“If it fits, I sits,” is a phrase circulating the Internet, mostly associated with images of cats getting comfortable in small boxes.
The phrase can also be applied to all things in life, or more specifically, getting an internship and employment.
How, you may wonder. Well, getting a job is a big deal, but that’s not to say that you should just accept the first offer you receive.
It's just a big a decision as buying a new car. With cars, they let you have a test drive.
With jobs, they give you an internship.
Why Do An Internship Anyway?
Internships are a great way of getting your foot in the door by giving you the training and experience needed for the job.
It is a certainty that all job-seeking newcomers to an industry have seen the dreaded two words, experience required under requirements for a position.
Experience is exactly what internships are there to provide.
The benefits of undergoing an internship are undeniable.
The training a company invests in you is just one aspect you can keep with you for life.
Everything you learn is valuable experience, especially for a fresh graduate.
That does not guarantee for the employer however, that the intern stays or is even hired in the end.
So why do companies invest in internships despite the risks they bear?
The answer is: it is all about the fit.
How do you fit with the company and your co-workers?
This is the defining factor that differs you from someone else with the same qualifications.
Do you work well with supervision or without? Are you more productive as an individual or a team?
Companies want you to be compatible with their valued and trained current employees.
Companies want people who can work following their established business and operational processes.
Internships provide a means of measuring your capabilities in the context of a corporation.
Internships discern the fit for employees too.
Doing an internship is more than just gaining experience for your future occupation.
It is also a process of self-actualization that answers questions and quells doubts.
Is this the career path for me? Am I satisfied with the work I am doing?
You as an individual will gauge whether the choice of company or the career is for you.
If Internships Are So Great, Why Wait?
Think of it like finding the right pair shoes. The shoes you choose will be dependent on the size and shape of your feet.
Those are your qualifications.
The next thing you consider about shoes is the style and purpose.
In terms of internships, this translates to how much you like it and how well it fits with your career goals.
If you don’t suit in the internship and the internship doesn’t suit you, then jumping in head first is a poor choice.
Internships are worth it, but to do an internship simply for the sake of it is a disservice to all parties involved.
Now here are some rough guidelines to help you decide on the best internship for yourself:
1. Ask Yourself. Do You Know Who You Are?
To find the best internship for you, you must know what you want.
To know what you want, you must know yourself.
It sounds a bit cheesy, but consider taking a personality test.
MBTI offers a comprehensive Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment that can determine potential career paths that match you.
There are a total 16 personality types based on whether you are extroverted or introverted, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving.
MBTI found that certain personality types were more prevalent in certain occupations compared to others.
For example, 71% of people in sales fell in the category of extroverts.
It makes logical sense. Sales involves a lot of social interaction.
While introverts are not necessarily anti-social, it is natural they would not be prevalent in a job that doesn't align with their preferences.
Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but it is a good starting point.
2. What Do You Value: Location, Job or Salary?
Now that you hopefully know a little bit more about yourself, the next thing to decide is what is important to you in the long-term.
Your goals need not be specific.
Even having a general idea on where you see yourself in the future can be helpful.
Not knowing what you want is okay as well, which is why I have simplified how you should plan.
When broken down, there are three primary factors that decide what you do and where you go in life.
Where do you want to live? Where do you want to go?
Do you want to work locally or abroad?
Does the idea of commuting a short distance appeal to you?
Do you plan on moving to another country soon?
What are you willing to give up for your dream job? Will you go where the best prospects are?
What kind of hours and days are you willing to work? Are you looking to climb the corporate ladder?
How much do you want to earn? What kind of lifestyle are you looking to have?
Do bonuses and raises matter to you? Is money a primary concern for you right now?
The next step is to rank the three in order of importance.
Now you have a rough idea on what you are firm on and what you are willing to compromise.
Should location be your priority, you would give up getting the best job or salary due to being dependent on opportunities in your area.
If what matters to you is your job, you might be willing to live somewhere outside your comfort zone or receive a less than ideal salary.
On the other hand, if salary is the most important you would be willing to go where the money is, or do a job you may not love.
If looking long-term is too broad for you, looking at what you want or need right now works too.
So now that you have a general idea about what is important to you, you can more accurately determine what you want.
Now the next step is to find information on the internships you want.
3. Take The Initiative For Information
When in doubt, do your research.
Thankfully the information age provides a plethora of general resources available online regarding internships and careers.
These range from information on internships, advice on internship-related matters to internship search tools and more.
If you know what you're looking for even better.
For those who don't here are some things you should consider reading up and thinking about:
- What are the company's values? Do they align with mine?
- What are the responsibilities of my position? How would I perform the role?
- What does the company do? How are they doing in the industry?
- Who are the company's clients? Who are the company's competitors?
Should you have a specific question you can’t find the answer to, find someone to ask.
Try talking to people in the industry, or reach out to interns.
You may not always get an answer back, but a little initiative can go a long way.
If the answer is something you can discover for yourself like the physical location of the office or the commute, go and find out.
Keep in mind that employers may ask if you have reliable transportation to and from the workplace.
By showing initiative and doing that research beforehand, you can be confident in your suitability.
4. Exhaust Every Avenue In Your Search
As with most good things in life, finding a good internship is hard.
It may seem deceptively easy, but the search takes longer than you'd think.
When you are ready to begin looking, the Internet is also a great tool to aid your search.
A good start for a student using school or university resources.
For example, Cornell University's Career Service has a special section on internships with links to local summer programs available for their students.
People here have been hired to help you, so don't be afraid to get their assistance!
Some governments, like the UK, also offer services to help recent graduates find an internship.
Consider taking a look, as these organizations have resources at their disposal you typically would not have access to.
Should you not have access to helpful services, you can still search yourself.
There are many job search engines with specific sections for internships like WorkVenture.
They will sort and compile listings according to your parameters.
However, if you have specific companies or organizations in mind, consider approaching them directly through their website.
This is especially true of multinational corporations who don’t need to advertise open positions on other platforms due to the number of applications they receive.
When all else fails, you can fall back to traditional avenues.
Newspapers still publish their classified sections both on paper and digitally.
Keep an eye out when you are outside for a sign or poster that says they are looking to hire.
Networking is also another useful tool.
Sometimes jobs are found through the grapevine, so to speak.
Even in the digital age where everything seems to be online, research estimates 60-80% of jobs are not advertised.
Internship placement services like ours at AIP provides applicants with access to a network for normally inaccessible placements.
If that isn't an option for you, the Guardian provides some advice on finding unadvertised jobs in their article.
5. Get That Internship You Want
You found the perfect internship. What next? Well, remember earlier about the fit going both ways?
Applications are the time to show your employer that you would fit for them.
The most important step is to not rely on templates for everything and sticking with it.
Templates suck when you don't personalize them.
For example, when you receive an email, nothing is more cold than a template with nothing more than your name inserted into it.
However if you use the template as a rough guideline instead of being the basis for the email itself, it becomes a time-saving tool without making you sound impersonal.
So while making one resume for three different jobs may sound appealing, it will do you no favors in the end.
Instead you should make sure your that you modify your resume for every job you're applying.
One easy way to personalize is to emphasize parts you feel are most relevant for your place of employment.
If you are applying to a multinational company that values diversity, you can bold or underline that you've attended an international school, speak a second language or something similarly relevant.
However you need to have a resume to modify first!
If you haven't started on your internship application process, there are some resources that will provide the basic building blocks for you.
TheBalance.com offers a general outline on what you should include on your resume.
Internships.com lists some sample resumes for specific jobs, to give a general idea on how you should tailor your resume for the position.
UCDavis.edu is a great resource on references for your potential job.
It gives details on who would make ideal references, what they look like and when you should include them.
6. Don't Just Settle, Instead Say No
Sometimes things don't work out even with all the research you've done.
It may happen early on in your search, or after the interview.
Perhaps you suddenly decide you need a paid internship.
Perhaps during the interview you found out the internship responsibilities will not provide relevant work experience you need.
The reason doesn't matter, but the great thing is you realized the place is not a fit for you.
Now, you can say no if you want to.
Remember, at any stage prior to signing a contract, you are free to decline.
Let them know as soon as possible, and remain respectful. Rejection hurts after all.
It may feel bad, but remember companies are looking out for themselves.
Consider this: if you weren't qualified enough for them they would have rejected you too.
You need to look out for yourself and decline jobs that don't suit you.
For more information on how to turn down an offer, check out this article by Jacquelyn Smith on Forbes.
Every Experience Has A Silver Lining
As the saying goes, "Every cloud has a silver lining."
No experience is a waste.
Even if after completing your internship, you hated it or it made you realize that the career path you thought was for you is wrong.
Don't fall into the sunk cost fallacy. The time and effort has already been spent, the only thing you can change is what you do next.
Take the time to learn from it.
For example, if you did not get along with your manager, think about the reasons behind it.
What was the source of the conflict? Why was it not resolved? How can this knowledge be applied in the future?
If your work styles were incompatible, you now know what kind of working environment is detrimental to you.
Sometimes it takes many tries to find your perfect fit.
One of the reasons behind doing an internship is to try on a future job for size.
Sometimes not just a job, but the idea of being part of the workforce.
This is especially important as a recent graduate that is fresh out of school because working in real life is abstract concept.
The internship makes the concept a reality, stripping the gloss of fantasy from the controlled educational environment.
The training wheels are off, so to speak.
The experience, regardless of the outcome, will shape and prepare you for the future. An internship can enrich your life, if you allow it.
Regardless of fit, you gained something.
Not Doing An Internship For The Sake Of It
This advice may come as a surprise for you, but when you can't find an internship for you then don't do one.
Especially if you are just out of high school or in your first year of university as there is plenty of time for you to do an internship in the future.
It's possible the internship position you're interested in will be listed in the future, so just because you can't do one now, don't give up your search!
Another option is to look at internships outside of your local area if you haven't already.
Perhaps a different state, country or continent has opportunities to offer you.
Remember, there are many resources available to help you find an internship abroad for you.
If you need an internship don't feel bad for taking a less than perfect one.
Sometimes we aren't given the luxury of time or choice and that's okay.
Ultimately, the decision on what is worth your time is up to you.
One day with time, effort and luck, you will find your perfect space.
So if it fits, you sits.
If you have any stories to share about choosing internships, we'd love to hear them!