To all Interns in Brussels, to all Interns! Message Nr. 2.
You may remember Virag's first message to all interns and young job-seekers. Two weeks later, here are some more tips on how not to get discouraged at the early  stages of our career and how to land our dream job. The situation is difficult, true, but not hopeless. Stay enthusiastic, learn all that you can, and persevere! 

Internships are precious

And let me tell you why:

9 am - you open your laptop and in seconds Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your local and national news platforms all pump up saying: ‘critical situation’, ‘XY company sends away 1500 people’, ‘unemployment rate above 10%’. A thought comes to you immediately -Should I go on? We probably all have faced similar ‘good morning’ messages. Still, we cannot help but face the truth – we do not have a job!

Our social networking activities and the first sip of our morning coffee accomplished, we automatically start typing: www.euroact…. and prepare our CV to be sent for application to any position that does not contain the word ‘Intern’. On a good day, let us say we find 4 or 5 positions, send our CV and get ready to go out to Pluxing or Chatelaine to meet our friends. Yet another day has passed without us having acquired new skills, challenged ourselves or laid down any potential bricks for our future dreams… Unless we have at least refreshed our CV to match the applied position (which, well, is rarely the case).

No blame! Being without a job is tough – even more than tough: it is exhausting both mentally and financially; we are losing confidence, questioning the education we have fought for; still, life goes on….

Take your life and put things into perspective

You cannot find your dream job? You are in the midst of your 3rd internship and still remain without a job? Please remember: I am only talking about paid and fair internships – what about the rest? The choice is yours: in a non-paid internship, you are accepting to “undervalue yourself”

As I wrote previously, today’s ‘fresh graduates’ are aged somewhere between 22 and 27.  Everybody experiences the same situation: the early 20’s have just obtained their BA degree and have no experience at all, while the elders have two Master degrees (or even a PhD) but little or no career experience. However, we cannot neglect the fact that most of us want to be managers on the day after our graduation ceremony: we have learned enough, fought enough, we are ready! Sadly, this is not the case.

I am not saying to stop dreaming! – ‘If Your Dreams Do Not Scare You, They Are Not Big Enough (E. Johnson)’ - but in a given situation, and an era full of complications, go and get the maximum out of it.

Invest in yourself

Another internship is still better than breaking down your young spirit, losing your thirst for new skills and the desire to be better and better every day. Here is a case study: 

You receive an internship offer. Congratulations! Dress up for work as if you were the manager. Why? To feel that you have achieved something! Go into your office and start feeling comfortable in your chair. This time, have your first sip of coffee with a feeling of achievement. And now, start working. Many interns expect continuous mentoring, coaching and guidance. They are still waiting for the ‘professor’ to come to the room and give them the daily tasks. If you happen to receive it, great! If not, it is also great! You have everything set up for you to look, absorb and learn! It is only up to you whether you leave an internship being the same person or one step above the previous you.

You are in a company: make yourself worthy, needed and irreplaceable! Regardless of the seemingly scary situation, most of the companies are still looking for talent, commitment and great working morale. They have, after all, let you in their company, shared a very important part of their life with you, along with their business and know-how.  Use it! I know there might be internships that do not offer too much. Turn it around! You are not getting a training? Make a training program and show them. They have no proper marketing plan? Make one and show them…and the list goes on until you can reach.

You do not like the company you landed in? Come up with ideas to make it better! You do not like the internship tasks? Come up with ideas how to make it better! Each and every position hides the opportunity to enjoy it, you can trust me on that. 

Most probably you have heard this very true saying already: ‘there is no one you cannot learn from’. There are always things that could be better in any company, under any internship terms – but as long as the business runs and you can be part of it, it is not for you to judge. If, as an intern, you go to the office and just cannot wait to get out and in the meantime you only share your complains, your attitude will reflect on it. So change your message: I am only an intern but I want to help making your business better!

Why? For you to gain the most out of it (even if you know, for instance, you never ever want to do sales again), for you to show yourself that you are able to uphold any expectations, that you are committed to what you took on, to show your company that your ready to be employed!

As an Intern, you are responsible for your future.

Put on the hat of your manager: Would I want to hire myself? Be honest! Many young interns do not wait until the end of their terms – they enter the company and start looking for a job from the very first day. Somewhere else, something else, something better. They get another internship that looks better, brighter, The Dream. A few months later, the feeling hits again: ‘this is not for me’ – ‘this is not how I imagined my work would be’.  And they quit again. Yes! I call this quitting, since one of the biggest challenges is to be patient, stay committed and not give up.

Do not get me wrong. It is OK not to know what exactly you want, it is OK to look around, it is OK to try new things – BUT it is not OK to give up after a few weeks, it is not OK to sit back and wait for the training to come to you, it is not OK not to use the platform given to you and it is not OK to complain when you have a place to work at!

My message to you

Put yourself in the company’s shoes one more time: Would you want to hire someone who is not able/willing/committed to go through an internship from the beginning till the end, or starts job-hunting on his first day at your company? I guess not. Instead, you would look for someone who makes him/herself unnoticeable and comes each day with an attitude that signals only one thing: hire me!

Today it might be harder and take longer to start your real career, but the rules are the same as they were for our parents and grandparents: ‘work hard and life will reward you!’. Therefore, to all of you, my message is the following in this difficult period:

- If you cannot be happy with your internship, you will not be happy with any of your jobs;

- If you cannot get the best out of yourself as an intern, you will not do your best as an employee either.

….and they know this! The big guys behind their desk know it! (most of them still use their internship programs as a checking phase and entering door, even if they say the opposite). And if you did all you could, and still your 2nd internship leads ‘only’ to a 3rd internship – face it: life is not easy, sometimes even unfairYet, stick to your values, stick to your attitude, stick to your dreams! ‘Whatever you do, do it with full heart’, otherwise you are just going further and further from your ultimate aim: to get a job.

Here is my message to you, and I hope to see you fulfilling your dreams!

PS: if after an honest self-evaluation you still confidently believe that you did all that you could as an intern and it led ‘nowhere’, write me your story and I will send you a further message.