Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Should I start my career with an internship?

Internships are very topical right now. Last week, Bank of Canada head honcho Stephen Poloz recommended that unemployed young Canadians should take on unpaid internships to gain experience in their professional fields. The fact that top government officials accept that unpaid work is the only way to get ahead indicates that internships have become commonplace in today’s economy. Further, the competition to actually get an internship – paid or unpaid – is fierce.

Therefore, it doesn’t seem like internships will be going away anytime soon. From the job hunter’s perspective, an internship, paid or unpaid, is a means to an end. The ultimate goal of an internship is to put you in a more competitive position as you launch your career.

I had two internships in the early days of my career, both of which were paid or associated with an educational program. Although I was not paid great sums by any means, I had the benefit of living at home and also was a part-time server to help balance the books.

I’m of two minds when it comes to internships. First, I know from experience that taking on an intern role is one of the best ways to get a start in your career. Internships can provide some key benefits. For me, they were:

  • I learned how to cut it in a nine-to-five job and began to cultivate my professional identity
  • With broad exposure to many different activities, I learned in leaps and bounds about marketing, communications and advertising, and also determined what I liked to do
  • I made connections with smart and successful people, many of whom I’m still connected to today
  • I learned how to work with senior leadership and executives, including VPs and presidents
  • Having internships on my resume demonstrated I was eager to learn, willing to try new things and could take initiative

At the same time, it can be difficult to take on full-time unpaid work. Some ways to make an internship realistic include the following:

  • Plan ahead – To help save money before taking on an internship, I first took on full-time work outside of my career field so that I could squirrel away some savings.
  • Academic internships – An internship associated with an academic program can help you apply what’s learned in university or college. Your school may also help you find the internship, giving you a competitive edge in the job hunt.
  • Working part-time – Consider a combination of paid and unpaid roles while completing an internship. For example, being a server in the evenings or on weekends helped to supplement my income.

Do you have any other tips for making an internship role realistic? Share in the comments.

Image credit: Pixabay.com.

Setting SMART goals

goal-1955252_1920I’m in the process of writing my professional goals for the next year at work. So, it’s a good time to focus on some best practices for goal-setting. Rather than just shooting blindly for the stars, I’m going to set SMART goals so I can prove I’ve reached them during my annual review.

What are SMART goals? Each goal is written to include the following five elements. The first letter of each spells out the acronym “SMART.” SMART goals are:

Specific – They identity who, what, when, where and why. What exactly do I need, or want, to do?

Measurable – A SMART goal can be quantified in some way. Without metrics, I won’t be able to know if I’ve achieved a goal, or how far I need to go to get there.

Attainable – The end result needs to be attainable based on my skills and experience.

Realistic – I must be honest with myself about what I can achieve, considering my workload, upcoming projects and available time, and set goals that are realistic given these constraints.

Time-bound – A SMART goal has dates associated with key milestones and a final deadline for when it will be achieved. I’ll need to revisit the timeline periodically to make sure I’m on track, or if a variance from the original dates is required (and justified).

Using the SMART technique also works for personal goals.

Do you have any other tips for goal-setting? Please share in the comments.

Image credit: Pixabay.com.

Workday walks are a productivity game-changer. Here’s why.

Short walks during the workday are mentally refreshing and help me focus on my work. I try to pencil one into my calendar whenever I can, so much so that my healthy habit is known among my colleagues. I often can get a colleague or two to join me on a walk, which is good for relationship-building and stress relief.

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Today I came across an article reporting on research on exercise and its impact on well-being. A key finding is that the first 20 minutes of exercise can have a great impact on both happiness and productivity. These are both key ingredients to a successful day at work.

“The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.”

– New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Reynolds, The First 20 Minutes

The article depicted the immediate impact of getting away from one’s desk for an activity break. The below scans of brain activity (represented by an increase in colours) were reported before and after a 20-minute walk:

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So, although it’s now November and we’re facing chillier temperatures, this information is definitely motivation for me to stay active in the winter.

Do you take walks while you’re working? If not, has this research encouraged you to start?

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Fastcompany.com.