Job Search Tips
Internships / Volunteering
Internships are fantastic. There are more paid internships than ever before, but even unpaid internships can be extremely valuable to you—if you can snag one at a company within your career area.
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Some internships are the very formalized set-time programs (8-weeks, 12-weeks, 1-year, for example) where you’re completing a certain set of tasks, making a set amount (usually limited) of money, with a pre-determined outcome. Some of those internships are the only way you can get hired at some very popular companies that everyone wants to work at. They don’t have issues with talent. Lots of people want to work for them, so they can afford to be very choosy about who they take on—even for an internship role.
Other internship programs are less formal and prescribed programs. For instance, Ventana Medical Systems (I recruited for them for a number of years) was one of those. I remember a young man with a biology degree and not a lot of experience who would not have been considered for one of their roles because of his lack of experience—even though he was in an MBA program at the time. Well, he had a week off (Spring Break) coming up and said to me, “Hey, if you can find me somewhere that would let me work over my Spring Break, I would work 40-60 hours over that entire week. I’d get myself there, pay for whatever I needed to, and work for free for the whole week, because I know that something good would come out of that.”
Well, as it turned out, he did have to pay to get there, but they decided to pay for his hotel for the week and even took him out to dinner. He did a marketing project for them and got to know them pretty well during that week, and they decided they really liked him—and guess what? When he finished his MBA, they hired him.
That should go to show you that internships really can translate into a paying job.
Who could benefit from an internship? Everybody. We could all use a little hands-on time, and we don’t always have to get paid for it because we’re investing in ourselves. And sometimes those investments are the ones that give us the biggest payoff.
Volunteering can offer you the same benefits—if what you volunteer at supports the role you’re trying to get. Volunteering at the hospital, food bank, or local PTA is a wonderful thing…as a philanthropic gesture. It’s generous, caring, and wonderful, and I know that those experiences are worthwhile—but they are probably not going to help you get a job.
Since my focus is not to prod you in your civic responsibilities or your charitable work, that’s not what I’m going to steer you toward. My focus is to get you a job quick. The fastest way to that success is to find some way to volunteer at an organization where you can learn or use skills that are relevant for the job you want. That’s going to be different for everyone, and you may have to be creative to think of and root out opportunities, but the time that you spend honing whatever skill it is will be worth it for you. You can talk about it on your resume, on your Facebook page, on your LinkedIn updates and it will be more than what someone else has who didn’t volunteer their time…and that will help you stand out.
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