Tuesday, June 18, 2013

AskIsa: My ultimate formula for getting the best internships (& figuring out what you want to do with your life)

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

Do you have any sources for finding internships? I'm a math major and am interested in civil engineering, although I am not 100% on that. I feel that getting a little experience in any engineering/math field would help me figure out exactly what I want to do. 


Internship Seeker

Dear Internship Seeker,

You are right on about starting to get some experience to figure out what you want to do.

Some of the internship websites I know about are YouTern.com and InternQueen.com; you can also search Indeed.com for "civil engineering internship." I also recommend searching the websites in some of the most well-known corporations in your field to research their internship programs. 

The best internships are highly competitive and doing research early can make all the difference. 

The best thing to do is to start connecting with professionals via informational interviews (something I talk about how to do extensively in the 3rd section of my book.)

Here are the basics of the formula: 

1) Start a LinkedIn Profile
2) Click "advanced search"
3) Put "Civil Engineer" in the job title section
4) Enter in your zip code and choose a 10 or 25 mile radius
5) Click "search"
6) Review the profiles of the civil engineers in your area. What companies are they working for? If you can see their resumes, find out where they got started.
7) Choose one or two people whose jobs and/or companies sound really cool to you and request to connect with them. You can choose "friend," and then in the request message section write something personal telling that person why you admire their job and that you'd like to connect with them to be able to learn from them.
8) If they accept your request, send them a direct message requesting to meet with them for 10-15 minutes in person to ask a few questions about how they got to where they are today, what they like about their job, and any advice they might have when it comes to trying to get an internship in their field.
9) If they say yes, email them back with a few days/times you are free, ask them to pick the 15 minute window that works best for them, and then ask for directions for the most convenient place for them to meet (usually their office).
10) Then show up on time, dress professionally, and don't go longer than 15 minutes unless the person insists they want to talk longer. Ask questions. And listen, listen listen. Take notes.
11) Follow up via e-mail and/or a handwritten card and say thank you.

Most professionals will be so impressed that you've done this that they will offer you an internship directly, though you should never ask. This is just about learning, and if that's all you get it's so worth it. They will also know the best ways to secure good internships in their industry. 

Even if their company doesn't have any internships available at the moment, in your follow up email, ask if you can job shadow them for a few hours one day to see what their work is really like.

You'll be amazed at how much people will be honored that someone admires them and wants to learn from their work, and how much they will do to help you. Try it and let me know what happens!



Internship Seeker's updated response is below - things took a cool turn: 

Isa thank you so much for your advice! 

Looking at civil engineers’ profiles on LinkedIn helped me realize what I want to major in: Nutrition! I know I probably sound crazy, switching from talking to you about engineering to wanting to be a nutrition major, but I truly believe it is what I want to do. 

The Civil Engineering jobs did not sound interesting to me at all. I realized that if I were to pursue engineering I would be stuck in something that doesn’t really interest me. 

 Additionally, I talked to my uncle who went to college for civil engineering, and what stuck out to me was that he said “math is fun.” Math isn’t fun for me, and it surely wouldn’t get better at a four year school. I think I was focusing on the money aspect of engineering. Sadly.

But these two things (LinkedIn and interviewing my uncle) made me stop and think of what really interests me, and it’s nutrition. 

Nutrition is fun to me. I always am reading a book about nutrition, or researching it, or focusing on cooking something healthy. I’m even registered to go to a convention about nutrition in Georgia this fall. And one of my friends noticed that I bring up the topic of nutrition quite often. Nutrition is what truly interests me. So I hope I don’t sound crazy to you.

As I replied to Internship Seeker, she doesn't sound crazy at all. I told her this is one of the best possible things that can happen when you being your job-research process. 

LinkedIn-research, internships, and informational interviews are just as much figuring out what you don't want to do as figuring out what you want to do. Most people don't figure this out until they're stuck doing what they don't want to do.

Happy internship and what-do-I-want-to-do-with-my-life searching to you all! :)

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