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5 Things You Can Gain From An Unpaid Internship

5 Things You Can Gain From An Unpaid Internship

If the thought of working for free might seem like a waste of your time, let me prove you wrong.

Taking an unpaid internship can actually bring you to another level, open new doors, build strong networks and provide you with the tools to achieve success and trust faster and easier.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs knew that. They took low or unpaid jobs for a certain amount of time in their dream field just to understand what they were getting themselves into and gain precious knowledge before venturing on their own business.

We can either look at the glass half empty or half full, and I guarantee you that the benefits will exceed the downsides in many aspects.

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1. Reassurance.

Many times, when we’re young, we chose a course or a university degree in an area in which we think we’ll love to work. But once we finish the degree and start working in that field we felt so passionate about, we realize the reality is much different than what we dreamed of.

A lot of people develop a strong sense of guilt and shame, feeling they’ve spend so much time and money investing in a degree they actually don’t love anymore. These feelings push people to get stuck in unfulfilling jobs they’re not passionate about, that don’t bring them joy and personal growth. Many of these people develop depression, anxiety and other disorders.

Taking an unpaid internship in the area you believe you’d like to work on, prior to starting college, can be a wonderful way to find out if that’s really right for you. If you are going for a very specialized field you might not have a direct position on what you dream of, but you can surround yourself by the people who work in the field and understand it from the inside. From there, you can realistically see whether or not it’s right for you, and avoid spending time and money on a career you’re not so sure about.

2. Work/study benefits.

If you’re studying in an area which requires strong character and communication skills, and your course is not offering you that dynamic, having one or two days a week of unpaid practical internship alongside your university courses can bring you great rewards.

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Not only will you have all the theory and academic parts covered by your college, but you’ll be building and gaining valuable insight and practical knowledge by already having work-related hours in your field. Nowadays, most academic courses lack that practical approach, so combining both things will adequately prepare you for the future.

3. Become confident.

I know this from experience: when you’ve just finished your courses and have had no practical experience in your field yet, being send out in the world can be overwhelming and terrifying, especially if you’re an entrepreneur.

If you take an unpaid position for a few months in a company, you’ll build your confidence and gain valuable experience. Many successful entrepreneurs have actually done that before starting their own business. They took either a low paid or free internship in their dream fields to understand and learn all about that business, how to deal with clients, payrolls, expectations, marketing strategies, the dos and don’ts of their business area.

4. Build powerful relationships.

The world of business is all about building relationships and powerful connections. You’ll have greater chances to get a great job or a higher position depending on who you know and who you associate yourself with.

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Your work might have been so good and maybe you brought such powerful ideas and insights during your internship that they might want to keep you and offer you a job. After all, you’ll have advantage over everyone else. They know you, they trust you, and you’ve proven you can get the job done with perfect results.

Building a solid network within your field is crucial. Doors might open easier and faster because you’re already very familiar with the people and the work that needs to be done.

5. Build a strong curriculum.

The fact you took the time and energy to take an unpaid internship shows your level of commitment, perseverance and interest in becoming better and knowing more about your work field. Employers like that. They like people who actively find creative ways to improve their skills and knowledge. They’ll know you’re someone who wants to develop your capacities.

Having a practical component covered and proving you already have hands-on experience will always put you ahead of everyone else who only had a basic academic training.

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If you did an internship at an important company, you’ll benefit from being associated with their brand or name. That will give you credibility and trust.

Having a strong resume with relevant work experience is vital, and it’s what oftentimes will set you apart from all other candidates applying for a job.

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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