5 valuable tips to increase your chances of getting the right internship
If you are a student and have already found your internship for this summer, then you deserve a high five! If you haven’t yet, these tips may be for you.
Whether it’s the end of a university course or a gap year, for many students the search for an internship has been looming for a few weeks. This year more than others, due to the health crisis, this quest can be a real obstacle course as the feelings it generates can sometimes seem contradictory. On the one hand, the enthusiasm aroused by the prospect of leaving (finally!) the student sphere (and the Zoom courses!) to project oneself into the (real?) World, and why not, get an internship in the dream company to make one’s peers jealous? On the other hand, the anxiety of not succeeding in transforming the trial and always this question that torments you: how will I make the difference? How can I cope if luck doesn’t smile at me?
The advice I am sharing with you is the result of empirical research based on observations and interviews conducted over the past few years with numerous recruiters in the marketing and innovation world, human resource managers, managers, business leaders, mainly in the sports and lifestyle industry. I have no doubt, however, that they are adaptable to other fields of activity.
To get started, put yourself in the shoes of an explorer.
Like an explorer, you probably have a vague idea of what you are looking for, but the projected image may not be clear yet. The first step is to collect the first clues that will put you on the right track. Take an interest in the ads published on specialized websites, but not only those devoted to internships. Try to identify the next “hits” in particular, especially through the offers intended for more senior candidates. What do they reveal? What are the skills and experiences most often valued? What profiles are sought after? This information should put you on the right track and help you guide your search.
I’ve noticed over time that confused candidates rarely look in the right place. For many of them, this first step is too often a list of diplomas, internships already completed, highlighting their qualities (usually self-proclaimed!), their interests (travel, hobbies, sports…) and finally overplay the formatting of their CV: “let it be said that my CV is the most beautiful, the most original and that will allow me to stand out from the crowd”. Unfortunately, the old adage that the clothes make the man rarely holds true in the professional sphere.
When the fear of failure is greater than the fear of success, it usually leads to a retreat to more traditional approaches, and hinders flexibility and variation.
Demonstrate your interest in the market dynamics of the company.
I am particularly interested in the sports and lifestyle industry. While this sector has enjoyed sustained growth over the past few decades, the rules of the game have been completely overturned, challenging a certain sectoral orthodoxy. The health crisis has only thrown a harsh light on this long-standing process. This transformation has led to a growing interest among a number of recruiters for agile profiles, those sometimes referred to as “why not” mindset, capable of making quick decisions in the face of unforeseen events.
What about the field of activity you wish to join? How do you see the company? How do you analyze its business model? Who are the new entrants in the market? What are the possible moves? Without claiming to be an absolute expert, it is important to illustrate your critical view of the sector. Showing your admiration for the company, you’ve been looking for since you were young doesn’t make you the most suitable candidate for the job. At best, they will be happy for you, and proud of themselves: they will at least have succeeded in making you an ambassador of their own brand.
Instead, you should focus on offering an original angle. In one sentence, are you able to synthesize the issues of the sector? Do you understand the “problem to be solved”? What are the phenomena you observe and how do they affect the company’s situation? Try to link these observations to research work you have undertaken. A recruiter will often tend to value your ability to learn from your actions, in other words, to combine practice with theory.
Develop your active listening skills
Listening is undoubtedly one of the main qualities sought by your future employer. It is the prerequisite for understanding this famous “problem” and therefore determines your ability to solve it. During your interview, rephrasing a question and answering in an interrogative manner will allow you to give your interviewer the feeling of being in control, but will also help you to clarify your understanding of the issues at stake. Rather than engaging in a detailed account of your latest exploits, use phrases such as “what if” or “do you think it’s possible that”, thereby inviting them to develop their own thoughts and allowing you to better demonstrate your empathy. Question the phenomena you have observed and ask yourself how they affect the company’s situation. You will be judged not on what you think, but on what you do and how high your perspective is. Avoid arguments of authority, skills cannot be decreed, they must be demonstrated.
Soft skills as much as Hard skills
Behind this term, there are often multiple realities. Beyond your “professional” skills, interpersonal skills represent everything that makes you a unique individual, your personality, your attitude in a given situation. Highlight your experiences outside of your academic career: they will illustrate your propensity to get out of your comfort zone, not to rely solely on the system. Ask yourself what would make a recruiter select you over others. What are your points of differentiation? At a time when social and technological transformations are reaching unprecedented rates, you will not be judged solely on your acquired skills (unless you have just developed the latest algorithm that everyone is raving about!), but especially on your ability to adapt. Speaking a foreign language or even several, being passionate about travel, reading or music are not important differentiating factors, at best, they define a certain sensitivity in you.
Soft skills are becoming a key factor for many recruiters. It is not so much what you know, or think you know, that counts, but rather your ability to demonstrate how you will go about learning what you do not yet know that will make the difference.
Beware of the “network” effect
Too many students rely on the network effect and end up going on a wild goose chase for contacts on Linkedin like children on an egg hunt! But what is the real significance of such an approach? Behind this false good idea lies a trap that should be avoided. Your network must be thought of as the fruit of your work, the commitment generated as a consequence of what you do, not as its cause. Collecting contacts will undoubtedly make you feel reassured, certain of increasing your chances of hitting the bull’s eye, but will you really succeed in arousing the interest and curiosity of a future recruiter? Interest is not measured by the number of likes within your community. It is defined by your ability to offer a fresh perspective, to show your ability to help the company meet its customer needs, in a word, to make yourself useful.
“The more you give, the more you get.”
There is no magic formula for finding your dream job, any more than there is a single recruiter profile. These few tips are not exhaustive. They do not represent an absolute truth, but I am convinced that they can be useful to anyone who is looking for an internship or a first job, as much for writing a CV or a cover letter as for preparing for a future interview.
Never forget that to have the right mind set is probably one of the most important guarantees of your success!