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Back to the Future: avoiding missteps before they happen

April 2, 2010

by Miguel Corona

Any chance you’re familiar with the plot of the movie “Back to the Future,’ where Marty McFly is taken back to the 1950’s in a nuclear-powered DeLorean built by his scientist friend Doc Brown? I’m sure this movie is before your time, but I bet most of you have seen it. Remember that in order to get back to the future, Marty has to fix the damage he causes by interfering inadvertently with his teenage parents. As the movie plot suggests, the future is not predictable; however, future outcomes can be influenced by today’s choices.

Wouldn’t it be great to go back and avoid mistakes before they happen? As a college student, there is an obvious and important focus on academics, but a total focus on academics can mean minimal guidance regarding the best ways to prepare yourself for the future work environment. This lack of preparation can often lead to reduced productivity as well as missed opportunities.

I’m a regular blogger at internships.com’s Intern Matters, a blog geared towards employers whose companies work with interns. But as an employer myself AND a mentor to many past, current and future interns, I have a few pieces of advice to offer. I think many employers, given the opportunity to advise students before their internships in order to increase their chances of success would agree with these points.

Piece of Advice #1: A greater emphasis is being placed on recruiting college graduates through internship programs which means less preference is being given to on-campus recruiting efforts. The internship you’ve secured might be the only opportunity you have to demonstrate your maturity and commitment as an employee so make the most of it.

Piece of Advice #2: Although employers use internships as a strategy to recruit full-time positions and regularly offer interns a full-time job at the end of their internships,it’s important that you don’t assume a full-time job will automatically be offered. As an intern,you should assume this is an extended and sustained interview that started back on campus. You might have your foot in the door, but you’re not in yet. Establish yourself and demonstrate you’re prepared to apply and develop the skills that opened the door on a full-time basis.

Piece of Advice #3: While students should be “prepared’ before their internship interview and placement, you shouldn’t stop preparing just because you’ve joined the company as an employee. What exactly does this mean? Continue to do your homework. Most organizations have well developed websites that provide all the information you need: press releases, white papers, industry articles, blogs, and other information. If you want to make an immediate impact and add value, which is what employers want, use these resources to give you working knowledge and help you hit the ground running.

Piece of Advice #4: Employers invest in an internship program because it brings valuable talent into the organization. Hence, you should know you’ve been hired as an intern because the organization thinks have something to offer. You should feel confident in your skills and talent, however, don’t let this self-assurance turn into self-importance. Keep yourself grounded and don’t place yourself above any task. Maintain a high level of environmental curiosity; know what’s happening around you. Engage yourself and don’t wait for things to happen for you.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna April 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm

to my mind, interns are recruited in order to save money. I don’t think that after an internship a company is going to ofer me a management position. I think that as I’ve started my career at a position of a trainee in either F&B or FO, I’ll finish at a position of a server or a receptionist.

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Miguel April 7, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Hi Anna,
Thanks for your response. I would agree with you: organizations would be hesitant to offer recent interns management opportunities mainly because internship experiences are focused on entry-level professional positions. However, keep in mind that gaining entry-level professional experience in your area of study prior to graduation will not only enhance your career opportunities but also accelerate your progression once you enter your chosen field. So while interns might be offered an entry-level professional opportunity after graduation, chances are good they’ll be prepared to take the next step up the career ladder sooner than others.

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