Negotiate the complexities of your new office to turn from intern to employee
Apprentices are busy sprucing up their curriculum vitae to spend time lucratively this summer. Bear in mind, the prerequisites of getting an internship may be based on your qualification but to survive one you have to do a lot more. “A good internship may translate into a full-time job,” says Sneha Jaisingh, marketing professional, who interned with a publication house and went on to serve the same organisation for two years. If you mean to convert that two-month stint into something bigger, here’s a list of things to keep in mind.
Airs today, gone tomorrow
At this stage, you need the organisation more than it needs you. So, take those steps into the new office with great humility. “You might be studying at a prestigious institution or may be a topper in your class, but while interning you are at the lowest rung of the hierarchy in the organisation. The only way people will sit up and take notice of you at work is through your performance. So, keep your airs at home and do your job diligently,” says Pranay Swarup, who has set up an online portal – letsintern.com – that helps students across the country to bag an internship of their choice.
Thin red line
The last thing you want to be in your new environment is a wallflower. However, going to the other extreme and being over-friendly is also not the solution. Colleagues and potential employers will not find out that you’re talented and intelligent if you’re painfully shy. So make eye contact, be cordial. Attend company events to get some face time with the company’s big guys. Higher-ups are often happy to hold forth with interns. But you also have to be careful about the tone you use to approach them. Remember you are there to learn and not to show off. So, mind your language and don’t make casual talk. Don’t intrude a conversation. Don’t start advising others or gossiping. And definitely don’t tag along with colleagues everywhere they go.
Don’t get into office politics
This is a big no-no. You are very likely to overhear colleagues gossiping about workmates. But fight all temptation to join in. If you don’t like somebody, keep it to yourself and vent at home. If your bosses are having an argument about a certain issue, let them rattle away and don’t give your two penny’s worth. Most offices tend to have cliques. But your job is to steer clear of taking sides.
Find a mentor
While you can’t take sides when there is a fight, finding yourself a mentor as far as work goes may take you a long way. Learn from the person whose work you admire and develop a relationship that can continue after your internship has ended. Professionals enjoy sharing their expertise and want to assist newbies. How do you spot one? It’s simple. A good mentor is someone who is willing to share their knowledge and expertise and wants to see his/her mentee succeed in the field.
It’s okay to be dumb
The internship is a learning curve. It helps you get an insight into a real job before you actually take up one. The level of responsibility is less, the aim is to absorb as much as you can in that stipulated time. If you do not know something, be honest about it. Be open to learning different things and don’t be stubborn about the work you are allotted.
Do the grunt-work
Don’t shirk minor jobs. Your bosses may send you down to photocopy papers or get coffee. Darshita Shah, who has interned with a stock broken firm, a television channel and a PR agency says, “Every intern has to go through it. If you’re lucky to have a good boss, then you can avoid it but it is part and parcel of the internship. Keep in mind that an internship seldom pays. It is really a test of endurance.” However, if getting coffee and photocopying papers is all that you are left doing all day, go up to your employers and tell them very politely that you are keen to learn the ropes of the job. Do not make a clamour or crib openly about your grievances as it may backfire.
Ask for more work
Once you have completed the task at hand, go to your boss to ask for more work. If there is nothing to do, leave for the day. Do not hang around in the office and surf the Internet aimlessly. Restrict your use of Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry messenger at work. Avoid using the office phone for making private calls. It does not reflect well on your work profile. Stick to your timings. Let the concerned people know about your prior commitments. Once they have set your timings, follow it to the T. Be punctual and do not leave work at your own whim. Likewise, do not take long lunch and tea breaks. It will create an impression that you’re avoiding work.
“Even though you’re an intern for a short while, you are also a brand ambassador of the company for that time. So make that effort to groom yourself,” says Swarup. What you wear will depend on the work environment. If it is a corporate, invest money in formal wear but if it has a chilled-out atmosphere, stick to something more casual. At no cost should you go overboard and dress to the nines.
Once you have completed the internship, be discreet about confidential matters of the organisation. It is unethical to expose what you have learnt about the company to the outside world. If you’re caught, it may malign your r e p u t a t i o n . Remember that your loyalty towards the firm you have interned with may determine your next job.