So you took the leap and moved to a country that you probably have never been to before for an internship. You’ve got some great professional experience, had the time of your life and made amazing new friends. And now it’s over. Aside from all the crazy stories, wonderful souvenirs and social media pictures (posted specifically to make your friends back home jealous), how will you leverage this experience in your career? What exactly will you write on your CV and LinkedIn profile? It might not be something you’ve thought long and hard about, outside of listing something like “Internship, Awesome Company, Exotic Location (Summer 2014)”.
However, with some careful thought and planning, you can turn your internship into a much more marketable experience that can play an important role in your personal brand and help you take the next big career step, whatever it may be. Here are a few suggestions:
Give Yourself a Title
This is perhaps one of the most important things that interns fail to do. Discussing this with the company prior to your internship is the ideal scenario, and you can even get creative and throw out ideas that will be in line with your personal brand and future career plans. For example, the titles “Intern” or “Marketing Intern,” can easily be replaced with titles like “Marketing Consultant” or “Freelance Marketing” to appear more professional on a CV. Either way it should reflect your desired career trajectory. If you want to eventually go into Consulting, for example, explain this to the company you are interning for and more than likely they’ll be fine with you listing the position as such.
Show Tangible Results
When it comes to listing professional experiences, it’s not just about what you did, it’s about “What were your results?” While listing quantifiable results is ideal, “increased efficiency by 25%” for example, these are often hard to come by as it relates to internships. In the work description, try and encapsulate what you did in the past tense of your first word, “Researched” or “Created,” for example. Then, make sure to summarize the tangible results at the end, whether it be a presentation or final performance review. Something like, “resulting in achievement of all performance goals,” or “ending in a presentation to management.” This gives the readers the idea that you were goal-oriented and able to see a project through from start to finish.
Leverage Your Connections
Networking is probably the single most valuable part of an internship from a professional perspective, especially if you’re doing one abroad. Having those lifelong colleagues, and hopefully friends, is something that might not seem like a big deal at the time. After all, our tendency is just view them as co-workers that you see at any job that you might have back in your home country. However, having a professional network in a country like Colombia, for example, as a US or British citizen is something unique that will pay dividends in the long run. Connect with anyone and everyone that you can on LinkedIn, and don’t be afraid to propose an invite to someone that you may have only talked to a few times. Locals are also looking to expand their network out of country, so it’s a win-win for everyone. Getting a recommendation on LinkedIn might also seem obvious, but it’s something where interns fail to take initiative. It adds a more professional feel to your experience, and if you’re looking to market your foreign language skills, you should definitely ask that the recommendation be written in that language, whether it be Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, etc.
A Chapter in Your Story
While your internship may look like wonderful experience on your CV on its own, don’t forget that it only tells part of your professional and personal story. Your internship was just one stop on the way to where you want to be down the road, so when you list it on your LinkedIn and discuss it with potential employers or schools, you’ll want to be able to explain why you made that decision and how you think it fits in with your future plans. What turned you onto that specific industry or country? Was it what you expected or something completely different? You say you want to eventually work in Finance, so how does this experience fit in? These are all questions you should think about and be prepared to answer. If you have a high level of passion for whatever your career is, and are able to articulate how your internship experience contributed to that, you’ll be able to win over people by not only showing that you’ve done something unique like work in a stock brokerage in Medellin, but be able to differentiate yourself from other candidates by showing how the internship has given you a unique experience that fits in seamlessly with your personal brand.
Doing an internship abroad is not something that everyone gets to experience. Therefore it stands a chance to help set you aside from the masses. By taking action on some of the things I talked about, you’ll ensure to get the maximum value out of your experience. When you look back at your internship, you will have more to be thankful for than just a great time and an album of Facebook pictures.
Photo 1. based on Stocksnap.io, by Alejandro Escamilla, CC0
Photo 2. The Intern Group