November 22, 2013

To Intern or Not To Intern?

woman making a decision with arrows and question mark above her headBeing an intern is grueling. If you are contemplating getting slightly hit by cars in the morning just to get your boss an: extra hot, grande, non-fat, half-caf, no foam soy latte on his desk ready for his arrival, you are an intern. If you are on a first-name basis with the courier and have his number on speed dial, you are an intern. If you have been called the wrong name for a month or longer and are too afraid to correct your boss, I can confirm that you are indeed an intern.

Yet despite the long hours, excessive demands, and on occasion, the physical labor, interning can often be a great springboard to future employability.

For all of the above reasons and more, interning has received a substantial amount of negative press in the past. This has resulted in employers being extremely wary of accepting interns into their companies at all. Just two weeks ago, the prestigious magazine publisher Condé Nast terminated its internship program to the dismay of thousands of aspiring journalists, designers, stylists, artists and Anna Wintour wannabees.

There are, however, employers that recognize the value of interns—and not simply for the benefit of their organizations. They also understand the necessity of internships for those wishing to supplement their resumes, leverage their job prospects and looking to get their foot in the door in a specific industry.

Starbucks is an example of an organization that understands the significance of work experience for anyone looking to launch his/her career. The coffee giant offers a summer internship program in its corporate headquarters in Seattle. “Starbucks continually seeks to provide candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership qualities in a supportive environment,” said a Starbucks representative. “Starbucks offers professional development and mentorship to help interns achieve their goals.”

Here are just some of the many ways to make the most of an internship:

1. Seek advice. Ask someone in the company to give up five minutes of their day, at their convenience, to advise you on the necessary steps to obtain your desired position. Perhaps you can suggest discussing the matter over a coffee? Not only will they be impressed by your tenacity but will also be flattered by your request to seek their advice personally. A combination of prompting sympathy by playing the meager intern and flattery could work in your favor here.

When approaching a person for advice, take into account that it is often better to ask the person who is the head of the division you would like to work in rather than the person who has the position you desire. For example, if you want to be a feature writer, approach the feature editor. In an economic climate where competition is high, it is unlikely that anyone would willingly offer advice to a person wanting his/her position. The head of the division, however, is aware that an intern could only obtain an entry-level position and consequently does not view you as a competitor.

2. Show off your skills. Interning is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate your work ethic. Display your ability to work as part of a team, and make valuable contributions where possible. Don’t be afraid to reveal aspects of your personality and your passions in an effort to be remembered as the “funny one,” the “cook,” or the “runner.” In a sea of interns, it is imperative that you stand out in a positive way and are remembered after your departure from the company.

3. Keep in touch. Follow your colleagues and superiors on Twitter and add them on LinkedIn. This shows them your career progression and it is an easy way of keeping in touch. Who knows, if a position arises in the future, they may keep you in mind as a result of your maintained networking. Don’t hesitate to write them an email or even a handwritten note following your internship thanking them for the opportunity and requesting that they keep you in mind should a position arise in the future.

And no, it is not worth getting hit by a car for an extra hot, grande, non-fat, half-caf, no foam soy latte.

Read more in Work Experience

Tamar Mendelsohn, writer for, is the current Editor of the Apploi Observer. The Apploi Observer provides expert insights and advice to job-seekers in conjunction with the revolutionary hiring app Apploi. Tamar has worked for many prestigious media organizations including Conde Nast, Hearst and the Associated Press, writing and editing in the United Kingdom, USA and the Middle East. Connect with Tamar @apploi @apploiobserver