Acing the 400hr Interview

21 06 2016

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You read that right. A 400 hour interview. Before you start freaking out, let me break it down for you…

The standard internship period these days is approximately 10-12 weeks, predominately focusing on the summer months. Most internships are full-time positions (40hrs/week), hence the result of a total of 400hrs (40hrs/week x 10 weeks = 400hrs.) Internships are no longer about temporary summer help at the office. Instead, they’ve become proving grounds for future employees. Think of it as an extended interview. In this case, a 400hr interview!

On the corporate side, the ultimate goal of the internship is to convert the intern to a full-time position after college if the intern performs well. For the intern, that could be the same goal or the goal could simply be to expand your knowledge base and level of experience so that you’re better prepared for the world of work post-graduation.

So, how do you set yourself apart from all the other interns?? There is a LOT of intern advice out there. It all seems to boil down to the following points:

Ask Questions! You might be saying, “but, they hired me because of my skills. I should know how to do the job and how to do it well!” WRONG. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re not expected to know everything on the first day. Jump in, ask questions, seek feedback (but not so much that you annoy the boss…there’s a fine line) and try not to assume anything. Let your curiosity flow!

Get Out of Your Cubicle! As an intern, you have some AMAZING access to executives and individuals who will later be more difficult to reach. Take advantage of this opportunity and connect with people outside of your work group, division, etc. Most companies hold several intern mixers throughout the internship period, so you’ll have the chance to interact with your fellow 400hr interviewees. Focus on your work and projects first, but don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor for the opportunity to meet or job shadow with people in your areas of interest.

Seek Out Mentors! Would you rather enter uncharted territory and try to blaze your trail blindly or would you rather have a few tips/tricks to help you succeed in your journey? If it’s the latter, then be sure to seek out a mentor during your internship. You might be asking, “where do I even start??” Never fear! A lot of today’s internship programs have carefully selected executive sponsors and mentors for their interns. After all, they want YOU to succeed! Other places you go for mentor assistance include your university’s career services or alumni offices. They should be able to help get you connected. If you prefer the DIY method, check out LinkedIn’s Alumni tool (click My Network, then Find Alumni) or create a simple Boolean search (ie: “awesome company ABC + Syracuse University”) and see what pops up. Be sure to connect using a personalized request like this.  Once connected, set up a short meeting, share your goals, ask for help and where you can potentially help as well. Remember, the mentor relationship goes both ways!

Do Your Homework! Ugh. Homework. Don’t you have enough of this during the regular school year?? The reality is that homework never really goes away. When you graduate, it simply goes by different names like research and preparation. As an intern, be sure to do your research and create your plan of attack so you can ROCK your presentation. Not a fan of public speaking? Check out this link for some tips on how to avoid common mistakes.

Tell Us About Your Experience! Now, hopefully your experience is a good one. Tell your friends about the things that were so great (like the culture, your team, the work, the company’s mission, etc.) AND tell them about the things that weren’t so great. You can do this in a tactful way. Sites like GlassDoor provide individuals with the opportunity to share their experiences anonymously. I’d recommend checking this site as you do your “homework” researching potential target companies for your career. Here’s why you should tell your network about your experience: personal referrals are more powerful than any corporate recruiting spiel. It’s the truth! Wouldn’t you want to get the inside scoop on the overall experience from someone you know or someone you know has had a similar college background?

PS. Vanilla Ice has something to say about internships. Click here. 🙂

Now, go out there and ACE the 400hr interview! You’re going to do great.

Anything you’d like to add? Feedback? Leave a comment! As always, thank you for reading.

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