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Six MBA interns at the Earnest headquarters in San Francisco. Pictured from left to right are Cathy Hsu (Chicago Booth), Sabina Robinov (Harvard), Saagar Kulkarni (Harvard), Gideon Silverman (Stanford), Eva Wei (Wharton), and Megan Terraforte (Wharton). Photo courtesy of Earnest

How To Make The Most Out Of Your Internship

Internships are a part of every career trajectory. But how can you make sure you’re making the most of your short time at a company?

Janina Conboye, a writer at Financial Times, recently examined how interns, at any stage in their career, can find the right opportunity and make the most of it.

It’s okay to be undecided as an undergrad

Being undecided as an undergrad is okay. Internships should serve as an opportunity to delve into an industry and understand it.

Many companies offer several options for internships. At L’Oréal, internships can range from one-week programs to a year, Conboye says. At Procter & Gamble, students can choose a fit in the company using its interactive “Fit Finder tool,” which matches undergraduate candidates to a specific division.

Making the most of the internship

You’ve decided on an internship that’s right for you. Now how do you make the most of it?

Alex Bennett is a graduate talent manager at L’Oréal. She tells Financial Times that students should prepare themselves for their internship by understanding the industry and reading up on the company. And most of all, Bennett says, treat an internship like a real job.

“It’s a live working environment — not pretend,” she says.

Francesca Parkinson is head of marketing at Milkround, a student and graduate jobs website. Parkinson tells Financial Times that interns should “arrive on time, be collaborative with your co-workers, and work hard.”

Often times, an internship can be an opportunity to prove yourself for a full-time offer. Even if you don’t get an offer, “think positively,” Parker says. “Your internship will have massively bolstered your employability.”

While not all interns end up with a full time offer, The Balance — a finance publication — reports that approximately 60% of college graduates in 2012 who completed a paid internship received at least one job offer.

MBAs and internships

For MBAs, internships generally last anywhere from six to 10 weeks.

Scott Rostan is an adjunct professor of finance at Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina and founder and chief executive of Training the Street, a corporate training provider. Rostan tells Financial Times that MBAs should treat internships like a “a 10-week interview or a 10-week date.”

One of the best things you can do is prep for the industry you intend on joining. Melody Akbari is an MBA student at UCLA Anderson who did her internship at Google.

Akbari tells Financial Times that she prepped for her Google interview by contacting former Google interns and drafting mock interviews. Once you’ve drafted a solid understanding of a company and what they offer, Akbari says, “discuss it with your manager, be transparent and communicate.”

Using an internship as a career change

Internships aren’t only for college students or MBAs, but also for those who intend on switching careers.

Mel Barclay, head of career transition and an executive career coach at LHH Penna, an out-placement company, tells Financial Times an internship should be viewed as a “try-before-you-buy scenario.”

Often times, internships are offered as a way for people to try out a company to see if it’s right for them.

“For example, two-week placements are generally designed to provide people with a taster of what a job might be like, while longer, structured programs are more likely to lead to some form of employment,” Conboye writes.

Davina Olujinmi is an environmental health and safety coordinator at engineering and technology group Siemens. Previously, Olujinmi worked in the finance, charities, and public sector. She made the switch to Siemens after taking a five year break to focus on her children.

She tells Financial Times that interns should “make people aware of your needs, such as childcare commitments and so on,” she says. “Get organized — figure out what is happening in your private life and work life, and schedule it. Then you don’t feel the pressure.”

Going from a senior position to an intern in an entirely new industry is difficult. It’s important to know that, Barclay says.

“In certain sectors, there may be a perception that a candidate cannot be serious about their career if they take a prolonged period of absence,” she tells Financial Times. “Getting some traction with making new connections can be difficult.”

Sources: Financial Times, The Balance

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