Welcome to Financially Mint’s first ever recorded interview! I had the honour of interviewing Jalpan Dave, a mechanical engineer currently living in Singapore and with some great experience working at internships in college.
Listen to it right here:
The sound sometimes echoes a bit and I make some weird noises during the call, but there’s some very valuable information there. Of course, not everyone has time to listen to two random strangers talking, so I’ve written down the key takeaways as a blog post.
What we talked about in the interview:
- Benefits to landing an internship
- How to apply for internships
- How to prepare for interviews
- Steps to take during the internship
- Advice to current college students
Benefits to landing an internship
For many students, an internship is key to getting a good job once graduating. No matter what you’re degree is, an internship helps you with experience and makes your CV look pretty.
- First-hand experience: You actually get to put what you’re learning in practice (shock horror). You get to see if you actually enjoy it, if you see yourself doing this for a few years.
- Uniqueness: Although many students will be looking for internships, actually getting one really sets you apart. It shows hustle and it shows interest. Big points for recruiters.
- Job offers: The internship can directly lead to a job.
- Interaction: You get to meet co-workers (yay). Your colleagues are the ones who have been doing it for longer – they can tell you what it’s like, whether they enjoy the job itself and if you’d be a good fit there.
- Network: An internship puts you in contact with people you’re not used to being with. See it like this: as your network expands, so do your opportunities. Your colleague’s brother’s father in law happens to have an offer in a similar position… interesting you say.
- The Future: Amidst college life it’s easy to forget that one day this will end (crazy I know). An internship throws you for a tiny second into the future; will you be able to do this after college? If you’re immediate answer is ‘hell NO!’, then it’s time to do some more research. It would be nice to graduate looking forward to what’s coming next, right?
Um so… how do I start?
Jalpan puts a lot of emphasis on doing your homework and being very specific about what you want. Write down the questions that matter the most to you :
- What kind of colleagues do I want?
- What kind of culture?
- How many hours a day do I want to work?
- What kind of work do I want to be doing?
Do your research from there – you’ll kinda know what you’re looking for and you have a criteria to compare the different internships.
Once that’s done, you can start applying. Jalpan had some really good tips here, having been through the process a few times. He explains that there are 4 main ways to apply for internships:
- Through your university’s career centre
- Through a formal application
Let’s tackle ‘em one by one.
1. Career centres: this one really depends on your university, but usually each one has a little department dedicated to helping their students get jobs (might as well, eh). Go and talk to them, what kind of internships do they suggest? What about work abroad programs? Many times you’ll have to be selected by both your university and the company you work for, so make sure you do this well in advance.
2. Networking: Talk to your professors and do a bit of networking. Show them that you’re excited and interested in getting an internship. Don’t be afraid to go after them and annoy them. Who’s brother’s mother in law’s step-sister can help you out this time? Some jobs aren’t even advertised, so keep searching for that golden opportunity.
3. Formal applications: These aren’t so easy. You actually have to submit an application online directly to the company you want to work for. As you can imagine, competition is very high. For this reason, you need to work on your uniqueness: make your resume stand out, email the recruiting manager through LinkedIn, phone them up and ask questions, try and get in contact with someone who already works there. If the company notices this, bingo: it shows you know how hustle.
4. Online: Apart from applying directly to a company’s website you can also use other platforms which are dedicated to helping students get internships. The one we mentioned in the interview was Enternships, and there are some other ones like TargetJobs and Placements UK.
I got noticed! Time for the interview…
Let’s face it, interviews can be nerve racking, especially as a newbie looking for an internship.
Jalpan explains it well: put yourself in the position of the interviewer.
Imagine for a second that you’re looking to employ someone for your company XYZ. How would your ideal candidate act? Polite? Respectful? Confident? Thoughtful? Interesting? Calm?
Then take a look at yourself, could you be that person? And if not, how can you work to becoming that?
In my first ever job interview I had to do the entire thing in Catalan (my worst language). I had a strong Spanish accent and it wasn’t easy to express my thoughts, but I wanted the job. What did I do? I looked at my recruiter in the eye at all times. I showed her that I knew what to do and that I was someone who could do the job effectively, even though my language was a bit wonky. Yes, I did get the job.
Once you’ve visualised what your ideal candidate would look like, do some practice to reach that idealism. Print out some sample interview questions and prepare them. Think of a different answer for the typical ‘Why do you want to work with us?’ and ‘Tell me more about yourself’ questions. Use those questions to stand out.
Start with a strong opening. When they ask you ‘Why should we pick you?’, answer from a perspective of how can I add value? Why would you be an asset to the company? Be honest and be direct, you don’t want any nasty surprises once you get the internship.
Jalpan also recommends not to talk about your hobbies, your likes and dislikes, etc: no one cares. Talk about the programs you did, the experiences you had, the projects. Hijack the interview to your advantage. And if you feel you don’t have much to bring to the table, look at it from another angle: having no experience can also be an asset: you can argue that having no experience means that you’re basically a clean slate, your mind has not yet been polluted by the working world. Because of this you can bring different ideas and values to the table, and you’re much more open minded.
See? Those things you think are weaknesses can be flipped into assets. Just try a different angle and argue it correctly. Recruiters will appreciate this ‘out of the box thinking’ and that in itself is another asset (once you start looking for them they just keep coming up).
Another top Jalpan tip: if you know someone already in the company or who used to work there, ask them for advice. Take them out for coffee and ask them what they think the company is looking for and what kind of questions they would ask. You’ll see that people like being looked up to and wouldn’t mind giving you advice (and maybe a free coffee).
I then asked Jalpan something I’ve always wondered myself: how to answer the ‘Do you have any questions for us?’ without sounding stupid.
Once again, Jalpan has some awesome advice. First of all do your research. Then, here are some questions you could ask them:
- What are my deliverables? (aka what will I be doing)
- What will I be responsible for?
- What is the hierarchy in the company?
- What is the next step? (recruiters love hearing this!)
If you’re getting a paid internship, start discussing the salary after they put the offer in (so once you actually get hired). Use websites like Glassdoor to assess whether the salary is too low, and if you’re hesitating because of the low pay, NEVER be afraid to negotiate. As Jalpan mentions, not only do you show the company that you value yourself, but you might also regret not doing so in the future.
Got the internship. Now what?
Yay! Congrats! Open a bottle of champagne – you’re officially a useful member of society.
You really want to make the most of your internship. Explore the different areas of your job and company, don’t be afraid to ask questions and try to learn as much as possible. From this experience you’ll be deciding what your next step is.
Look at your options. Is the company offering a full time position? How much time do you have left at uni? Should you look for another internship? And most important of all: do you see yourself doing this for 5-10 more years? Think of the company culture: is it healthy? Do people like each other?
Always be upfront with your company on whether you’re interested in staying or you’re maybe looking at different internships. And remember, we’re in a modern era: you won’t be staying at that job for 30+ years, you’ll have the freedom to hop around and try new things out.
So keeping that in mind, try and envision your next 5 years. And from there, make a decision.
I think it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t let yourself be stuck at a job you hate – that’s so 2000s. Use university to explore different job opportunities and career paths. Maybe you realise you don’t actually want a job (#me) and you’d rather earn money online, start a business, etc. The world is full of exciting opportunities, so allow yourself to be curious and to experiment – who knows what will come next.
There’s a ton of good info here (there’s even more in the interview!), so I thought a nice little infographic would help out:
Some cool resources
- What Color is Your Parachute? – amazing book on how to get a job
- Networking: Meetup, Eventbrite