10 tips to help you make the most of your foreign internship
So you’re in a foreign country, with an internship poised to throw all its linguistic and professional challenges your way. I honestly believe the attitude with which you approach your internship determines whether you are destined to rock your gig and leave with your pockets full of contacts and lead-on prospects, or just let it pass you by.I was fortunate enough to land a 6-month internship with a Parisian advertising agency at Publicis, so this was precisely the industry I was keen to learn more about. However, most interns are unlikely to be inundated with responsibility from the outset, you have to earn it! After all, you are employed first and foremost to assist the company, so the onus is on you to take control of what you will learn personally from this experience. How best to do this?
1. Get the basics right.
Listen carefully, ask if really stuck and you will pick things up more quickly. If you prove that you are organized, efficient, all the things you claimed to be in your cover letter, they will be confident that you are competent enough to handle more challenging tasks. Switch on to whether they want an efficient, to-the-point document for an urgent deadline, or if they want a well thought out, high-quality response, where the content and detail is more important. As a general rule, make sure you provide good quality work as quickly as possible. And if possible...
2. Don't settle for the minimum.
Think of ways to go beyond what has been asked, and you will show initiative and potential, opening up yet more doors. Present your work logically and insightfully: it will save your boss precious time having to decipher it all for themselves. Where appropriate, make suggestions for how you think things could be improved. This is your chance to show what you are capable of, and everyone loves a good value intern!
3. Show willing and enthusiasm.
Sounds cheesy, but if you mention to your boss that you would love to sit in on a conference call or see what goes on at a shoot, they will usually be delighted that you are taking an interest in what you do, and thus you will earn opportunities to see new things that wouldn't have been offered to you if you hadn't asked!
4. React and respond.
Stressful situations are when an extra pair of hands (you!) can be most appreciated. Tune in to what's going on around you so can be ready to adapt to what ever situation may arise.
5. Consider every small task as an opportunity to learn.
Been handed documents to collate and bind for a meeting? Scan through them and take on board the topics of dicussion. Sat amongst the creatives? Earwig on what they’re being asked to do, and ask questions when they are not busy, to find out what sort of a role they play in the agency.
6. Engage with your industry.
If there is a quiet patch, develop your expertise by doing some of your own research. You will be surprised once you start to tune into the nuances of an industry, just how much there is to learn, things you won't have even considered. Industry specific knowledge you pick up will help you to do your job better: you will be able to offer a more authoritative contribution if you know roughly where the client's objectives and interests lie.
7. Keep track of your passive learning.
Of course it's great to make all the efforts described above, but if you're spending any amount of time in a certain environment there will be nuances you will be picking up without even realizing. You will also save yourself a lot of time when applying for future jobs if you log, as you go, the tasks you do, the skills you're developing and any interesting observations you make about your sector.
8. Get yourself out there.
Gestures such as sending round an email introducing yourself, and of course heartfelt thank you’s when you leave (both written and verbal if possible) may seem like office basics, but they will really influence the first and last impressions you make in the office. In a digital age, face-to-face relationships are as valuable as ever, so communicate well with your colleagues and they will be reminded of your pro-active attitude.
9. Turn up turned out.
This is basic stuff, which is why I put it last, but it still shouldn't be underestimated. The office is one place where appearances do count for a lot. Studies have shown women who wear make-up (well-applied, of course) are perceived to be more competent. If you feel you can't whip out a cutting-edge ensemble every day on a student budget, a well-groomed hairdo and new-looking shoes will make the biggest difference.
10. Join in the fun!
Of course focus and professionalism are of utmost importance, but your personality and sense of humour add an upbeat energy to the office dynamic. People pick up on the positive energy you give off more than you’d think! And you too will look back on your internship with a smile if you have been able to get to know and have a laugh with your colleagues, as well as being more likely to stay in touch.
So go forth and get out what you put in. After all, if you can manage all this in a foreign language, what can't you do?
Rosie's on her year abroad in Paris and Seville - check out her blog to find out what she's up to!