Monday, July 23, 2007

... on Internships

Finally, there's light at the end of the tunnel; and, for once it doesn't appear to be an oncoming subway train. You've ground it out at university for three or so years and now you're at the point of realistically considering your first corporate internship in preparation for the real working world. In advance, you've spent the summer assembling your thoughts and you're now ready to work on your applications in earnest. Considering you haven't undertaken a route such as this before, you feel a bit like a rookie sailor on the open seas - you see numerous points of land on the horizon, however, they all look different and you have no idea how to reach them.

Never fear Captain Edward John Smith, a few considered dos and don'ts can help you reach your chosen destination: a good internship match.


Do try at obtain at least one internship during your school years. And do try to get several internships;

Do set definite goals for both yourself and each internship. Know what you want to achieve with each;

Do be sure you have a quality cover letter, a superior resume, and polished interviewing techniques;

Do send thank-you letters to people who interview you and all people who help you find an internship;

Do expect to be treated professionally, and do conduct yourself professionally at all times;

Do make the most of your system of family and friends to the fullest to get leads on internships;

Do try and arrange ongoing meetings with your internship manager;

Do secure as much exposure within the internship firm as possible;

Do find a mentor in the organisation, either your internship supervisor or some other manager;

Do ensure you leave your internship with new skills, a better appreciation of your chosen field, and concrete achievements.


Don't forget to take advantage of the career services office at your college or university - they typically have leads to numerous internship opportunities;

Don't expect all internships to be paid. Consider accepting both paid and non-paid internships; some of the best internships are non-paying;

Don't expect internships to be simply handed to you; as with any job, an internship must be earned;

Don't pass up opportunities to gain experiences outside the regular scope of the internship that lead to chances to learn more about the organisation or the industry;

Don't ever give up in your internship quest. And don'€™t pass on any internship leads - regardless of how slight they may appear;

Don't be afraid to ask questions. And be open to learning new skills, processes and methodologies; and

Don't burn any bridges - even if your internship was not the best.

How to Make a Lateral Move

George Bush may have the deluded view that "we all not in Crawford anymore..." well, similarly, the workplace sure isn't what it used to be either.  Since the brush was cleared after our father's days, flatter organisational structures mean there are fewer opportunities for promotion to go round and, as a result, many more of us are having to rethink the way our careers progress.

A lateral move involving a change in jobs, but keeping the same pay, status or level of responsibility, is increasingly seen as a good way to develop ongoing career breadth and employability.

Aside from professional growth, other reasons for making a lateral move may include a change in personal circumstances or working for an organisation that matches your personal values.

Ultimately, making informed decisions about a lateral move and executing it correctly is another vital aspect of managing your career, and will pay dividends when it comes to long-term career advancement.

Where do I start?

Making a success of any lateral move calls for careful thought and planning.  Firstly, ask yourself:  why do you want to make the shift?  What is your long-term career objective?

Consider your strengths and passions and how the new working environment will help position you for the future.  Will it develop fresh thinking, skills or competencies that take you a step closer to the higher-level position you want, or provide more job satisfaction?  Accept that initially it may even involve a perceived backward step.  Be prepared to defend against that perception.

Look at internal possibilities

Many organisations encourage employees to pursue lateral moves as it helps cut down on the cost of recruiting and training new staff when existing employees leave - so establish your company's policy.

There's a growing trend for organisations to put mechanisms in place that enable individuals to find out more about other jobs in the company.  Chief among them is the informational interview, where employees can discuss, with colleagues in other departments, how they got their jobs, what their positions entail, and learn more about their part of the company.

Identify suitable jobs

One of the quickest ways to learn of new projects and assignments is if your organisation posts them on your intranet.  Sign up for new postings to be e-mailed directly to your inbox and put yourself forward for the ones you like the sound of.

Your network is another good way of hearing about opportunities before they are advertised.  So make sure colleagues, friends and family are using their eyes and ears on your behalf.  Also use online forums to hook up with people from other organisations.

However, remember that as specialist skills can go out of date, too long away from your key function could lead to you becoming less employable.

Update your CV

One of the downsides of lateral moves is that you could end up with several CV entries that show similar job titles or the same grade levels.

To get round this, prepare an experience-based, or functional, CV that emphasises what you've done and plays down job titles or industries.  For instance, if you've held the position of recruitment manager at the last three companies you've worked for, specify that each time you've handled successively larger budgets - managed bigger teams - recruited more headcount, etc.

The hard sell

In addition to standard interview preparation and thorough background research, rehearse thoroughly the reasons for your collection of similar jobs and why your career progression appears to have stalled, particularly if the move is an external one.  Use your breadth of past experience to sell yourself.

If you only do five things...

1.  Identify your long-term career objective;

2.  Let your strengths and passions influence your direction;

3.  Actively network to find out about suitable openings;

4.  Make full use of informational interviews; and

5.  Create an experience-based CV;

Flat organisational structures have made lateral moves inevitable.  Traditionally, most careers are built on vertical moves, where individuals are driven solely by the desire for money and status.  Considering a lateral move tends to be much more about gaining job satisfaction and added knowledge even though progression up the ladder may be the ultimate goal. 

To succeed in a lateral move, significant knowledge about oneself, how the move matches the needs of the new role in a different, usually untried function is essential, as is, of course, a personal interest in the new area.  Job changers tend not to do this well, but a good executive coach or mentor can help.

If researched properly, and matched objectively to your skills and interests, a lateral move may be the best decision you make.