careers

8 Ways To Maximize The ROI On Your Internship

 iStockphoto.com |  monkeybusinessimages

iStockphoto.com | monkeybusinessimages

 

Congratulations – you got the internship!

After a painful and highly competitive application and interview process, you were selected over dozens of other highly qualified students to spend the summer working at one of the coolest companies around.

As an intern, you'll gain valuable, real-world experience with an established company, new skills, a professional network, experience to add to your resume, and depending upon your college and the employer some combination of academic credit and a paycheck.

During the internship your employer will closely monitor and evaluate you, and the quality of your work is only one factor they'll consider as they decide whether to invite you back for a full-time role upon graduation. They'll also look at your work ethic, technical aptitude, interpersonal skills, behavior, learning agility, and growth potential to determine if you're a fit for their full-time workforce.

Regardless of whether your career interests lie with the company at which you're interning or at another company, you'll need to be smart in approaching your internship. The ultimate goal is to embark upon a rewarding career upon graduation. Here 8 ways you maximize the ROI – return on investment – on your internship.

  1. Set your own goals. Even before accepting an internship, you should very clearly understand what you plan to get out of your summer. What specific technical skills or professional experiences do you hope to gain? An internship that doesn't add to your professional toolbox may not get you any closer to your desired career path.
     
  2. Align expectations with your manager. Have a two-way discussion to agree upon what he/she expects out of you. Set goals. Work together to define what success in the internship would look like so that you can prioritize accordingly. If you see gaps in the experiences they plan to offer you versus what you were told during the interview, or if you would like to work on specific projects or technologies, respectfully make your manager aware of this and ask if it's possible to redefine the scope of the internship (it may or may not be).
     
  3. Be flexible. There's a lot of boring work out there which needs to get done, and interns usually get stuck doing it. Managers usually know how lame it is. Smile, and take it on willingly. Ask for more. You may learn valuable skills, and demonstrating a positive attitude toward tedious tasks reflects well upon your work ethic. Perhaps you'll identify a process to streamline this grunt work and can share your findings so that you'll make your manager's life easier after you leave.
     
  4. Ask for stretch assignments. Managers often give employees what they think they can handle. If you believe you have the capability to take on more complex tasks – and the bandwidth to do so without allowing your core duties to suffer – tell your manager. You might end up with elevated responsibility or a challenging assignment. There's a risk of failure here, but if you succeed in your new assignment you have the potential to truly shine.
     
  5. Track your progress. Document your progress against your goals in a quantifiable and measurable way. If you find you're falling behind, it may be time to look at how you're approaching your work and perhaps discuss the situation with your manager. Save your data for the performance appraisal at the end of the internship..
     
  6. Network aggressively. One of the most counterproductive things you can do is bury yourself in your cubicle without getting to know people in the organization. Introduce yourself to department employees and other interns. Build your brand by actively participating in corporate activities. After the internship is over, the company will usually rank all of the interns in order to prioritize to whom they'd like to make full-time, post-graduation employment offers. If nobody knows you, they can't advocate for you, regardless of the quality of your work. Also, take a long-term perspective to networking – few people stay with a single employer for the duration of their career, and the connections you make now may be useful in finding employment after graduation and beyond.
     
  7. Invest in your performance appraisal. At the end of the internship you'll sit down with your manager to go over your work – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Share your accomplishments, highlight your teamwork, and provide documentation. Ask for performance feedback – in addition to what they perceive as your successes, your manager will share information he or she believes  will help you address developmental areas. Demonstrate maturity – listen actively, don't be defensive, and ask for suggestions. The information they share will usually be the aggregate of multiple individuals across the department who provided input and it will reflect the general perception of your performance. Thank your manager for the feedback, synthesize what's been shared with you, and use the data to improve your performance in the future.
     
  8. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile with your new experiences. An internship is real experience, and your work will help sell you. Highlight your accomplishments!

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

10 Little Things You Can Do To Move The Needle In Your Job Search

 iStockphoto.com |  z_wei

iStockphoto.com | z_wei

 

Hunting for a job is no fun. It's a lot of hoops to jump through, and it can be demoralizing at times. Hit a roadblock? Here are ten little things you can do to move the needle in your job search.

  1. Be nice to people. I'm not referring to just interviewers and recruiters, by the way. Be friendly. Say "Hello." Say "Thank you." Facilitate professional and personal introductions. People tend to help out nice people, and if you're on the market, and you made a positive impression, you may be front of mind when they hear about a job opportunity or are looking to fill one of their own. Jerks get referred less often than nice people.
     
  2. Let recruiters know you're available on LinkedIn. There's a little box on LinkedIn on your profile page where you can tell recruiters combing the system that you're open to hearing about jobs, and how they can reach you. Why not make it clear you're looking? Here's the link.
     
  3. Take quick and easy training. Applying to jobs that require Salesforce CRM experience, and you don't have it? Or maybe you need to buff up on your project management skills. Go to LinkedIn Learning, Lynda, or any of the other online training portals and take a seminar. Then add the class to your resume – it'll show up as a keyword (and a skill in your toolbox).
     
  4. Circulating your resume? Send or upload a version made in Microsoft Word. Most Applicant Tracking Systems (employer databases) are optimized for Word since it's the most common word processing platform in the business world. A resume saved in Google Docs or Apple Pages formats and uploaded into an ATS might not keep its formatting. And an unattractively formatted – or just plain jumbled – resume may get ignored by a recruiter, regardless of the cause.
     
  5. Contact your college's career placement center. So what if you graduated 20 years ago? Most colleges allow their alumni to utilize the campus career services office. In addition to providing access to job postings and career fairs, advisors can provide career coaching and facilitate connections to employers with whom they've built relationships. Remember, your college wants you gainfully employed – it's good for the school's reputation, well-placed alumni can provide students with internship and career opportunities, and a happy, income-earning alumni often become willing donors.
     
  6. Be generous with "thank you" notes. It's a no-brainer to send "thank you" notes after a job interview – or at least it should be. This simple act of post-interview gratitude can propel your candidacy forward. And remember to show gratitude to anyone who does you any sort of favor in your job search.
     
  7. Ask your former employer if they could use some help. Assuming you left a prior job on good terms and would be interested in going back, call your old manager. The combination of a low unemployment rate and an innate familiarity with your ex-employer's culture and workflows could position you as a desirable candidate.
     
  8. Call a headhunter who has placed you with an employer in the past. You may not be on their radar. But if they were successful in placing you before, they may be willing and able to consider you for a new job.
     
  9. Use a professional-sounding email address on your resume. It really doesn't matter whether your address ends with gmail.com, yahoo.com, outlook.com, or aol.com (I get that question a lot, by the way – people are worried about age discrimination based upon having an old ISP. Don't sweat it, unless we're talking about having CompuServe as your carrier. It's more dangerous to put your college graduation date on your resume if it's more than ten years ago). What does matter is not coming across as not being serious about the job search – avoid tags like partygirl23@gmail.com, sexydude71@aol.com, or ihatedogs@bellsouth.net.
     
  10. Use your cell phone number on your resume. Be reachable, quickly. A missed call, or delaying a return call, could cost you the job. Side note: Have your voicemail set up with a greeting that says your name somewhere in the message, so that recruiters know they've reached the right number.
     

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

 

The Joys of Salary Negotiation

 iStockphoto.com |  mokee81

iStockphoto.com | mokee81

 

After you've sent a resume to a company, somebody in human resources will call you up to screen you for fit. They will invariably ask you what you will are looking for in terms of salary.

This is where it gets tricky. It's a game of chicken – salary discussions, especially at the beginning of the process, are especially difficult because the first party to give away their position loses their leverage to negotiate.

Your goal here is not necessarily aligned to the company's goal in terms of compensation. Assuming the position is a good match for both parties, here's where your interests diverge.

Your goal: To get the best salary offer you can.

The company's goal: To get the best candidate into the position in the most cost-effective manner possible. Less money is better.

The actual figure you agree upon is the reality.

Before getting into negotiation strategy, let's discuss a few facts about how corporate salaries are determined (by the way, this is a simplification, so I'm certain the compensation professionals out will have information to add):

  1. Companies - especially larger ones - usually have salary bands in which employees need to fit. For a particular position, there is an assigned salary range. For example, the company may have determined that they are willing to pay between $15 and $20 per hour for an administrative assistant. They don't want to have too large of a salary discrepancy between several individuals doing the same type of job, but they also want a bit of wiggle room to offer more money if necessary for the right candidate.
     
  2. Salaries are usually driven by market data. A company will subscribe to (and often provide information for) compensation studies tracking what the market will pay for a particular job. This data take into consideration several factors - skill sets, nature of the market, geography, and what competitors are willing to pay.
     
  3. A company selectes a compensation philosophy. This goes back to the market data described above. After looking at the data, executives make a decision about their compensation philosophy as to how it relates to their own company. A company looking to aggressively hire high-performing talent or that competes in a fast-changing market like technology tends to extend offers at the higher end of the range. Other companies may look to hire at the general market salaries, tending toward the average.
     
  4. Companies often have less flexibility on salaries for recent graduates and entry-level hires. This applies to your newly minted MBA just as much as it does to your nephew who recently received their bachelor's degree. Companies often have a concrete salary structure for these recent grads, with adjustments up and down for work location and the ranking for the school from which they graduated. In other words, a graduate with an Ivy league degree can often fetch more than the local state school.
     
  5. There's a lot more to consider in the offer than just salary. Benefits matter. A lot. Companies often pay a great deal of money to provide a competitive benefits package. You know that health insurance the company's offering? Not every employer subsidizes the same amount to cover that, often leaving you - the employee - to pay a larger share of your premiums or co-pays.  There are other benefits, too - dental insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, tuition reimbursement, vacation time, holidays, company car, 401(k) matches and so on - into which companies can pay dearly. A richer benefits package leaving more take-home money in the employee's pocket may give an employer a real incentive to offer a lower base salary, while still enabling an employee to make ends meet.
     
  6. Variable compensation matters, too. I'm referring to bonuses, profit sharing, commissions, and long-term incentives. Not every job offers an incentive beyond the base salary. A bonus is real money, and a company's philosophy may direct them to offer a lower base salary in exchange for a desirable bonus target.

Here are some considerations when negotiating salary:

  • It's to your advantage to avoid giving a specific expected salary figure – until it's essential.  It's not always possible to hold off on showing your hand. A recruiter may push you to give a specific number to ensure that you fit within their salary structure. But if you can hold off without coming across as confrontation, it's worth trying. The best scenario is to see if the job itself is a good marriage before locking down a specific number. You'll keep your leverage.
     
  • Sometimes ignorance can work in your favor. This isn't always true, but in certain cases it absolutely can. If you're a recent graduate (or been at the same company for a very long time) and an employer is asking you what you are looking for in terms of salary, it's okay to say, "I don't have a specific figure in mind, I am looking for a compensation package that is in line for a recent graduate with an MBA from my university." A similar approach also works well if you know you've been underpaid against the market, you can say something like, "I'm looking for a salary that is in line with my experience and education."
     
  • The employer may push hard to find out your salary expectations. In which case, you may wish to consider taking a slightly different approach with your answer - "In my current position I have been earning $x, I am looking for a salary that will take into consideration the accomplishments and experiences I gained in my present role." You're not telling the employer that you're asking for a specific figure - you're giving an idea of where you've been.
     
  • Sometimes it doesn't matter what you want. See #4 above - the company may pay everyone the same salary for a certain job. In which case, you have the option of taking or leaving the offer.
     
  • Ask about the benefits. A rich benefits package has real cash value. Consider all the non-salary components of the offer as part of the total compensation.
     
  • A sign-on bonus may make up any difference. The company may really want to get you on board, but their salary bands (or some other reason) may prevent them from offering a higher salary. Or perhaps you are walking away from a bonus at your current job. A sign-on bonus might help close the gap during that first year.
     
  • Be sincere in your negotiations. Tell the corporate recruiter that you really want to make this work and that company x is clearly your first choice (assuming this is true). Perhaps you are willing to meet somewhere in the middle of what was offered and what you asked for. The more you can make the recruiter feel that this is a partnership designed to meet a common goal, the better.
     
  • The choice is ultimately yours. You don't have to accept the job at the salary offered just because the company offers you the position. If you've negotiated in good faith, then you should be able to walk away from an offer with no hard feelings. Which leads me to one last point...
     
  • Avoid getting into the negotiations for counter-offers with your current employer. It's not recommended - find out why here.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.