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Internships: Getting the Right Fit

Cream.HR
Published March 7, 2013

The Office

Internships are probably one of the industry’s most hated ways to ‘pay your dues’. Often they are associated with students, as 75% of students do an internship while attending or directly after a 4 year school. That number has doubled in the last 30 years.

When the economy or a company struggles economically, many employers have turned to internships as a way to get labor, not provide experience. It may seem like an endless cycle for the student: economy struggles, tuition rises, students take on debt, and the student’s opportunities may be limited to unpaid or low paying positions.

Some schools have developed comprehensive continuing educations programs, like Rutgers University whose 50,000 students in continuing education is equal to all of its students in degree programs.

But programs, trying to draw as many prospective students as possible, have become very specific. Common roles like sales and marketing have been divided into a dozen certificates and diplomas to appeal to student of all inclinations.

To figure out if your chosen program is right for you, there’s only one way to find out: an internship or a job shadowing program, preferably BEFORE you even begin working. Here are a few tips when determining the right fit:

Be mindful of your ability to handle stress

The amount of stress put on employees doesn’t just vary by size of company or type of position; it could depend on factors like your commute and future boss. The ability to handle stress is, in fact, related to job performance. If you are on the lower end being able to handle stress and uncertainty, ensure that you are aware of the pace and pressures of the position. A chaotic but fast moving space may be great for an intern at the stock exchange, but is going to reek havoc on someone who works better in a more peaceful environment.

Be aware of your own inherent stress tolerance. If it is low, determine the triggers that set you off so you are prepared to handle anything. Developing communication skills will assist you in expressing your needs so that you and your company can develop an environment that suits both parties’ needs.

A job where you can be you

You’ve heard the clichés about being a unique snowflake, and while everyone shares the same five personality traits, it is crucial that you recognize the differences in your personality to ensure you match that with the culture of your future company.

Perhaps you are very innovative and prefer an open environment where the best idea wins and are recognized for creativity. Or perhaps structure is key to you, and you would prefer a more organized environment that sets accomplishable goals and rewards on merit.

Maybe you cannot work in an open space with others speaking all around you and your productivity suffers. Or maybe you are far more introverted and prefer having a closed office space to make your work environment livable.

Using the internship as a jumping off point will ensure that you as happy with the amount of freedom versus stability you are receiving and that the you and the company are well suited.

A position with peers

It’s not uncommon for employees to rank their peers as what they are most satisfied with about their position. Having employees create their own company culture by the bonds they form is a new trend for companies.

To find out what model of interaction suits your needs best, be keenly aware of your company culture. Before starting , ask your interviewer direct questions about the environment. See if you are allowed to ask the current staff what they like about working there. If the company screens for behavior, ask if you are able to take the assessment. You should quickly be able to get a sense as to whether or not you would fit in, but the only way to know is ask and try it out.

Take the leap

A recent Forbes article stated that 60% of internships that turn into jobs.  Also, 23% of students who had been interns had full time jobs waiting for them upon graduating, versus 14% of those who hadn’t interned.

Give your future employer the opportunity to see your amazing skills, first hand. Showing that you are willing to start anywhere will help express your passion and dedication to your employer and with enough hard work, will likely greatly increase your ability to get hired.

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