How to Become the Next Intern Idol

By Claire Klieger Regardless of whether you’re in your dream internship or something that isn’t living up to your expectations, it’s important to create a positive impression. You want to leave a job with people wanting you back, no matter how glad you are to leave! Potential employers will often ask for references (even if your previous experience is completely unrelated) so you want to be able to provide them with a list of contacts that you know will speak highly of your job performance.

You may not have celebrity judges but your employers are watching…

Last week I visited Lincoln Financial Field (and got to see the players’ locker room, which was really cool) to hear about opportunities for students with the Philadelphia Eagles. They have a post-graduate internship program where they hire 50 interns for a one-year program but only make permanent offers to a few. One staffer spoke about what sets people apart in that internship and how to get noticed. Here are some of his tips as well as my own: 1) Volunteer for any work that needs doing, no matter how menial or uninteresting. Whether it’s making copies, picking up mail or (as in the case of one intern at the Eagles), counting the number of toilets in your facility, be willing to do whatever is asked of you without complaint or grumbling. Simply saying “sure, I can do that” can make a big difference. 2) Understand the culture. Fitting into any working environment relies in large part on figuring out and participating in the culture. Take part in social activities provided by your organization to show that you are a team player and enthusiastic about your work. 3) Go the extra mile. It’s important to make the very best of whatever situation you’re in.  If you don’t have enough to do, look around to figure out who could use help; then offer it. You never know who is going to be grateful for your offer to run a spreadsheet, or make a Powerpoint chart, summarize a set of articles, or run an experiment, etc.    If you identify a need or see areas for potential improvement, you might gently offer an idea (and volunteer to do it) that might be useful. 4) Put in the time. One of the things the Eagles’ rep mentioned was that he notices interns who arrive early and stay late. Don’t create the impression that you’re checking your watch so that you can bolt out the door at 5 (or whenever the business day ends where you work). 5) Be professional. This is important for demeanor as well as dress. Also, be cognizant of your on-line communications. Keep your work emails professional and if you’re a blogger, don’t trash talk your employer or any individuals at your organization of employment specifically–you never know who may read these things and it is possible to get fired over it! 6) Treat everyone pleasantly, regardless of status. Focus less on becoming chummy with your fellow interns and more on being pleasant with everyone. This could be as simple as greeting people at the beginning and end of each day and remembering to smile. Also, be careful not to look like you’re only interested in making a good impression with the folks at the top.

Pay it Forward

By: David Ross

I’m sure we all can remember some point in our lives when we relied on the assistance of others as we progressed through an internship or job search. Even though we ultimately applied for those internship and job opportunities, interviewed for those positions and ultimately secured employment – at some point during the process someone else did us a favor. Whether referring us to a job opening, serving as a reference, agreeing to an informational interview or simply offering some advice, the kindness and generosity of others has helped all of us at some stage of our careers.

So I encourage you to “pay it forward” and consider how you can serve as a resource for others. If you are not able to directly hire or recommend someone for an opening, you can still be very helpful to those seeking opportunities in a variety of ways. In my experience, I have found people to be grateful for your time and willingness to offer your insight and advice. It may not seem like much and may take up time that could be spent doing other things, but you may be surprised how the time you do provide for others can be very helpful for them.

Don’t worry if you don’t have many influential contacts – something as simple as directing someone to the appropriate contact person or alerting someone to a new or upcoming internship or job opening you hear about can be extremely helpful. For those with busy schedules, it can be so easy to remain focused on our day-to-day routines and forget that other individuals may be searching for any tidbit of assistance we can provide. If you are unsure what assistance you can provide, I encourage you to take a moment to really think about some of the small things you can offer. For example, sharing your story and some of the lessons you’ve learned thus far can be very informative and illuminating for others.

Remember, at some point in the future you may seek someone else’s help as you transition from one position to the next. Who knows – someone that you help out now may “pay it forward” and be that person that returns the favor in the future.

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” — Benjamin Franklin

by Sue Russoniello

The news is really frustrating to read these days. Everywhere you look there are headlines about people and organizations behaving badly — ponzi schemes; inadequately funded pension funds; the sub-prime mortgage debacle; society’s leaders cheating on their spouses and families or abusing their constituents; sports heroes using illegal drugs to enhance their performance; the lack of cleanup plans for the oil spill disaster in the Gulf, to mention a few.

Closer to home we have all seen a classmate or colleague cheat on a test or job application, take credit for something they didn’t do or shoplift even the smallest item. I’m sure you can think of numerous other examples in your own lives and in the headlines. I find it exhausting to be bombarded daily by news of people behaving in unethical, self serving fashion.

My sons used to lament how they did something once and got caught, when all their friends did it “all the time” and never got caught. Why was life so unfair? We reminded them that they knew it was wrong, they were aware of the consequences and they did it anyway. If they got caught, there was no one to blame but themselves. Yes, life is sometimes unfair, and some people get away with behavior they shouldn’t. Others are prone to get caught. “It keeps you honest” my dad used to say.

Along with this lesson comes the realization that the most important thing you have to show for yourself, especially as a young adult, is your reputation. You should be doing everything in your power to build and preserve a good reputation. Also, at the end of the day you have to feel good about yourself. Have you ever laid awake in the wee hours of the morning fretting about something you did or said, whether it was cheating on an exam or lying to a potential employer or being mean to a friend, realizing the transgression of the day was not worth the pain it caused?

I want to believe that we can turn around the growing unethical direction in which our society seems to be going. If each and every one of us pauses to think about our words and our actions for just a fraction of a second, making sure we’re being honorable and good citizens, thinking about the effect of our words or actions, it will carry over to other aspects of our adult life.

Let’s start with the everyday things. Don’t cheat on tests. Don’t lie on resumes or applications. Don’t try to blame someone else for your mistakes, or take things that are not yours. Admit when you’ve done something wrong and accept the consequences for your actions. Work hard for what you want to achieve, and be proud of the honorable and honest way you achieved it. This will result in a more ethical world. The anger and frustration that makes one think, “everyone else does it, why shouldn’t I?” will diminish. It will certainly let you sleep better at night knowing that you have done the right thing, you have a good reputation among your colleagues and friends, and you are doing your small part to make this a better place to live.

A Little Thank You Can Go a Long Way

By Kelly Cleary

It’s graduation season and among other things (celebrations, remember-when’s and see-you-later’s, packing up dorm rooms, obsessively checking email and voicemail as you wait to hear news of interview and job offers…), it’s graduation gift time, which also means it’s THANK YOU NOTE time. If you are a procrastinator, you may simply have a mental list of aunties and old family friends to send little notes to, or your mom may be keeping that list for you. If you fall in the type-A category and you’re also still job searching, as many new grads are, then you might have cranked out those thank you notes and placed them in the post box soon after you received that copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” and those fantastic cards accompanied by checks, because keeping on top of thank-you notes is one way to feel like you’re in control. And we all know that one of the most frustrating things about searching for a job job is that you have little control over the interview and offer process.

In the same way that sending a sweet little card that says, “Thanks for the ….., it’s just what I hoped for…” makes auntie or granny feel appreciated and reflects well on your character and generally brings on good karma, so does a short thank you note or email to follow up with professional interactions you may have with alumni, prospective employers, and others who work in your field of interest. Of course, this means you should send a thank you after an interview, but it also means you should take the time to send thank you notes to recruiters you meet at career fairs, like the Campus Philly Opportunities Fair on June 15th, and professionals who give you job search advice at professional or social networking events, like the upcoming Penn Alumni Club of Philadelphia socials or the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network New Member Orientation.

It’s also smart to send a little thank you to your friend’s mom who offered to introduce you to a prospective employer while you were waiting in the buffet line at a graduation party or that friendly gentleman who suggested a few good companies or job search sites while you were sitting next to each other on the train. And all the better if in a few weeks time you send them another note to share an interesting article or a little success story about how their advice helped you progress in your search. While writing thank you’s probably won’t directly speed up the interview process, appreciative follow-ups to these types of interactions will help you cultivate colleagues and mentors  while building a reputation as a collegial, proactive, and respectful professional which will no doubt help you advance your career. The magic connection to the job might not happen immediately, but these exchanges and relationships frequently bring you closer to new opportunities.

Yes, we are talking about networking here. You’ll find tips and resources for networking on our Making Contacts page. And you’ll find a few sample thank you notes on our website and even more on the Quintcareers Thank You Letters Resource for Job Seekers site.

Can you (and you, and you, and YOU?) hear me now?

by Sue Russoniello

You’ve heard all the job search advice about cleaning up your voice mail message and untagging Facebook photos of you at that incredible party last weekend.  Hopefully you’ve even followed that advice.  But have you thought about the conversations you have with friends while walking across campus, or on your cell phone while standing in line for coffee or working out at the gym?

Remember that there are people all around you and you don’t always know who they are. There was a man near me on the train one evening talking on his cell phone.  He had obviously had a bad day – I’m guessing even a bad week.  He was very loudly sharing this with a friend on his cell phone and, in turn, with every occupant of that train car.  This man was naming names and giving specific examples of things he didn’t like about his place of employment, his boss, his co-workers, his clients.  After about 10 solid minutes of this rant, no one on the train could possibly read their book or work their Sudokus and we were all exchanging glances with each other.  When I got up to leave, I SO BADLY wanted to suggest that he be careful during his next conversation that his boss’s wife wasn’t sitting in the next seat. Can you imagine if that really had been the case?!

Think everyone here wants to hear your conversation? Think again. (Image via Tarotastic on Flickr)

There were students next to me at a popular campus restaurant earlier this week conversing in the explicit vernacular of many college students about the OCR process — what they REALLY thought of the internship search, how they were as good as that #$%^&* loser George who got 8 @#$%^&* interviews, how they’d rather sit at home with their &*%$# parents (the ultimate bad Friday night) than listen to their @#$%^&* friends talk about their @#$%^&* job search.  On and on it went.  Think about this; if I was a recruiter grabbing a quick sandwich on my lunch break and I overheard this conversation, what image of them would have been left in my head?  What if you were one of these students and you went to your interview that afternoon and came face to face with me?   And you’re already lamenting how competitive these interviews are?  You may have just helped that recruiter make the very difficult decision between hiring you or the next guy.

To broaden the scenario, maybe I’m a professor you are about to start a class with and you need a letter of recommendation from me for your med school applications. Or I’m the administrative assistant to a person you’ve been dying to get an appointment with for job shadowing. There are any number of other nightmares waiting to haunt you in that sea of unknown faces that surround you daily.

The advice about emails applies to public conversations as well…..if you wouldn’t write it on a postcard, say it directly to the person you’re talking about, or use that language in front of your mother (yes, that pesky mom again) then perhaps you don’t want to share it while walking down Locust Walk, sitting on the trolley or waiting for your cheese steak.

Do yourselves a favor and don’t air critical opinions and inappropriate language in public.  Help that recruiter or professor think of you as the mature, polite person you are, ready to join the professional world.