! Some of the best experiences in life can be the most unexpected. For this reason, I make an effort to keep an open mind at work. I listen to the ideas of my co-workers and I am always willing to try something new. It is easy to think that you always have the best ideas, but two collaborative minds are better than one.

3. You’ll Develop More Effective Communication Skills
One of the most difficult challenges I faced abroad was learning to overcome the language barrier. It was easy to get flustered and frustrated when I couldn’t communicate with the cashier at the grocery store or ask for help when I was lost. I learned that if I first made an effort to speak the native language and then ask for help in English, the locals were much more willing to assist me. There are also many other methods of communication including hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language. If one form of communication didn’t work, I would try to utilize a different method. This experience taught me that not everyone communicates the same way – and that’s okay. If I feel that a coworker and I are experiencing miscommunication, I make an effort to reach out to them in a way they can understand.

4. You’ll Improve Your Time Management Skills
Traveling to eleven different countries in four months requires a great deal of planning. From purchasing plane tickets, to planning transportation to and from the airport, to booking hotels – all while being a full time student in Milan, I became an excellent time manager. I learned that the key to time management is staying organized. It is now easier for me to balance school, work, and my personal life with my newfound organization and time management skills.

5. You’ll Learn To Be Flexible
Not everything went exactly as planned while I was abroad. I traveled to Santorini to see its famous sunset, but it was overcast the entire time I was there. I was supposed to visit the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, but the line was a five-hour wait in freezing temperatures. Experiences like these taught me to be flexible and go with the flow. Sometimes at work my ideas are rejected or a project doesn’t go as planned. Instead of getting overly upset, I’ve learned to be okay with plan B.

6. You’ll Be Re-Inspired To Learn
Before moving to Milan I was feeling burnt out on school. I no longer had the passion to learn new things – I just wanted to get my degree. Living in Europe exposed me to a new kind of hands-on learning. I studied art by getting a first-hand look at the works of greats like da Vinci, Michelangelo, Degas, and van Gogh. My history lessons included visiting Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin and the colosseum in Rome. After being re-inspired to learn new things, I am much more engaged at work. I inquire about things I don’t understand and I genuinely want to learn about and understand the world of marketing much more than I did before.

7. You’ll Gain More Self-Confidence
At the end of my four months in Europe I was no longer nervous and afraid of everything that made me almost bolt off of the plane back in January. I learned that I am capable of so much more than I had originally thought. My new self-confidence has translated into my professional life in a number of ways. I am able to interview better because I am confident in my skills and abilities. I am also not afraid to speak up about my ideas at work. Most importantly, I’m not afraid of failure. I treat my setbacks as learning experiences and I choose to grow from them. After moving 6,074 miles away from home, nothing else seems quite as intimidating anymore.

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience that can benefit you for a lifetime. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and start learning!

This article was contributed by guest author Alissa Young.

0

Five Most Important Things You Should Do as an Intern

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Brace yourselves, because the internships are coming! We all know it’s a jungle out there and most of you are confused about what to do when preparing for your first intern position. But, as always, we are here to help with that.

This article will take you by the hand to show you the most important things you should have in mind when undergoing an internship.

Before we present the most popular internship tips from top companies, let’s take a little respite and talk about why someone would want to apply for such a position in the first place.

One of the essential reasons why many people choose to apply for an internship at a company is because they have no idea where they stand career-wise. It would be an understatement to say that choosing your career is a harsh and nerve-consuming process. This is why it is imperative to know what to look for and what industries or departments are best suited for your particular skillset.

Let’s say you’re dying to work at Ikea, but you’re not quite sure what position you might be suited for. This is where an internship comes in. If you’ve researched all the best options to get your foot in the door and discovered that you’re not yet qualified for any of their job openings, you can try your luck with an internship position and get better insight on the exact area where you might contribute.

Performing a three-month internship helps you discover a company’s internal structure, find out what each department does and gives you a better perspective on the type of position you might be suited for in the long run.

Furthermore, this type of experience will look great on your resume and could give you a major career boost when trying to secure a full-time job.

Now, without further ado, here are the five best tips suited for interns.

1. Make it a learning experience

Before starting out on your first day as an intern, make sure to find out everything there is to know about the company’s profile and activity. Search for all available information regarding their values and objectives, their products or services, the organizational culture and the methods they use to promote themselves.

Regardless of the department where you will be interning, this will help you make a positive impression on your supervisor and also help you come up with an accurate approach for the tasks that you will be performing.

Make sure to constantly ask questions and keep learning throughout your entire internship, as this will serve you greatly not only in your activity as an intern, but also later on, when you will be securing a full-time position.

2. Organize your tasks

As a newbie, you’ll probably have a rough time adjusting to your position’s requirements. Every so often, many employers have come to realize that interns quit after a brief period of time because they feel like their workload is overwhelming.

Probably the most sound advice anyone can give you is to learn how to prioritize your tasks. Prioritization doesn’t mean that you will leave something for later and eventually forget the whole deal. Use the spare time you have to review your tasks.

It would also be a good idea to keep a planner nearby. If you’re not the pen and paper type, then you can use a mobile tool. Start with the urgent tasks or with the hard ones, leaving the easy ones for later.

On the subject of planning ahead, you should also ask your supervisor about the deadlines of each project. For example, if a simple project has a distant deadline, you can leave it aside for now and focus on other projects.

Bear in mind that the ability to prioritize is one of the things your employer uses for your evaluation. Acing this one will definitely increase your chances of staying in the company.

Also, keep in mind that your employer wants to see how you work under stress. There are things you could try to relieve some of the pressure felt at work.

3. Dress for success

Bear in mind that the company has a code for everything, including for how you dress. So, if you decide to show up for work wearing flip-flops or a heavy cleavage, you’ll probably transmit a signal that you’re not serious about the commitment.

Research the company’s policy in this regard, but also look around the office to see how people are dressing for the job. If it’s the type of company where everyone is wearing T-shirts and jeans, then you’re probably not going to want to show up for work in a corporate suit and a red necktie. Make an effort to blend in with the rest of the crowd, without necessarily losing your personal style.

4. Ask for a clear list of responsibilities

Most of the time interns are there to help full-time employees. It’s probably a bad idea to dream about ample projects or responsibilities. Bear in mind that as an intern you will probably have to perform menial tasks like photocopying documents, fetching files and even making coffee for the CEO.

Whatever your tasks may be, just be sure to have a clear idea on what is required of you and leave very little room for doubts or vagueness in this regard. If you are unsure about a specific instruction, ask your direct supervisor for further clarification. He/she might be busy with more pressing issues, but at the end of the day, they will look favorably upon your discipline and your sense of responsibility.

5. Ask for feedback

From time to time, ask your employer for feedback. Ask him/her about where you stand, how you fared so far and if there is any room for improvement. Expect some constructive criticism from him or her.

Don’t be discouraged if your employer said that your performance was poor. Instead, look for intelligent ways to improve your work. You might try asking you co-workers for help if you can’t find a satisfactory solution by yourself.

Keep in mind that they also have work to do, so, it will probably be a good idea not to assault them with too many questions.

One last thing: keep in mind that each feedback can impact us in different ways. There are many studies out there who proved that there is indeed a link between intern feedback and overall productivity.

For someone who has just stepped out of university and has no real work experience, an internship can be a challenging and rather daunting notion. The learning process may not be easy – it might even be a competitive environment – but as long as you follow the five tips outlined in this article, you will stand a very good chance of landing a favorable review or – fingers crossed – an offer to join the company full-time.

This article was contributed by guest author Amanda Wilks.

0

The Real Truth about Getting a Summer Research Position

Image by Sharon Drummond, Flickr

Image by Sharon Drummond, Flickr

As the semester draws to a close and exam season becomes less about preparation and more about survival, there is one question on the mind of every post-secondary student… how am I going to get summer research experience? At first the task may seem daunting. The main problem that most undergraduates face is that they don’t know where to start. There seems to be an endless stream of options from university job boards to department postings. There are even specialized internship programs that exist at other institutions (ex. local hospitals). However, once you scale the initial hurdle and start applying, what you will quickly realize is that even though applications keep going out, your inbox remains conspicuously empty. Is everyone just better qualified than you or is there a larger game afoot? What does it really take to get the coveted position that a million students wanted?

It’s all about connections.

Seriously, what looks like selection by merit is often just a diversion and the job will really be awarded to the individual who won the “who you know” game. A respectable GPA may get you noticed but at the end of the day a number will only get you so far; your relationships are what will really carry weight in a competitive application process. Therefore, the solution is simple but by no means easy.

Step 1: Decide what your area of interest is early in the academic year and then find professors or graduate students who are doing research on that subject.

Step 2: Find a way to make contact – and by that I mean face to face. Try taking their class or at least finding out when their office hours are and becoming a regular. Come prepared with intelligent and insightful questions, but always remember they are the experts so don’t try to show them up.

Step 3: When you feel comfortable, broach the topic of working for them over the summer. If necessary this can be done via email but be prepared to argue your case and convince them you would be an asset to their work.

Don’t expect to get paid.

Not only are most researchers strapped for cash but many are also very sensitive when it comes to money. If they think you aren’t there for the purely intellectual pursuit of furthering your own knowledge this could act as a strike against you. However, what you want is to get your foot in the door and volunteering is a great way to make this happen. People are not usually going to turn down extra help they don’t have to pay. If you can find some way to ensure your funding, for example through a government grant, that is even better.

It’s not just for science students.

When most people hear the word research they automatically think of scientists in lab coats creating various concoctions from bubbling beakers. Admittedly for anyone engaged in serious scientific study research experience, even if it involves just cleaning that glassware, is a must. Nevertheless, to be competitive in the humanities and social sciences, especially if you have your sights set on graduate school, research experience is also becoming very valuable. Though it may involve less time in the lab and more in the library there are skills to be learned in these fields as well that cannot be effectively taught in the classroom.

Don’t wait until an opening is posted.

Once a position makes it to the job board it becomes common knowledge – and that means that your chances of getting it are drastically reduced. Not only does everyone at your school in a relevant field now have a chance to apply, but if there are no restrictions, students from other schools will be interested as well. This is especially true if your school is in a densely populated metropolitan centre. Therefore, unless you are feeling incredibly lucky you need to utilize your connections to lock down the job you want before it goes public.

Don’t be afraid to explore options outside your major.

The subject you have chosen to study may be incredibly general or exceptionally specific. However, whatever your discipline it is probably interrelated with a dozen others that may also touch upon your interests. Therefore, it is paramount that you don’t limit yourself to doing research that is specific to your major. Venture outside of your comfort zone a little and the opportunities will only increase. The same way immunologists may gain worthwhile experience in a biochemistry lab, international relations students should not rule out research in political science.

By the time you’re reading this it may already be too late.

As someone who has been through this process (successfully I might add), I have learned a lot of lessons the hard way. The reality that you need to be contacting supervisors about potential summer research opportunities before leaving for Christmas break (January at the latest) was one of them. Whether you have strong connections or not, the best way to ensure that you will be assisting with research this summer is to be the first applicant. Professors are just like the rest of us and are often ready to settle for a sure thing rather than wait to see if something better comes along. If your email is one of the first read, your chances of getting hired just increased exponentially. If your inquiry comes trickling in at the end of second semester it is likely to not even be read.

0

5 Reasons Recent Grads Should Consider Using a Headhunter

Image by thetaxhaven, Flickr

Image by thetaxhaven, Flickr

After graduating university I struggled for several months to find gainful employment. Unfortunately this is a sad reality for many recent graduates in Canada. However, through hard work and dedication it is possible to discover jobs and opportunities. This can be daunting for some recent graduates, who may not be used to networking and connecting with your peers and prospective employees.

Now, as an executive recruiter, it is my responsibility to pair business professionals with new opportunities that they may not be aware of. There are recruiters in Canada that specialize in recent grads, and using a recruiter has boundless advantages. Below are five reasons why I think you should consider using a headhunter.

1) They don’t cost you anything
Job agencies take a percentage of your wage to reimburse their expenses. Recruitment firms, however, are paid by the client (your potential employer). The candidate (you) is not required to pay any costs at all. If a head hunter approaches you and asks for money upfront you should not employ their services. In theory, headhunters are motivated to find you employment because that is how they are paid. They are also an important ally in negotiating compensation because their commission is based on your salary.

2) Your application goes to the top of the pile
Your resume bypasses other external candidates and goes straight to human resources and the hiring manager. If you are working with a reputable recruitment firm then chances are the client trusts that the presented candidates are top quality, and are therefore more likely to be reviewed. Furthermore, many job opportunities are not even advertised externally and often headhunters and recruiters are working exclusively for the client. Recruitment firms open the door to possibilities and opportunities that you may not have ever considered or heard of.

3) Insider knowledge about the job market and your field
As a headhunter I talk to a lot of people currently in the field. I ask questions that would normally be off limits – what their current salary is, for example – and I have a solid understanding of the industries that I work in. Headhunters are an important tool in job searching in order to understand the market, discuss what the job market is like in a certain field, and discuss what your value is in the job market.

4) They do all the leg work
Headhunters are most effective when they work with motivated and determined candidates. When you’re searching for employment, a phone call is worth a thousand emails. Candidates seldom choose a phone call over an email, but I always remember those who call because they are so few. This being said, headhunters help to relieve the pressure of job searching. They are rewarded when you find employment, so they want to present you in the best possible light. They will tweak and edit your resume and they will help promote your candidacy and resume. Headhunters liaise with clients and will sell you to their client to the best of their ability.

5) Networking
Effective job searching is about networking. Recruiters and headhunters rely on networking and their ability to form relationships with decision makers. Connecting with recruiters will help gain you access into their inner circle. Their ability to network and use existing contacts will prove invaluable in your job search or opportunity for promotion.

Remember
It’s important to remember that headhunters do not work for you – they work for their client. Though a headhunter has an investment in seeing you succeed, it is unlikely you are the only person they are talking to and submitting for an opportunity. Headhunters want to fill a job order for a client: they are not necessarily invested in making sure you get placed, but rather that the order is filled. Do not put all your eggs in one basket and rely on headhunters completely in your job search. Headhunters should be used as one of several tools when searching for employment.

The Internship Diaries #4 – Perfect Landing

Image by Alper Çuğun, Flickr

Image by Alper Çuğun, Flickr

Well, as you might have noticed, summer has come to an end and school is back in session. Time for the craziness to begin again. In fact, I’ve already been so busy that I haven’t had time to write this post until now.

Now that I’ve been away from it for a week or so, I can say that I genuinely miss my internship. Office life, yes, the work, yes, but mostly the people. I was heartbroken that I would have to say goodbye to these people who, without knowing it, made the second most difficult summer of my life bearable. At the beginning of summer, I had just received some bad news, and I felt like I had to start my entire life over again. Now, somehow I’m a completely new person, with new interests and skills and friends and confidence, and I would be remiss if I didn’t give some credit for that to the place where I spent the majority of my time.

It was so gratifying to see the projects that I’d been working on for so long completed – I got to see a PDF of the designed version of the manuscript I’d been working on, and apart from one glaring misstep on the part of the graphic designer, it looked amazing. I can’t wait to get a copy to show off. Both of the videos that I filmed were released, and you can watch the one that I starred in, about bullying, social anxiety, and depression, here. It was decided that I would contribute to the blog I edited myself, as a writer this time.

I started out wobbly – like I was pushed off a cliff and I wasn’t sure if I was going to survive or not. But not only did I make it to the ground safely, it was a perfect landing. During my last week at the office, I was offered a part-time position with the organization, doing what I had already been doing but mainly from home, and for money. Of course, it doesn’t pay well, and the details are still hazy, but I was blown away.

I guess if I had to pick one thing that I hope readers take away from this series, it would be this – believe in yourself. Like really believe in yourself; even if you think that you’re the exception to every rule out there, and people just don’t get you, and your life just sucks. Believe in yourself. I was never the girl who got the guy, or anything else she wanted for that matter, and over time I’ve learned to expect failure or mediocrity at best. I’ve gotten better at encouraging myself to try things anyway, and do what makes me happy, but I don’t expect these things to be successful. Expecting success seemed arrogant and ridiculous. But maybe it’s not. Understand that there’s always the possibility of failure for everyone, and that no matter what there will always be challenges, but ultimately, expect success. It just might happen. That’s what I’ve learned.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following my little journey, and I encourage you to follow me on twitter @chelsearrr, where I post far more frequently than I should!

Internship Diaries – Entry #3

Image by Moresheth, Flickr

Image by Moresheth, Flickr

 
Just joining in? Catch up with Entry #1 and Entry #2.

Office Relationships

No, I don’t mean THOSE kinds of relationships (though they’re not entirely excluded). All work environments have a set of relationship dynamics in play, and up until this summer, I had never had to deal with office dynamics, or what some might call ‘office politics’. As an unpaid student intern, I was preparing for the worst. If they treated me like I didn’t know anything, I could hardly blame them – I’m not even studying anything even remotely related to mental health.

However, by and large I am treated as an equal. Although the paid employees delegate tasks to me, they usually ask for my feedback and take it into consideration. My boss always wants me to come to meetings to participate and offer my thoughts, even though I am only here for one more month. Once, I couldn’t make a meeting, and she rescheduled it just so that I could attend.

Of course, in a teeny tiny organization like the one I work for, things like that are easy to do. When you work for a large corporation, it’s inevitable that some things will slip through the cracks. I’m lucky, to be sure, but I’m still a firm believer that everyone else can be this lucky too, unless your boss is truly evil. If you want to be treated more like an equal and gain more experience, ask. Just make sure that you have the time for the new responsibilities. Why wouldn’t your boss let you sit in on a meeting if you’ve already finished all of your other work for the day? And if you show that you’re eager to learn, it’s harder for a superior to treat you like you’re “just a student” who doesn’t know anything.

That doesn’t mean I don’t deal with my fair share of confusion, though. Some offices are full of lively relationships, where people are friends outside of work and go for lunch together and gossip at each others’ desks. These days you even hear about progressive companies instituting things like company retreats and putting recreational activities inside their offices and whatnot. Others are cold and clinical – people do their work and go home, only interacting for business purposes. Mine isn’t quite like that, but I would hardly call it overly friendly.

Everyone gets along quite well at the office. We collaborate on projects, and even when staff members disagree they always keep the discussion respectful and informed. We make small talk about our weekends and the weather. But that’s about where it ends. No one sees each other outside of work hours or shares too much with each other. This is all fine, but what if you want more?

Maybe it’s because I don’t have a packed social calendar, but sometimes I wish that some of us were friends. I really enjoy the company of the younger people in the office – I think they’re smart, funny, and just all around cool people. I would like to spend more time with them and get to know them better. Yet, my few attempts to do so generally fail. I don’t know how to “take things to the next level” without it being awkward. Most people would just say, “Hey, can I add you on Facebook?” But in an environment where no one initiates these kinds of things, it’s hard to feel like you’re not being super obvious and weird.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that I have not yet solved. So this is me asking YOU for advice – how would you make friends at work? How would you take it to the next level?

As usual you can tweet be with your thoughts (or anything else) @chelsearrr and I will see you next month for my last post!

The Internship Diaries – Entry #2

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Just joining in? Read Entry #1 here.

I’ve been at my internship for nearly two months now! It feels like I just started yesterday, but when I think about everything I’ve accomplished and learned, and the new relationships I’ve formed, I realize just how long it’s been.

The common stereotype of the unpaid intern is someone who gets coffee and does other mindless tasks for their superiors. Sometimes I am asked to do things like that (never coffee though, that would be disastrous), but not too often. Usually I’m assisting with larger projects.

When I am asked to do menial tasks, I follow this tried and true advice:

When assigned a task, such as to make coffee, make the best damn coffee they’ve ever seen.

I don’t know why I keep using coffee as an example when this has literally never come up for me. I suppose the coffee itself is a stereotype! A better example – when I’m asked to enter data into spreadsheets, I do it faster (and more accurately) than anyone has ever done it before. And then I say, “What else can I do?” By getting this sort of thing out of the way, you not only impress people with your dedication, but it allows you to have the time to move on to other projects that might be of more interest to you. You’ll hear this all the time, but it is truly one of the only pieces of advice I can honestly say that everyone should always follow, no matter what the situation.

That said, the major projects that I get to work on are really exciting. My superiors are very dedicated to making sure that I get something out of this internship – real, valuable experience in which I’ve learned a variety of different skills. I could judge this just based on our first interview – I was asked what type of work I would like to be doing, and how it would fit into my academic and professional goals. So don’t feel like all internships are a waste of time because that’s all you’ll do! Chances are it won’t be. If you’re lucky enough to be able to choose where you work, look for employers with an attitude like this, and don’t be afraid to tell them exactly what you want. You’ll be nearly guaranteed an enriching experience.

My major projects:

  • The Blog – I edit the blog that is featured on the organization’s website, featuring a rotating set of different contributors every day. I then promote the blog posts on social media, and I monitor the Facebook and Twitter feed during the day. I do a lot of other miscellaneous online stuff too – this week I got to design an email newsletter, which I’m sure will be a very useful skill for future jobs.
  • The Videos – I mentioned in my last post that I first worked with this non-profit on a video project. In the winter, they began to shoot a series of videos featuring different people talking about their experiences with mental illness. I was the subject of the first video. Now, I am finding subjects for future videos, interviewing them and shooting the videos, and editing them afterwards. All of this is completely new to me, and I think this is the project that I am learning the most from.
  • The Book – During my very first week, all I did for days straight was edit a manuscript for an updated edition of a book that the organization is putting out. This definitely utilized my strengths, but it was quite the project – all of the files were so disorganized and it took a while to make sense of everything. I also felt like I would go blind from staring at a jumble of words on a screen for so many hours on end. However, I think that it’s in good shape now, and I’m excited to move on to the next draft! I learned a lot from the minimal research that I did for the book as well. I hope I’m around long enough to see the finished product.

That’s it for now – I’ll be back next month with updates and more tips for you guys! In the meantime, you can follow me @chelsearrr on Twitter. I’m always ready to talk internships or anything mental health.

The Job Interview Preparedness Pack

Image by Alex France, Flickr

Image by Alex France, Flickr

Find out everything you need to ensure your interview goes smoothly. It’s hard enough interviewing for a job as one person amongst a large pool of applicants, possibly with better qualifications than you. Ensure you look and sound presentable, so as to let both your professionalism and qualifications do the talking. Use this article as a checklist before going to your next interview.

Pen and paper

The pen and paper are the golden job interview supplies. If you take one thing away from this article, let it be that you should always have a pen and paper when interviewing for a new job, and on your first day on the job, if you are lucky enough to get hired. If appropriate, take notes during the interview without noticeably dividing your attention or neglecting eye contact. This will show you are serious about the job, and know how to organize. Do not try to substitute your phone for a pen and paper – no matter what you are typing it always looks like you are texting instead of fully focusing on the interview.

Kleenex

For the unpredictable runny nose or sniffles, monster sneeze, nosebleed, shiny face, or spills. Kleenex can be substituted with coffee shop napkins.

Comb/brush

You never know when you could get caught in the rain, your hair band could break, or the wind could sweep your hairstyle away. Combs are cheap at the dollar store or drug store. Pack one to avoid messing up your hair and your professional first impression.

Breath mints

Sometimes breath mints may seem extraneous, but I make it a rule to always eat one before I need make an important first impression. Even if you think your breath is fine, pop a mint or swig some Listerine – just in case.

Prepare a question to ask the interviewer

Inevitably, towards the end of your meeting the interviewer will ask you, “So, do you have any questions for me?” Unless you feel you can pass up this opportunity to impress your potential employer, have at least one question prepared. Here are several questions that exhibit thought, professionalism, and insight:

“As an employee here, what could I do to exceed your expectations?”
“If I were to start tomorrow, what should the top three things be on my priority list?”
“Are there any questions you think I should be asking?”

Extra resume(s)

Even if you sent a resume in with your application, bring at least one hard copy to the interview. If there are multiple applicants, the interviewer may not have all their resumes present, or may not have had time to fully go over your application. Having your resume in front of them will give them a more tangible and better understanding of your qualifications. If you know you will be interviewed by more than one person, bring a suitable number of copies.

With these items in your interview preparedness pack, you can make your best professional impression. Use this article as a checklist before going to your next interview.

Tip: If you’re worried about timing, or if you’re travelling a long way to get to the interview and are inviting time delays, leave extra early. Scout out a nearby coffee shop on Google Maps, and plan to go there half an hour early for a refresher before the interview. On a really hot day you can get sweaty from travelling. Plan to stop at a coffee shop beforehand to clean up. Looking presentable is half the battle – the rest is up to you.