Post internship CV: spot the difference

Chapter 7

The internship is supposed to work as the magic wand that opens the doors to the career. It does that by giving potential employers a clear view of your skill sets. The big deal is that this is all current experience, you've got your qualifications, and the employer doesn't have to guess about you.

Internships can be very demanding, in fact they should be, and should also be paying for themselves in the process.

The payoff is your CV. This is where you start getting some mileage out of your hard work, long hours, and insufferably slow progress to your degree. It didn't really take a million years, it just felt like it.

If you've been wondering if it's all been worth it, you'll be pleased to hear that a good internship will be backing you up for a while in your career.

The CV angle is worth a good long look. Some of the intern stuff we've been talking about looks pretty basal, and it is. However, as a qualified person, you can now get some leverage out of that work.

We gave examples earlier of some of the really fundamental work an intern does. One of those examples was someone doing data entry for a research lab. That's basic work, no rocket science required.

However- it's also absolutely vital work, and it has to be done well, because the lab, quite literally, depends on its data.

With your degree, you've gone upscale a bitů in theory. In practice your entry level jobs, particularly in their early stages, will frequently bear a striking resemblance to internship. If that sort of work needs doing, there you are.

The good news about this apparent injustice is that you're practically assured of a job, and a career progression, because they know you can do that work. You won't require much, if any, training, in all the basic but very important stuff.

Add your degree to the mix, you're also on a career path which will require you to be very familiar with the way the place operates. Thanks to your internship you'll be right at home, not disoriented, and not needing to ask questions every five seconds to get anything done.

Further down the track, with your internship still forming a respectable part of your CV, you'll find that employers really do want people who know their way around the more esoteric parts of their operations. All that gopher work will be very useful, because whatever it is, you've probably done it, and know how to handle it. That makes you extremely useful.

Employers, despite some rumors, aren't really idiots. Particularly when it's about getting value out of their employees. They go for the person who can deliver the most, for that reason. The ex-intern is by definition a cost-effective person, doesn't need much supervision, and knows what he or she is supposed to be getting done, and why.

On the CV, this can look pretty innocuous.


J. Smith

Internship, XYZ Laboratories:

Administrative duties: Administrative assistant to Myco-culture Department: Data entry, records management, filing, correspondence, accounts, inventory management

Laboratory Duties: Laboratory assistant, test batch analysis, equipment maintenance, culture monitoring, Candida albicans live tissue sporulation testing

It will be obvious from one look at this CV excerpt that the only thing J. Smith didn't do was be an accredited lab rat.

The Admin duties look like a clerk's job. The Lab duties look fairly basic, but pretty well rounded, in terms of XYZ's operations. Smith obviously got a good look and did some work for them helping out with their research.

Notice something about these entries on Smith's CV?

The actual work on it is practically everything that any lab does. An employer from another lab will take one look at this, and say This is the person we need. Smith really does know his or her way around a lab, and was literally working with the whole inventory, in the Admin area. The employer isn't going to have to babysit, if they hire Smith as a research assistant.

Add to this the formal training and the degree, and Smith is always going to be a highly competitive candidate for any research assistant job.

At the risk of posting an advertisement for ourselves as a site that deals with CVs: This is also a good time to start having a look at how your CV works as a career tool.

The CV, particularly a professional CV, is a real weapon in a highly competitive environment, and you need to be very conscious of it.

Above all else, you need to know how to relate it to your career opportunities.

Learn how to read the signs, and you'll learn where you can get with your experience and skills. You'll find a lot of people do not have a clue how to approach a job, even when they do have the skills, and that's a situation you have to learn to avoid.

So have a good hard look at your CV. Make sure you can express your skills and relate them to the requirements of the positions you want.

(We've got plenty of information about CVs, including building them from scratch, on the site. Have a look around. If you've got any questions, just ask on our Forum.)

Think about what your CV actually means, in terms of your skills, and how you can apply it to your career.

You will also have to learn the language of the job application, the various forms of interviews, and the rituals of hiring. Every profession has its quirks and customs about hiring, but you'll soon learn how to find your way around, like you did with your internship.

But if you go to an interview with a CV loaded with good, relevant skills, you've already done most of the preliminary work.

The basic trick is to make it clear to anyone you're the one for the job. A prospective employer or client has to be able to see, on your CV, a wealth of skills and abilities, unmistakably what they're looking for, and what they need.

The internship is your first real entry to your CV.

Make the most of it.