Make long internships pay off
Zhang Ze, 22, a senior majoring in Chinese literature at Beijing Normal University, is interning with a TV station. Even though he’s been there for six months, he still hasn’t been offered a job.
“My internship contract doesn’t have a specific end date, but I can keep interning due to business needs. I’ve worked for six months now on only a nominal salary and I’ll stay as long as the company wants me to,” says Zhang. “The reason I’m hanging on is that I really want to get an offer.”
Facing a tough job market, many graduates like Zhang choose to do long-term internships, usually between three months and a year in length, in an effort to gain workplace experience and skills. But keeping up appearances and proving your ability is no easy task.
Here, HR managers offer advice on how to make the most of an internship and get a job offer to make all that hard work pay off.
Make a contribution
Not all internships have a specific duration, so some interns stay on as long as possible in the hope of improving their chances of getting an offer.
But Shen Qi, HR manager at AVIC Capital Co Ltd in Beijing, says showing initiative is crucial to getting your name on the candidate list.
“A long-term internship will provide you with a detailed understanding of the industry and an opportunity to experience a full-time role in a particular business area,” says Shen.
“From the outset you should contribute to your team’s output, take responsibility, work with senior professionals on key projects, and expand your skills and experience.”
Employers always seek interns who are motivated and demonstrate a go-getter attitude.
Employers also want people doing internships in their company who have a strong work ethic, are dependable, and work well both independently and in a team environment.
“Pay attention to priceless skills including effective communication, public speaking, negotiation, patience, persuasion and interpersonal skills,” says Yang Xiaohai, general manager of human resources in Maersk China Shipping Co Ltd.
For instance, Yang said, make sure you take the initiative to introduce yourself and demonstrate a positive and friendly attitude toward everyone you meet, from the security guards to the CEO.
Keep up-to-date on employer information and read what the professionals are reading. Learn more about your employer, the competition, and the industry.
“Internship success requires motivation and a true desire to learn more about the industry,” says Yang.
In a long-term internship you need to pay attention to show results in order to persuade the company to hire you.
When you apply for a full-time position, you should emphasize what you have done for the company, according to Liu Bingjun, HR manager at China Southern Glass Holding Co Ltd.
“Give examples of projects you worked on and skills you used and acquired,” Liu says. “This way you can downplay the part-time aspect of the internship and the company should see that you have the experience it is looking for.”
If things don’t work out and you’re worried that an extended internship will look bad on your resume, simply tell potential employers that it was part of your career development plan.
Leave it at that and be proud of the work you did.
Liu believes a long-term internship should be seen as an investment.
“If you are offered a paid internship with a good company and you think there’s a chance of being hired, then go ahead and do it for a long time,” says Liu. “If not, cut your losses and set yourself an end date.”