By Kristine Schoonmaker, MyConsultingLife.Com
Summer internships are a rite of passage for aspiring consultants. It’s a chance to get some real experience, increase your exposure with a firm, and see if you even like consulting. Whether your ultimate goal is a job offer or just to try before you buy, here are six ways to make the most of your internship.
- Establish a strong track record. Internships are a tryout for the real deal. If you expect to get an offer at the end of your summer stint, make sure you nail whatever assignment you get. If the request is unclear, ask questions until it is. What better way to ensure you get hired than actually demonstrate that you can do the job and do it well?!
- Start defining your brand. Your brand is what you will be known for by your colleagues and clients. It’s your values, strengths, experiences and skills others will associate with you. With a clear vision of the work you want to do, you can shape this brand through the projects and work you pursue. If your career vision is still a bit hazy, use this time to sharpen your focus. A good place to start is to figure out what type of work really excites you and what is a just big yawn.
- Expand your network. You will live and die by your network. Your internship is a great opportunity to get to know a lot of people and build rapport with them. There are three things you’ll want to find out (and track) that will help down the road: 1) Where does their expertise lie? 2) What type of work do they do? 3) What is one thing you have in common? These tidbits will come in handy for getting staffed on projects once hired, finding expertise when you need it and having topics to start future conversations. Don’t forget to stay in touch with them after your internship ends and add them to your network on LinkedIn.
- Make an impression. In addition to making new connections, you also want to grab the attention of key individuals that influence the decision to hire you. Senior managers and partners running your client engagement are the best place to start. Share opinions, present something you worked on, volunteer to work with them on a special project – anything that can highlight your skills and shed light on the great work you’re doing.
- Ask for feedback...more than once. Feedback –ESPECIALLY constructive feedback - will be the most valuable tool to inform your career development for years to come. So, start now. Asking for specific feedback will accomplish two things: 1) it will foster your relationship with team members and 2) it will tell you places you may need to make course corrections to increase the likelihood of landing an offer at the end. Check-in at least two to three times – don’t wait till the end.
- Make sure you & the firm fit. An internship is a trial period for the firm, but for you as well. It’s a great chance to get an inside view of the company culture and the work they do. If you find out it’s not your dream job, congrats - you’ve ruled out one option and can go on to explore the next!
With these simple steps, by the end of the summer, you’ll be poised to start off strong as a new hire or you’ll have great experience to use to market yourself to other firms that are a better fit for you.
Kristine Schoonmaker is The Career & Lifestyle Coach for Consultants and founder of MyConsultingLife.com. Her bi-weekly ezine Accelerate offers practical insider advice and quick tips from a former consulting exec to help YOU take greater control of your career and stay engaged in your personal life from the road. If you’re ready to have it all – an amazing career in consulting without giving up the lifestyle, relationships and experiences you want, get your FREE subscription now at www.myconsultinglife.com.