Ask Jo Malone: Be proactive to get a foot in the door to your dream career

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Small business agony aunt Jo Malone on how to beat the competition to a coveted internship and what to do to impress once you’re got it.

Dear Jo

I would like a career change and need to gain experience.

How do I go about getting my foot in the door with an internship and what should I expect?

And how do I make an impression once I’m in?

Internships and work experience are invaluable. Not only do they teach skills that are essential within your chosen field but also equip you with the confidence and determination to focus on securing the job you really want. 

Alternatively, if you are undecided as to which career to pursue, gaining experience across many different disciplines will help you discover what really interests you and what doesn’t.

Sometimes the reality of a role is very different to what you thought it would be.

Securing work experience can sometimes be quite difficult because demand is so high and we all understand the value it now adds to a CV.

Don’t be put off by the competition and make sure you approach as many businesses as you possibly can within your chosen field. Apply to both the HR contact and the head of the department and once you get a foot in the door go above and beyond what is expected —  put in extra hours, offer to make the tea, ask what else you can help with and spend time with as many people as you possibly can.  

I have taken on some fantastic interns whom I would employ in a heartbeat because they demonstrated enthusiasm and energy and were so vocal about wanting to help. Also, speak to family, friends, and teachers who might be able to recommend you. 

Be proactive!

And Jo asks…

For advice when contacting prospective employers, I asked Jenny Halpern Prince, chief executive of Halpern and founder of work-placement charity Access Aspiration. 

She advises: “Write an engaging email or letter explaining why you admire what they do and why you should be given a chance to work with them for a limited time to learn the ropes and hopefully add some value to their business. 

“Don’t be shy; be vocal and get yourself noticed.’”

Marc Mielau, general manager for marketing at Rolls-Royce, says: “With any career move, research is key. Building an understanding of the requirements and skills involved in any industry is an important first step.

“We offer apprenticeships, intern and graduate programmes to hands-on experience. 

“My advice is: build your network, develop your competence of the sector and to impress someone, always maintain a positive attitude.”

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September 7, 2015 |
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