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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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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

Congratulations, you’re starting a new job! You’re feeling relieved that the interviews and the wait for a decision from the hiring manager is over, and you’ve finally signed the offer.

Feelings of fear and anticipation may surface now as you think about starting work on Monday. Or you may feel really confident if you have plenty of work experience.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones. It’s very common for seasoned professionals to overestimate themselves due to the breadth of their experience.

Companies offer different depths of on-boarding experiences.[1] Ultimately, success in your career depends on you.

Below are 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career.

1. Your Work Starts Before Your First Day

When you prepared for your interview, you likely did some research about the company. Now it’s time to go more in depth.

  • How would your manager like you to prepare for your first day? What are his/her expectations?
  • What other information can your manager provide so that you can start learning more about the role or company?
  • What company policies or reports can you review that can get you acclimatized to your new job and work environment?

You’ll need to embrace a lot of new people and information when you start your new job. What you learn before your first day at work can help you feel more grounded and prepare your mind to process new information.

2. Know Your Role and the Organization

Review the job posting and know your responsibilities. Sometimes, job postings are simplified versions of the job description. Ask your manager or human resources if there is a detailed job description of your role.

Once you understand your key responsibilities and accountabilities, ask yourself:

  • What questions do you have about the role?
  • What information do you need to do your job effectively?
  • Who do you need to meet and start building relationships with?

Continue to increase your knowledge and do your research through the company Intranet site, organizational charts, the media, LinkedIn profiles, the industry and who your company competitors are.

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This is not a one time event. Continue to do this throughout your time with the company. Every team or project you engage with will evolve and change.

Keep current and be ready to adapt by using your observational skills to be aware of changes to your work environment and people’s behaviour.

3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work

Understanding your work culture is key to help you succeed in your career.

Many of these unwritten rules will not be listed on company policies. This means you’ll need to use all of your senses to observe the environment and the people within it.

What should you wear? See what your peers and leaders are wearing. Notice everything from their jewelry down to their shoes. Once you have a good idea of the dress code you can then infuse your own style.

What are your hours of work? What do you notice about start, break and end times? Are your observations different from what you learned at the interview? What questions do you have based on your observations? Asking for clarity will help you make informed decisions and thrive in a new work setting.

What are the main communication channels?[2] What communication mediums do people use (phone, email, in-person, video)? Does the medium change in different work situations? What is your manager’s communication style and preference? These observations will help you better navigate your work environment and thrive in the workplace.

4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions

You got the job, you’re feeling confident and are eager to show how you can contribute. Check the type of language you are using when you’re approaching your work and sharing your experiences.

I’ve heard many new employees say:

  • “I used to do this at ‘X’ company …”
  • “When I worked at “X” company we implemented this really effective process …”
  • “We did this at my other company … how come you guys are not …”
  • “Why are you doing that … we used to do this …”

People usually don’t want to hear about your past company. The experiences that you had in the past are different in this new environment.

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Remember to:

  • Notice your assumptions
  • Focus on your own work
  • Ask questions, and
  • Learn more about the situation before offering suggestions.

You can then better position yourself as a trusted resource that makes informed decisions tailored to business needs.

5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

Contrary to common belief, asking questions when you’re starting a new job is not a vulnerability.

Asking relevant questions related to your job and the company:

  • Helps you clarify expectations
  • Shows that you’ve done your research
  • Demonstrates your initiative to learn

Seeking to clarify and understand your environment and the people within it will help you become more effective at your job.

6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand

Starting a new job is the perfect time to set clear expectations with your manager and colleagues. Your actions and behaviors at work tells others about your work style and how you like to operate. So it’s essential to get clear on what feels natural to you at work and ensure that your own values are aligned with your work actions.

Here are a few questions to reflect on so that you can clearly articulate your intentions and follow through with consistent actions:

Where do you need to set expectations? Reflect on lessons learned from your previous work experiences. What types of expectations do you need to set so that you can succeed?

Why are you setting these expectations? You’ll likely need to provide context and justify why you’re setting these boundaries. Are your expectations reasonable? What are the impacts on the business?

What are your values? If you value work life balance, but you’re answering emails on weekends and during your vacation time, people will continue to expect this from you. What boundaries do you need to set for yourself at work?

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What do you want to be known for? This question requires some deep reflection. Do you want to be known as a leader who develops and empowers others? Maybe you want to be known for someone who creates an environment of respect where everyone can openly share ideas. Or maybe you want to be someone who challenges people to get outside their comfort zones?

7. Manage Up, Down, and Across

Understanding the work styles of those around you is key to a successful career. Particularly how you communicate and interact with your immediate manager.

Here are a few key questions to consider:

  • How can you make your manager’s job easier?
  • What can you do to anticipate her/his needs?
  • How can you keep them informed (and prepared) so they don’t get caught off-guard?
  • What are your strengths? How can you communicate these to him/her so that they fully understand your capabilities?

These questions can also apply if you manage a team or if you deal with multiple stakeholders.

8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company

It’s important to keep learning from diverse groups and individuals within the company. You’ll get different perspectives about the organization and others may be able to help you succeed in your role.

What types of relationships do you need to build? Why are you building this relationship?

Here are some examples of workplace relationships:

  • Immediate Manager. He/she controls your work assignments. The work can shape the success of your career.
  • Mentors. These are people who are knowledgeable about their field and the company. They are willing to share their experiences with you to help you navigate the workplace and even your career.
  • Direct Reports. Your staff can influence how successful you are at meeting your goals.
  • Mentees. They are another resource to help you keep informed about the organization and your opportunity to develop others.

Other workplace relationships include team members, stakeholders, or strategic partners/sponsors that will advocate for your work.

Learn more in this article: 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

You are part of an ecosystem that has gotten you to where you are today. Every single person and each moment that you have encountered with someone has shaped who you are – both positive and negative.

Here’s How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

Make sure you continue to nurture the relationships that you value and show gratitude to those who have helped you achieve your goals.

Summing It Up

There are many aspects of your career that you are in control of. Observe, listen, and make informed decisions. Career success depends on your actions.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones.

Here are the 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career:

  1. Your Work Starts Before Your 1st Day
  2. Know Your Role and the Organization
  3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work
  4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions
  5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification
  6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand
  7. Manage Up, Down, and Across
  8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company
  9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

Celebrate, enjoy your new role, and take good care of yourself!

More Tips About Succeeding in Career

Featured photo credit: Frank Romero via unsplash.com

Reference

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