S P Jain offers us a unique opportunity of learning in three to five different countries. While the exposure could be paramount, it would mean nothing if one doesn’t make the most of it. Getting an internship or work experience throughout would be the best thing you can do. With a lot of trial and error, deep conversations with industry leaders and students and lite literature review here are the ‘Doorknob Theory of Getting Internship Globally’. This blog will not only help you locate your door to success but also to open it to a promising future. For you to sustain in this world of constant change, you must be a THE changemaker. And these internships offer you a great insight into the fields of your choice. Hence, this theory is a brief overview of today’s world and how could you create your place in it.
In the next seven minutes, you would learn The Process: finding your purpose, creating leverage and applying for the internships. Which I think is essential to get the best internship possible: that will shape you as a person, open you to a whole new world of opportunities, and possibly fetch you a mentor you never had. I have tried to demonstrate a storytelling format, well telling my story to be precise, in hopes that the theory wouldn’t put you to sleep. Here it goes-
Finding your purpose
ikigai (pronounced Ick-ee-guy)— a reason to jump out of bed each morning.
This is a great starting point to know how you could make the most of your time and get access to the greatest opportunities. Grab a pen and paper and just make a note of the things- passion, mission, vocation and the potential profession. See what overlaps the most. There you go, you have your calling right there.
Understanding What Works for You-
List your abilities and find where do your abilities fit in the most. For example, Firstly, I have always been into table tennis. So, my first field of expertise was TT; consecutively, I could work at the International Table Tennis Federation in Singapore. Secondly, I have a very strong drive to make a social change- so working in the NGO domain was my field of passion. Finally, I wrote a research paper on the growing eCommerce industry there- this accounted to the field of growing domain.
Reach out to mentors and visit conferences for networking- Once you have the above- go talk to your professors on what you want to do in life, your dreams and ambitions. They would be delighted to know how you think. Ask for clear objectives. For example, “Sir, I would like to work at the UN. How do you think we could get there?”. Being ballsy is appreciated.
Make a top list of internships you want – Make a list of all the places you would like to work at. More importantly, the list of people you would like to work for. This would come with a certain research of the companies you like and their upper management.
Now that you have a sense of clarity on what you want – you are halfway there. However, this wouldn’t necessarily mean that the people would simply grant you the opportunity. You can’t be like, “Hey, I know what I want to do. Could you please let me work with you at Google?” Working at Google is possible. You just must create a leverage on why they should give you the internship.
Create Personalised CV-
You should have a standard recipe for your CV. Since it is just a 1-2 page affair, you should be able to move around the contents of the CV in such a way that puts your strong face forward for that particular job. For the application of my Ashoka Internship, I put more weightage on the experience on starting the NGOs and volunteer-ship work; in contrast, for the International Table Tennis Federation internship, I highlighted my table tennis achievements.
People who know people open doors for you. Reach out to your first line of support- parents, teachers, relatives etc. Go to the events and conferences that they refer. Build further network there. Ask people for their cards. Shoot quick introductory emails and ask them for connections. More often than not people are willing to look out for you. Its just many people are too afraid.
Do Extensive Research –
There are two parts to the research. On one hand, research about the people and internships that you want to hack in. This would give you a sense of direction to where to dig further. On the other hand, the people you meet and the connections you make- the best way to impress them is to read and ask questions about them. I asked Sumi about her patents at Kraft and life at Cambridge- I think she was impressed by this.
Have a Portfolio –
If you have time work on a short project before the internship showing some experience in the field of internship. For example, I wanted to work at Ashoka, I connected how I started my NGOs two years ago to show how I was the best fit.
Art of Flattery –
The meaning of flattery today has got a negative connotation. However, it is an art, a skill, of having a sweet tongue and appreciating the other person enough that they like you. While too many people needing to try to impress people would sound too below them, this skill is a must to make their mark I the world. Here is an excellent essay on Art of Flattery.
This legendary podcast Akimbo by Seth Godin talks about leverage and creating friction.
Dress up and walk-in-
Apply for the internship. The most effective way I think is simply knocking on their door and asking to see the CEO and demanding the internship- this is exactly how I got in Ashoka- Innovators for Public. My life-changing moon-shot internship. One Monday morning, I bunked my English lecture and walked into Ashoka Singapore office and asked to see Ms. Sumitra Pasupathy. To my surprise, she was sitting right at the door. Taken-aback herself we had a quick discussion. After a couple of rounds of evaluations, I became one of the youngest interns and the official research Ninja. The rest is history.
Applying and Converting the internship
- Cold calling is the best:
Cold calling means dropping in by call or in person, unannounced. As is wrote earlier, dressing up and knocking on door works and has been very effective for me. In fact, most powerful things in my life- internships, scholarships, fellowship to travel abroad, etc. have happened because I pounced upon the person In charge expressing my deep desire to do that particular thing. Note- this is a very tricky thing. Rejections would be very frequent. You have to toughen up.
- Take immediate action when you get a lead.
More often than not, they will ask you to send them your CV. You need to take quick steps to get closure on what they have asked. When the ball is in your court, don’t let it stay for too long – you would lose your point. This promptness would become the should reason for an interview. Divya, HR head of Ashoka, said, ‘you don’t know how long students take to send in their materials’’.
- Prepare for the interview.
Before my interview, I read everything about the company – the company’s website, including the firm’s mission statement and executive biographies. I looked for things I have in common with the people who run the company and plugged it in every conversation. If you run into the head of the company on the elevator the first day you should be able to recognize him or her, greet him and say a couple of things you loved about his or her work. I would recommend including keywords from the mission statement in your interview. Additionally, it would be super nice of you to wish your interviewer with their first name and ask questions in return of why you chose to work here, etc. Bullishness is appreciated.
- Ask what the internship would entail.
I tried to make the interview memorable for the interviewer. I asked, “can you describe a day as an intern at your company.’’
- Say you’re ready to start immediately.
Show your eagerness and volunteer to start immediately. Especially for unpaid internships, employers often tell applicants they can take time to think about whether they want the job. Show enthusiasm and express “I know I want this.” This would become the sole reason for converting this unpaid internship to a full-time job. Dian, one of our star employees at Ashoka, volunteered for over a year through her master’s degree. She got converted to a job with a higher than the average salary for her persistence and dedication.
- Ask for a letter of recommendation two weeks before the end of your internship.
This is super important as a step towards your next internship. From experience I think it is best to start going two weeks before your job ends and offer to write the recommendation yourself. “Say, ‘Look, I know you’re extremely busy. I’d love to get a recommendation from you. I’ll write one and you can look at it.’
- Work hard and send handwritten thank-you notes after your internship concludes.
I think it is super important to show some love to the people who you worked with for the past so many months. Emails are okay, but handwritten letters are something they will remember.