How to Gain a Competitive Edge in Your Internship (or Entry-Level Job)

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Starting out in any internship or entry-level job is an opportunity to grow professionally, learn new skills, build a network and ideally, land a long-term position with the company. What you’re able to accomplish, both professionally and interpersonally, within the first few months in the position will determine whether or not there is lasting career potential with the company - which should always be viewed as a two-way street and whether or not it’s truly a mutually beneficial partnership.

Regardless if you feel that the actual job description is a good fit for your ultimate goals or not, there is opportunity in every position to gain transferable skills, build a portfolio or resume, and develop as a new professional, so no opportunity should be taken for granted. Whether you’re in the midst of a fall internship, an entry-level job, or are just beginning the job search as you prepare for life after graduation, follow these steps to ensure you make the most of every experience that comes your way.

1. Engage Socially

Participate in team building activities, lunches with co-workers, company events and conferences as often as possible. Whether you consider yourself more of an introverted or extroverted personality, connecting with your team is essential to your success. Not only can you discover potential areas of interest from interacting with your team and departments outside of your own, you’ll build lasting relationships that can lead to references and future opportunities.

2. Read About Your Area of Specialization

With so much digital information at our fingertips on a daily basis, there’s no excuse not to take the opportunity to learn into your own hands by following and regularly reading journals, blogs and news outlets focusing on your field that will help you excel in your current and upcoming positions.

3. Demonstrate a Positive Work Ethic

It’s not uncommon to be assigned menial tasks in an internship or entry-level role that you consider below your competency level and value as an employee. If this is the case, demonstrate your positive work ethic by completing the task quickly and efficiently without complaint. A positive attitude won’t go unrecognized and is much more likely to lead to a promotion than responding with a superiority complex.

4. Volunteer

Whenever possible, volunteer to take on new projects. This not only displays initiative and enthusiasm to your managers while also relieving their workload, it gives you the opportunity to develop in areas you want to grow and learn what you like or dislike about certain job opportunities.

5. Treat it Like Your Dream Job

As the saying goes, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” This applies to how you approach your work in internship and entry-level positions as well. Showing that you don’t take the job seriously by arriving late, not dressing professionally, not completing assignments on time or to the best of your ability will never lead you in the direction you want to go. Work hard daily, prove yourself to be a professional, and success will inevitably follow.

Are you in the midst of an internship or new job search? Want to make sure you have a competitive edge over other applicants? Become a PathMatch client to get hiring insights at top companies, specialized interview preparation, and an insider's look at what employers look for in potential candidates.

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