Internships are a mutually beneficial agreement between existing companies and those entering the workforce. It allows young professionals to gain invaluable real-life experience and networking, while test-driving a potential job, so to speak. It likewise allows companies to benefit either from receiving non-paid work or to ensure employees will be a good fit for their business before hiring them on full-time.
If you are interning abroad in the hopes of obtaining one of these highly competitive full-time positions, you will need to stand out from the sea of interns, which probably regularly flow through the organization.
The first step is to, obviously, be completely sure that you actually want a permanent position. Continually evaluate how you feel in your current situation and make the conscious decision that you definitely want to stay. The simple act of making the decision will help cement your resolve and motivation, which will in turn result in visible eagerness and help your cause. Once you have decided to go for it, go all out.
Follow these seven steps from start to finish to have the best possible shot at landing a job after your internship abroad:
1. Be Prepared
Literally, the Lion King scene (that gave us all nightmares as kids) of Scar hyping up the hyenas to prepare for the takedown of Mufasa (and consequent start of a new era) should probably just be playing on repeat in your mind from the moment you receive your internship acceptance. As with every new opportunity, the work begins before the job.
Research. Since you have already chosen and been accepted to an internship abroad, you have probably already done a decent amount of research. But do more anyway! If you’re going to be a business intern in Spain, for example, research the company’s mission, vision and values, leadership team, clientele, and past problems and future plans. Likewise, research the country’s culture and professional conduct, language, weather, and any current issues that might influence your time and work abroad.
Revamp. Brush up on your German (or whatever relevant tongue), update your resume, and be sure your bank, phone, and visa situations are in order in the (anticipated) event of an extended stay. Prepare as if you plan to stay awhile, and set yourself up for success so you can not only impress your supervisors right off the bat, but can also feel confident going into what may otherwise be a slightly anxiety-producing situation.
Tell your friends and family. While you may not want to spill the beans too early, it’s advised to let the people you care about know of your intentions of extending your stay if possible. We’re sure they’ll be a little shocked, but mostly supportive, of your endeavors.
2. Treat Your Internship As An Interview
To put it simply, act as if you are being watched (which is likely) all the time. Everyone is expected to be on time and work hard, so prove you want it more than the others by consciously asking questions, creating solutions, being early, staying late, looking sharp, building lasting relationships, and putting effort into every situation.
Make an impression. It might be obvious, but work hard to make a good first and positive lasting impression. Face-to-face interaction cannot be overrated. Employers will be much more willing to hire a person they have closely interacted with and seen work within their organization than a faceless resume in their inbox. Take advantage of your time there. If you don’t clearly impress upon your employer how you can benefit and vibe with their mission, vision, and goals then they won’t have much motivation to keep you around. Likewise, don’t forget that it can be just as important to project to customers and partners the type of image the company wants to professionally portray.
Maintain a positive attitude. No matter how menial or repetitive the task, do it wholeheartedly and with a smile. Assume that no job and no one is beneath you. How you treat the doorman, receptionist, and barista reflects directly on your own character. Similarly, if you let tedious tasks slip or be performed sub-par, why wouldn’t your employer assume the same level of laziness may carry over into more important projects?
Express your interest in a full time job explicitly. If you’re thinking about it, you should probably tell your employer about it. Be inquisitive about potential openings or the possibility of creating a role that your skills match. Identify weak areas in the company (respectfully) and communicate your interest in filling the gap. Tell your supervisors early on so they can likewise potentially brainstorm ways to onboard you more permanently.
3. Showcase & Sharpen Your Unique Skillset
Taking part in an international internship gives you the edge of having a background that is likely very different from the other employees. Actively show them why you are indispensable and irreplaceable, and how you will impact the organization if they keep you around.
Seek out solutions. You bring something unique to the table, so utilize your alternative perspective to find problems and apply your experience and skills to create solutions within your position. Maybe you can relate to an international client in a way no one else can, or perfect a struggling process because of you previously worked with similar systems in different way. You were accepted for a reason, don’t forget to follow up and apply what you promised on your application.
Watch and learn. Not only should be seeking to utilize your existing skills, but in order to adapt to your new environment you should also continually develop new ones. Watch other employees that are highly regarded to see how they conduct themselves, spend extra time mastering the software program, and pay attention to the format used in emails, presentations, pitches, etc., so as to be best understood and regarded as part of the company or organization.
4. Be Proactive
It can be intimidating and overwhelming being put into a brand new workforce in a different country with its own culture and customs. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to go above and beyond. Playing it safe never got anyone their dream job.
Seek out extras. Not only will asking for additional tasks or volunteering for projects allow for more opportunities to showcase your skills, but it will show your employer that you can take initiative and don’t need to be told what to do. If you are in a non-English speaking country, for example, you might volunteer to review and edit documents in English. If you truly want a job abroad, this internship may very well be your best chance, so treat it with the tenacity that it deserves!
Speak up. It is important to understand exactly what is expected of you so that you can perform in a satisfactory way. Talk with your supervisors about goals they have for you, and then take it a step further and set some of your own. Consistently ask for feedback; don’t wait until a misunderstanding becomes a problem, or it’s final review of your stint and too late to prove you can fix an issue. And of course, always be honest. Be honest about your goals within the internship and express your long-term desires. Again, for them to eventually offer you a job, they have to know you are interested in one.
5. Work To Fit In
Work relationships cannot be underrated. It is worth noting, however, that some cultures more than others emphasis small talk, camaraderie, and bonding activities in and outside of work. Hospitality interns in sunny Sydney, for example, will likely interact more casually and more often during after-work hours than will economics interns in China. Nevertheless, it is always important to build rapport with your peers.
Cultural sensitivity. Half the battle in being culturally sensitive is knowing the do’s and don’ts so that you don’t accidentally get yourself into a sticky situation unintentionally; this will come from the research part in step one. The rest is really just simply having class and being tactful. Wear appropriate clothing, use appropriate language, and follow company rules even if others treat them more as guidelines.
Be a team player. While internships may tempt a sense of competition between other interns and possible future co-workers, it is extremely important to focus on being part of a team within the company instead of feeling like opponents. Businesses are most successful when their staff works as a team to accomplish more than an individual can alone, so it is important to employers that their potential employees can work well with others.
Network. Many times, getting an offer is all about who you know, and having strong ties within a company will be extremely vital to your job-seeking success. So instead of limiting your efforts to job-related tasks allocated between clocking in and clocking out, go out of your way to get to know your coworkers, superiors, and customers and take time to actually listen to how their day is going.
Ultimately, make them feel like your absence will be a huge loss to the company.
6. Ask Advantageously
While actions speak louder than words and your internship performance will largely influence your employer’s decision, there is no shame is utilizing a few tactics to best set the stage for your conversation.
Keep a list. Throughout the course of your internship, keep a running list of your accomplishments. That way, when it comes time to ask for a permanent position, you will already have tangible examples of why they should keep you around ready to reference. If you are aware of upcoming openings, this list can also come in handy to cross-reference with the job duties of the open position. Ultimately, the answer should be obvious. When you present your case for becoming a company fixture, it should be clear that they simply couldn’t function as well without you.
Use correct timing. No one wants to be approached with a long-winded spiel about work-related ambitions just minutes before packing up to head home for the day. Likewise, early Monday mornings will likely find employers busy catching up from the weekend, while Fridays are typically focused more on upcoming weekend plans than upcoming hires. Pick a relatively low-stress day during the week, preferably mid-morning before the after-lunch/siesta haze takes over. Be prepared and professional, so as not to waste your employer’s valuable time, and portray your earnestness in asking.
Don’t be afraid to create your own position. If there are legitimately no open positions available, don’t be afraid to present the argument for a new one where you have seen a need. Maybe you’ve noticed a certain area that seems to be constantly overwhelmed and might benefit from an extra set of hands, or an extremely talented creator who needs assistance with organization. Be confident when presenting your case, and provide specific job descriptions and duties to show you truly believe in your idea.
7. Have a Backup Plan
Sometimes, for one reason or another, things just don’t work out the way you hope. It happens. So it’s not a bad idea to have a backup plan for just such scenarios.
Take what you can get. Maybe the best they can offer you at the time is a part-time position. If the internship is paid, maybe they can only temporarily extend until something opens up. Maybe, you know you want to stay in your city and just need to make money in the meantime until you can make something happen. Thinking outside the box to find a position that may not be related to your career goals at all, like teaching English or being an au pair, may get you the financial means you need to be able to keep your face abroad and available for in-person interaction. It isn’t always an easy single-step journey to the job of your dreams and there is no shame in taking a smaller step in the right direction.
Make every interaction count. If your internship host company absolutely won’t hire you, another one might. As long as you have made connections with partnering businesses and clients along the way, you can reach out to them and see if they know of any open positions. Having others on the lookout not only increases your options of finding something, but having someone vouch for you also increases your chances of having an actual shot at the job itself.
Overall, simply prepare yourself for success, actively take charge of the things you can control, and graciously and strategically react to the things you can’t. You have landed the internship abroad for a reason, so give it your all and let your passion, drive, and competence shine!