You might remember James Kotecki from his video blogging days at Politico, providing spry and often musical political commentary on KoteckiTV. James is now the head of research at the D.C.-based consulting firm The Cypress Group, where he also manages the internship program. He was kind enough to offer some advice on internships.
If the internship is the new entry-level job, what's the new internship?
Starting your own business or organization in high school or college. It’s not essential but it looks pretty impressive on a resume. As does a crisp $100 bill.
Should interns get coffee?
Only if they get to drink it. Honestly, it’s part of the job sometimes, but if you’re only doing grunt work and not learning anything, it’s time to look for a new internship.
Tell me your thoughts on intern cover letters.
Hate 'em. They’re often way too vague, with no indication that the applicant has even read the job description. A well-written cover letter that clearly conveys specific reasons why the applicant wants the specific job really stands out.
Is there any common but errant advice on getting internships out there you think deserves refuting?
You don’t have to go through the proper channels. Use the career center and respond to job posts, but don’t be afraid to reach out to companies directly even if they aren’t officially hiring. Most people are nice and want to help you if you take the initiative to ask. And everyone else would probably suck to work for anyway.
What are three Dos and Don'ts for interns?
Do: Keep learning. Build relationships. Keep in touch when it's over.
Don’t: Stop learning. Burn bridges. Burn office supplies. Stop believin'.
Smart college kids can often be pretty awkward. What’s an appropriate level of social skill in an intern?
If you can navigate a kegger while sober, you’ll survive office social life. You’ll be ok as long as you make interesting conversations and don’t try to dance.
What should be in an intern's toolkit?
Breath mints, deoderant, and a working knowledge of Microsoft Office
Any final advice for interns or students looking for internships?
Be proactive about landing, learning from, and (if necessary) leaving your internship. This is the 21st century! You’ve got to hustle! Do the hustle!
James Kotecki is the Head of Research at The Cypress Group, which analyzes political risks for investment managers. He’s also an award-winning video blogger who once interviewed Ron Paul in his dorm room. He is tweetable @JamesKotecki.
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