Getting an internship aka what I have been working towards these past three months. A six months internship is mandatory to receive your masters diploma, at least in the French system. My university made me attend CV, cover letter, career plans and interview simulations workshops since I was a bachelor. Obviously, standardizing and formatting every step of the process leads nowhere. No two individuals are alike; therefore, no two applications should be alike. Also, virtually no one talks about the financial and time investments put in to get an internship.
I believe there is not enough awareness regarding the intense process, which motivated me to share the insight I have gained through my personal experience.
Budget & Time wise (especially if you are planning to relocate) – Prepare a budget beforehand & get organised
When recruiters started calling me, I was thrilled, but soon enough I realised I had to get organised fast. It is all very well to say that France is decentralising, whereas in fact, Paris still offers the best career opportunities and remains indispensable, which bring back to my point. After passing the first screenings, recruiters invited me to schedule face to face interviews, which meant going to Paris. Consequently, my “Mondays & Thursdays” (no class days) became my “interview days”. Instead of studying and working on assignments, I was hitting the road, boarding trains and sleeping in hostels in some cases, amounting to substantial unexpected expenses.
CV & Cover letter – Don’t over justify/sell & be confident in yourself and abilities
Cover letter are old school for my taste, and for this reason I didn’t write any. On the other hand, I had a solid, structured, well-written and well-though CV. This combination allowed me to generate curiosity among recruiters while distinguishing myself from other applicants. At first, everybody was sceptic and kept on telling me “your CV is too show off” or “without a cover letter your application will be discarded”, to which I always replied, “why should I downplay my abilities?” and “I am not going to shamelessly toady a company I was unaware of its existence five minutes ago”.
Research – Before applying
Full disclosure: during my search, I discovered numerous companies, and ended up mailing my CV to some. However, I never responded to an offer before carefully reading the assignments, and researching the company. From its website to newspaper articles, passing by its vision, missions, values and reputation, I dedicated roughly 20 minutes to paint myself a general representation. By doing so, I made sure to avoid bad surprises and to reaffirm my initial interest.
Interviews – Be observant
I urge you all to remember that an interview isn’t an interrogation session. It is a moment dedicated to exchange and communication. Managers are assessing if you will join their teams, and you are verifying, if you will be able to work with them for a long period. Interviews are a two-way street. For instance, in one case the women from HR and the manager contradicted one another on every matter, he was disrespectful and belittled the efforts of his team on two occasions. Ten minutes into that interview, I knew I can’t work in these conditions despite the intresting position.
To conclude, if you are on the hunt for an internship or a first-job and struggling, I want you to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel!