50 Rocks
[50 ROCKS: AMBITIOUS] 15 tips for AMBITIOUS Interns


Welcome to another installment of my 50 ROCKS: Life lessons for success as we look at the value of showing that we’re AMBITIOUS:


NOTHING rocked my career more than doing 4 cool internships…so I’m paying it forward to help some lucky students grow FAST in their careers, too. Keep in mind I’m the queen of special permission, so never let tradition stop you from asking for what you want and need out of a program. I’ve found that showing ambition with sincere intentions, justified with the support of key influencers, allowed me to enjoy unique privileges: you simply had to prove that the real-life work was more valuable time invested in learning vs taking some elementary courses. My bosses would vouch for my work, the deans would approved the credits and my portfolio was filled with magic at a very young age. My internships included:

  • A global manufacturer (doing public relations and employee relations between employees in the US, Europe and Asia)
  • Sports marketing at the Meadowlands Racetrack (a government agency, where honestly I was bored out of my mind because there was not enough challenging work to keep me busy)
  • A home-base PR entrepreneur (Dorothy Stack Osborne, who taught me the value of work-life balance and how to serve corporate clients while juggling life as a young mom)
  • The largest advertising and public relations agency in Washington DC (where I squeaked my way into a desk next to the CEO’s office, got myself invited into new business pitches and ultimately onto account teams while my peers were filing papers and making copies. I ran global promotions and ultimately landed to my first full-time job in their Philly office after graduation.)

I’m proof that you can grow faster if you show initiative and ambition. Want to know how to gather the backup to solicit the support of key folks who have the power to say YES to your creative scheduling? Here are some smart suggestions for internship success:

  1. Do what you love: Whether it’s writing, working with people, baking cakes or creating solar energy solutions, there’s someone out there willing to pay for your services once you market yourself to your ideal audience. Find internships that let you explore your creative side as well as pragmatic skills like juggling finances, public speaking or closing sales.
  2. Explore varied workplace settings: consider nonprofits, corporations, entrepreneurs, agencies, global vs local companies, family-run businesses. They offer very different company cultures, work processes and levels of freedom or flexibility. There’s much to learn from each.
  3. Do multiple internships: learn what you like and don’t like about different career paths. HINT: Finding what you DON’T LIKE is a great gift: it’s better to learn now while you have little risk or downside vs once you’re more established and have a mortgage and other major responsibilities.
  4. Keep track of your success: Create a digital or paper log of all your major jobs, projects, business contacts, presentations. Time flies and it gets harder to back track and remember what you accomplished years ago.
  5. Create a multi-channel portfolio of your best work: Now is NOT the time to be shy. Create a Facebook Live or YouTube video showing your sparkling personality. Digitize your work so you can easily update and share it using a personal website, blog or online resume.
  6. Cleanse your social media accounts: Create a professional-looking LinkedIn profile with a posed portrait. Remove your embarrassing social posts so potential employers won’t uncover your craziest/worst moments. Don’t let them doubt your credibility or the merits of your ability to help them grow their business. Yes, they search and scan your accounts to research you, too!
  7. Gather testimonials: Every time an employer, teacher or mentor compliments your work product or outstanding efforts, ask them if they’d kindly post that as a LinkedIn recommendation. Once it’s public, with their permission, you’re free to re-purpose it on your digital portfolio.
  8. Leverage your network: Go ahead, ask for favors. Tap into your family, friends, teachers and anyone who might get one step closer to your dream career.
  9. Do your homework: Before you meet with a potential mentor or employer, search their names, check out their personal and business pages on Facebook. Explore their credentials on LinkedIn. Learn where they went to school, projects or charities or other tidbits so you can weave in talk about their passions and relate on a more personal level.
  10. Dress for success: Show your personality but dress according to the potential work environment: A corporate or sales internship would deem a business suit or tailored dress, while you could wear something a bit more sporty if heading to a country club. ASK about their preferred dress code while you’re confirming interview details.
  11. Carry extra copies of your collateral: Send your information in advance via email, but also bring an iPad or tablet as well as printed copies of your portfolio. You’ll thank me if they have wifi issues or your battery dies.
  12. Arrive early for interviews: Allow an extra 20-30 minutes for parking, traffic or unforeseen mix ups. Never keep an interviewer (or client or manager) waiting.
  13. Ask smart questions: the search above will set the stage for a better dialogue so you can get to know more about their “WHY”, the best or worst parts of their current position and secrets for success. Always ask what advice they’d wished someone had told THEM at your age!
  14. Ask for ongoing mentoring: If you feel a connection, don’t hesitate to ask if the interviewer would be willing to mentor you (yes, regardless of whether you get that particular job or not). Set meeting goals and be sure to report back on progress.
  15. Follow up as promised: Hand write a thank you note, send a nice email and definitely ASK for the position! Don’t wait to be handed your dream gig, you’ve got to GO FOR IT! Good LUCK!



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