April 14, 2014

From learning to earning: How to make the unpaid hours count

by admin in News

Each year, thousands of wide-eyed graduates are released into the wild of the working world; degrees clutched firmly in hand, ambitions sky high.

As we complete our studies, we’re constantly reminded: the job market is tough, the competition is fierce.

But there are opportunities, and ways to make the most of them.

Enter: internships.

It’s not a revolutionary concept; learning skills on-the-job to make you more hireable. It’s also not a concept to be taken for granted.

For some, an internship is just a space-filler on a resume. For some, it’s an elective that gets you out of going to uni.

But for the ones who make it count – an internship is the difference between mediocrity and launching your dream career.

I would know; I completed work experience with five companies before coming on board as an intern with Red Agency. Five months later, I landed a PR graduate’s ultimate gig as an Account Executive at Australia’s leading PR and Marketing Communications Company.

Here’s how to be the candidate who makes the cut:

1.       Go broad

If there’s one thing our parents taught us, it’s that putting many an egg in the one basket is never a good idea. Don’t limit yourself by only doing an internship with one company, or even in one field. Think big, go broad. Interning is a great way to get a taste of how a job would actually be. If you’re learning and developing skills, it’s never a waste of time. Besides, the more you do the more apt you’ll be for your dream job – so get out there.

2.       Ask questions

No matter how much this is drilled in to us, we still hesitate. Fight that. Before you start an internship, think about what you want to get out of it. What are you unsure of? What do you want to improve on? Where do you think your skills are strongest? Your employee will appreciate that you’re taking it seriously, and being proactive in expanding your knowledge. If you’re allocated a task that seems unclear – speak up before you put your head down. You’re there to learn, so don’t be afraid to ask.

3.       Be grateful

Sometimes, you’ll have to do a coffee run. Sometimes, you’ll have to do mail-outs. Sometimes, you’ll have to do research.  At all times, you should smile eagerly and get straight on it. A negative attitude is not only unpleasant, it never goes unnoticed. PR practitioners pay their dues. That Account Manager asking you to calculate those AVE’s once had to do it themselves – and I guarantee they did it with enthusiasm. Chin up, and carry on.

4.       Take responsibility

One of the most important steps on the path to enviable employment is taking ownership of your work. Your internship isn’t just practice for the real world, it is the real world. If you rush a task or leave something unfinished, the consequences will be more severe than losing marks. Think ahead, show initiative and take responsibility. What better way to prove your capabilities than demonstrating them?

In a nutshell, the key to convert your learning into earning is simple: be the employee you would employ, and the unpaid hours will pay off.

Written by Lizzie Mulherin