Value of Internship

8 Ways to Make the Most of Internships

Getting a job after college has its hurdles; one of the biggest is your lack of experience. If you worked while you were a student, you’ve got a head start. If not, you should consider an internship to equip you with insight and hands-on experience within an industry or career of interest. Here’s how to get the most out of that internship.

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1. Some students are deterred by internships because they often pay little or nothing. You can look into a part-time job to pay the bills, and consider the internship your sweat equity that will pay off in career muscle later. Internships generally last a year or less, so remember, it’s a short-term commitment for long-term gains.

2. An internship helps you learn more about a particular field and can confirm that you are headed down the right career path, or it may warn you that this isn’t what you expected. Either way, it’s up to you to soak up the experience and its many lessons. Maybe it’s a lesson in trying something new or living in a new city—or even a new country. Another great bonus to being an intern is that employers don’t expect you to know much, which means they’re prepared and expecting to teach you.

3. Stand out from the crowd by doing more than what’s expected. Go that extra mile. Be willing to jump in on projects that weren’t in your internship description. You might not be getting paid for it, but a stellar recommendation when you’re done is valuable reward.

4. Watch what people on the job do, how they behave, even what they wear. It’ll give you an idea of the corporate culture of the industry in general or specific company.

5. Take notes when someone is training you, whether you think you’ll remember everything or not (you probably won’t). Then, if you make a mistake, it won’t be because you weren’t paying attention or simply forgot. Dealing with that mistake in a professional way is the challenge. Rather than mope, blame someone else or get angry, reflect on it as a learning experience and take note for the future.

6. Take advantage of the wisdom around you. Talk to people who work with and around you. Ask questions that extend your knowledge or help you gain further insight into the profession—its pros and cons, opportunities and challenges. You’re not only building your resume, you’re building connections. If business cards are made for you, take some with you whenever you go out. You have clout now and can talk about what you do with others outside of work, thus further expanding your network.

7. Turn your internship into a job. In the case of some internships, you may be eyed for a job within that company. If there’s an open position, it makes sense for human resources to look at the intern who not only has experience in the field, but experience within that organization specifically. You aren’t obligated to say yes if offered, but at least say no with grace and gratitude.

8. Your internship will now be an important part of your resume. When the internship ends, don’t be shy to ask one of your superiors for a letter of recommendation to keep with your file.

Greek Experience

How to Use Your Greek Experience in an Interview

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With some negative stereotypes perpetuating about sororities, you may fear your Greek connection could be a drawback. But being an Alpha Phi gives you amazingly marketable skills you may not have even considered.

First, remember that there are also plenty of positive connotations about Greek life that precede you. Many managers for entry level roles seek people who were involved in the Greek system, because they’re typically personable and know how to work with others. On top of that, if you have helped on a committee, gathered donations, assisted with recruitment or held an office, hiring managers will want to know. If you were president of your chapter, just think: Running a chapter is like running a small business.

Your Alpha Phi job-relatable skills:

1. Time Management. You may fondly remember all the required Alpha Phi events as being a ton of fun, but you combined those with academic success, extracurricular activities and maybe even work. Translate that to a job interview and you might say, “Required attendance at Greek functions and maintaining minimum GPA improved my time-management skills.” Showing up on time, getting your work done on deadline and knowing when to take breaks are all crucial elements of any work situation.

2. Teamwork. Being a member of Alpha Phi means that you often worked with your sisters to plan events, volunteer, even keep your house clean and generally keep the chapter running smoothly. The ability to function well with a group of people and achieve your goals together has huge implications for your career.

3. Commitment. When you were initiated as an Alpha Phi, you made commitments to follow policies and procedures. Maybe it wasn’t always easy, but you did it. You followed through, which is a valuable quality to an employer.

3. Communication. You have become an Alpha Phi brand ambassador, educating potential new members and then fulfilling traditions and lessons for new initiates. All of this has left you with the very useful skill of being able to convey a message in a clear and informative way.

4. Money Management. If you had anything to do with the chapter budget, planned an event or collected donations, you likely managed money. If not, you certainly learned to manage your finances, budgeting enough for essentials and Alpha Phi expenses—maybe you saved up to pay for your red dress or an Alpha Phi sweatshirt. This shows budgeting know-how.

5. Leadership. What role did you have at your chapter? Even if you weren’t an executive officer, what about being a Big—you were a mentor and leader of some sort, and it’s worth mentioning.

6. Community Involvement. Undoubtedly, you took part in some volunteer work through Alpha Phi. It shines the light on your philanthropy, as well as your ability to look outside of yourself and see the bigger picture. If you ran a charity event, talk about how much money you brought in, how many volunteers you recruited, the growth from previous years, etc.

What NOT to do:
1. Don’t use specific Greek, Alpha Phi or school jargon, unless you know your interviewer will understand the references.
2. Don’t use the terms sister or brother; stick with “member.” It’s just more professional.
3. Don’t talk about all the fun parties you went to every night, unless you’re referring to the planning that went into them and how you were involved.
4. Don’t gush. Expressing your passion for Alpha Phi is OK, as long as you balance it with the specific aspects of your experience that relate to a work situation.

Networking

Savvy Networking

You’re already starting with an amazing network of Alpha Phi alumnae, so use it—your sisters want to help. But don’t stop there. Networking is about building a community, and people who don’t learn to network are less likely to succeed. You might resist the idea of networking because sometimes it gets a bad rap as “knowing the right people” or “kissing up to the powerful.” It’s time to learn to embrace the best of it. You’ll have an easier time getting a job—or recognition for your accomplishments—if you keep up-to-date with the people in your community. When you nurture professional relationships and involve yourself in professional communities, you not only learn a variety of interesting points of view, but you will also become more comfortable in your subject knowledge because you’re constantly engaged in conversation with people.

In turn, those people you know can be your advocates and supporters. After all, don’t we like to get recommendations for restaurants or products? It works the same way with jobs and career advancement. You want to be the one with the five stars.

team_workNetworking Basics:

Know your goals. Networking is important no matter what stage of your career you’re in. Having a purpose for your networking ventures can help achieve your goals, whether it’s finding a new job, getting a promotion, being invited to industry conferences, developing leadership skills, or simply filling your life with intelligent conversation. When you know what you care about, you’re more likely to make it happen.

Identify relevant people. This is more of a targeted networking tactic, and it may seem calculated—it kind of is—but it helps keep you on track. Make a list of three or four people who can assist you to reach your professional goals. How do you find these people? Most of the methods are quite basic: Ask people who have worked in your industry for a while, attend social and/or professional events, and mention them in conversation—maybe someone knows them or knows someone who does.

Communicate your goals with the right people. The point here is to develop relationships with people, and relationships are founded on commonalities. These commonalities might include shared values, shared interests, shared goals or anything else of a professional nature that you might share with someone. Now, practice explaining your goals with these people, so you’re prepared when you come in contact with them.

Get involved. As part of your professional development, you should already belong to at least one professional organization. But don’t just stop at paying your dues: Volunteer to serve on a committee or help with an event. This is a great way to meet others in your field in a non-threatening and collaborative way. Through your service, you will meet people to add to your network and be able to interact with them in a positive and natural way.

Talk…and listen. Networking isn’t just about telling your story; it’s about learning about others. Have your “elevator speech” down, then have a few questions in your back pocket to pull out to get other people talking: “What do you enjoy about your job?” “What are the challenges you face today?” or specific queries you feel are relevant to your industry.

Remember the little guys. Don’t reserve your networking for bigwigs only. Everyone has a different network and often different goals. You’ll probably meet people who are at the same career stage as you are, but they will continue to change and develop as well, and the bigger your network, the better.

Follow up. Ask for business cards from people you talk to so you can contact them later to say thanks for chatting—and to make sure they know how to reach you too.

Mentors

Why Get a Mentor

Having a mentor can mean the difference between advancing your career and remaining stagnant. Any upwardly mobile professional should actively seek out at least two mentors. The first should be someone influential in your current company, but not your boss or your boss’s boss. The second should be someone influential in your industry—a great place to start is your Alpha Phi alumnae chapter. See if anyone in the chapter could make a good mentor or knows somebody who could fill that purpose.

If you’re not sure who to choose, test the waters first. Spark conversation with some possible mentors by asking their advice on a topic or situation. You can gauge by how they answer—the time they give you, the thoroughness of the response, the attitude (helpful? condescending?), the general vibe you get—whether they’d make a good mentor or not. You can also ask the potential mentor’s subordinates what they think of him or her. And don’t rule out a peer mentor. Someone at your career level may not have all the experience of a mentor at a higher echelon, but a peer can provide many other aspects of mentorship. In general, you want to choose someone you feel will care about your success, because you’ll get more out of it if they are dedicated to the “cause,” so to speak.

A mentorship can be formal or less structured, but either way, the relationship should be considered a long-term commitment, not a one-off conversation. The key to having a mentor is having contact at least a few times a year. During that time, your mentors can refer you to other influential individuals as well as organizations that will be valuable to your career.

Once you’ve narrowed down the potential mentors to your favorites, you can ask them directly whether they’d be willing to be your mentor. If they say yes, arrange a short meeting to set up expectations, topics of discussion and a meeting schedule. Remember to express your gratitude throughout the mentorship.

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What can a mentor do for you?

1. Share knowledge. You can read all about your profession, but a mentor is there to tell you what it’s really like and how things are actually done.

2. Urge improvement. You’re not going to know everything at first, and you’re not expected to, but a mentor can point out your weaknesses with a different agenda than a boss. A mentor wants to see you succeed under their “wings,” so they’ll provide the constructive criticism for you to grow.

3. Encourage learning. Like a teaching hospital where doctors constantly test their interns and residents with questions, a mentor can do the same. Maybe he or she will help you set some goals or ask you open-ended questions to ponder and discuss later.

4. Serve as a cheerleader. No question, your Alpha Phi sisters will always have your back, but in your career, it’s beneficial to have someone close by who knows first-hand what you’re going through—bonus if that mentor is an Alpha Phi too. Again, your mentor wants to see you do well and will keep cheering you on. If you’re having a bad day, your mentor can be the person you turn to for a pep talk, assistance muscling through a difficult situation and a boost of confidence to keep going.

5. Act as therapist of sorts. You should be able to tell your mentor anything, no judgments. And in turn, your mentor should be able to provide an unbiased opinion or suggestion.

6. Help you network. Here’s an older, wiser, more experienced person right at your disposal. Use them—they shouldn’t mind. They can share their networks and make introductions when the time is right.

Interview Tips

7 Interview Tips for a New Job Seeker

The job search process can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first job out of college. Now that you have your resume ready to email and post—and you’re prepared to tweak it when necessary—here are a few tips to help you prepare for your dream job interview.

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1. Set up practice interviews to boost your confidence. Many universities offer career services to alumnae, so check out the resources available to you at school. You can also ask your Alpha Phi big sister, a nearby alumna or anyone else who has been in the workforce for a few years to do a practice phone or in-person interview. Take the constructive feedback you receive and revise appropriately for the real deal.

2. Scout it out. Make sure you know how to get to the interview location and how long it will take you. There’s no excuse for being late. If you want to go the extra mile, pop into the office and see how people dress there, meet the receptionist, pick up any literature about the company that may be at the main desk, and ask how to pronounce your interviewer’s name. By the way, if you do run late due to unforeseen circumstances (the bus broke down, for instance), call as soon as you can, apologize and offer to reschedule.

3. Have a clean resume and most importantly know your resume well. Even though you’ve emailed your resume and the interviewer will likely have it on hand, you should always bring a few printed copies to the interview, especially if you have made changes since you submitted it with your application. Some interviewers may refer solely to what you have listed, while others may not reference it at all. If an interviewer does ask questions based on your resume, respond with more than the bullet points on paper. Rehearse some extended answers that are relevant to the job in question.

4. Study the job description and research the company. As you read the job description and learn more about the company, you should develop talking points for your interview focused on how you can be an asset to the organization. Through this process you should also formulate meaningful questions to ask during your interview. Interviewers always ask if you have any questions—and you need to have at least two that aren’t about the salary or time off, which, by the way, are hard don’ts in a first interview.

5. Dress appropriately. Hiring managers agree that the biggest interview faux pas for recent graduates is their attire. Always present yourself professionally and be sure to plan your outfit ahead of time. If ever in doubt, it’s better to be overdressed! There are a lot of blogs, Pinterest boards and articles on professional women’s fashion, so before you go shopping be sure to have a clear idea of the items you will need to create your perfect interview look. You don’t want to be rushing out the night before.

6. Ask for your interviewer’s business card. Within one day of the interview, you should follow up with an email thanking the interviewers for their time and affirming your interest in the position. Do this for both phone and in-person interviews.

7. Lastly, before leaving the interview, ask about the next steps in the interview process. This shows your interest in the job and will give you an idea of the timeframe for hiring. You want to start working asap, but the interviewer may explain that the process will take several weeks. This should put your mind at ease as you wait to hear back.

Special thanks to Megan Vallone (Beta Pi-USC) for assistance with this article.

Choosing the Right Job

book 2You may want to snatch up any job that you’re offered, or whatever job offers the most money. But, keeping in mind that you might need a few steps up the ladder to land your dream job, it pays to take a breath and ask yourself, “Is this really the right job for me?” Trust your instincts and consider these other practical matters:

1. Office culture. Even if the job looks great on paper, you might not enjoy being at that particular office. Take note of the environment when you go in for an interview. You can also ask about the office culture at the interview or ask for introductions to your potential coworkers. If it seems fast-paced and high-stressed and that’s what you thrive on, that’s great; but maybe you’d be more comfortable in a low-key space. Or is it noisy and chaotic, and you prefer quiet and organized? Maybe it’s staffed mostly by young people, and you’d like to be part of a more diverse work force. If any of these is a deal-killer for you, that’s OK. You don’t want to get overly dramatic about it, but you want to set yourself up for success.

2. The benefits package. Having employer-provided healthcare is only going to get more important, so even if you’re still on your parents’ plan, find out how much you’ll pay for health coverage and what it includes. Also find out about 401K plans, vacation time, telecommuting opportunities and other perks (free breakfast Fridays, we’re looking at you).

3. Commute time. Is it going to take you two hours to get to your job and two hours home? That’s a lot of time spent commuting. It could also be a lot of money; add up the commuting cost—gas money, public transportation, tolls, parking—to see how big a chunk that takes from your salary. Is it worth it? If it’s not, then you have your answer.

4. Room to grow. A fair question to ask an interviewer is, “What are the opportunities for career growth here?” In your beginning stages in the working world, you don’t want to be immediately stuck in a rut. Ask about the steps, milestones and success markers for advancement or whether there are training programs, post-graduate school reimbursement or other educational benefits.

5. Community involvement. As an Alpha Phi, you likely took part in many charitable activities, and you might want to keep that momentum going. While you could volunteer outside of the office, you might find that you respect and feel a closer affinity toward a company that supports or encourages volunteering as a team.

6. The next job. You should think next steps when you’re taking that first one, because each one could potentially lead to another. In other words, this job may have the cool self-serve latte machine, but does it get you where you want to be down the road? If the job responsibilities aren’t in line with where you see yourself in the future, then put the brakes on now, because it’s easier to start on the right path then try to find it later.