Blogging for BUNAC!

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Hello all my lovely followers!

I hope everyone has had an enjoyable week?

Today I wanted to share with you some top tips I had the pleasure of writing for BUNAC’s website. I actually owe them a great deal of credit – after all, it was due to their Work America Programme that I made the decision to intern abroad in the first place, It’s a privilege to share my knowledge and advice on their site with their influx of potential new interns and recent graduates!

Have a read of the blog here:

http://www.bunac.org/uk/blog/bunac-blog/top-intern-tips

I find it hard to believe that more than four years has passed since I first decided to board that plane to Los Angeles for my first internship. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned during this time in terms of skills, knowledge and my own personal capabilities.

As a 20 something year old living in London, I’m fully aware of the pressures, competition and confusion facing our generation when faced with the prospect of our careers. It seems the majority of us are right in the midst of the ‘figuring it out’ stage. Throughout this haze, the most vital fact to remember is this – opportunity exists at every corner, and we’re fortunate to have options available to us. Whether it’s an internship, grad scheme or junior position you’re after, achieving your set goals is more viable than ever, it’s just a matter of working hard towards it, always keeping your mind on the most positive outcome.

Have a read of the above link and let me know if you have any other tips you think deserve a mention!

Until next time,

Leoni

Q&A with The Job Searching Expert

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Hello everyone!

I do apologise for my radio silence over the last few weeks, I’ve been very busy in my job gearing up to the company’s US launch, but I’m definitely making more time going forward to publish more work on my blog.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a Q&A with Leila Mehio, founder of The Job Searching Expert blog (check it out here: http://jobsearchingexpert.com/author/leilamehio//). I’ve provided a copy of this below as I think that it will be both beneficial and informative for those of you starting or currently particiapting in an internship.

Enjoy the read!

What do you think is the hardest part of looking for an internship?

Personally speaking, I think the hardest thing about finding an internship is deciding where to begin the initial search. Given the developments in technology over the years, there’s a wide range of options available today in terms of actually sourcing positions. Be it online recruitment or job boards, company websites or social media channels, the search can easily become an overwhelming prospect. Thankfully, these options do exist and it very much comes down to the industry you want to work in and the type of internship you’re looking for. Through many trial and error attempts, you start to gain a fundamental understanding regarding the optimal ways of how and where to search for internships.

Do you think there are enough internship programmes out there?

As the interning industry continuously evolves, more options become available. Companies understand the importance of offering work experience to young people and the value it can provide to both candidates and an organisation itself. With such an influx of students and graduates flooding into the job market, it’s vital that internships continue to develop in order to meet demand. It’s also not always a question of whether enough programmes exist, rather of taking the initiative to source opportunities. For example, if an individual is interested in interning for a company and it doesn’t offer internships through it’s website, there’s nothing stopping you from picking up the phone and asking if you can do a placement with them. It might not occur to some businesses to hire interns, so it’s important you seize every opportunity out there by actively chase after what you want.

You wrote your book #interns – we do more than make coffee but do you think we are really giving interns the chance to develop, and not just to make the coffee?

In the majority of cases, I’ve heard positive stories from former interns regarding their accounts of work experience. More often than not, interns are given the chance to develop their knowledge and skills in a professional environment. I had a varied level of tasks throughout my four internships, which are detailed throughout the book, and whilst some of the work was arguably mundane, a large chunk was invaluable. If an intern doesn’t feel they are getting the most out of the situation, it’s up to them to take the initiative and initiate change by speaking with their line manager and voice their concerns. Of course horror stories will continue to circle, it’s sometimes easier to recall the bad over the good, but with stricter regulation on the work experience industry as a whole, companies are aware that they have to follow a code of conduct when it comes to the level of work interns are given.

Should interns be paid, or is the experience most important?

This is the question that’s posed to me most often, and the honest answer is that there is no straight answer. It’s an topic that has many branches and it would be difficult to provide a
simple yes or no. On the one hand, interns are providing companies with their time, and in the workplace, time is money. Arguably, there’s a grey area in terms of the work output that interns are permitted as they’re technically not supposed to carry out certain responsibilities at the same level as a paid employee. In this case, the work is technically on a learning and shadow basis, and so this is their return for the output. If all companies were made to, by law, pay their interns, the industry might well see a decline in opportunity and offerings, which is a definite negative. I had four internships, totalling almost a year of my time, for which I didn’t receive pay. However, I wouldn’t trade anything for the experiences that resulted from them as they ultimately led me to the position I’m in today. There’s nothing to say that you can’t intern and also work part time to fund this. With so many different structured programmes available, companies are often very accommodating and willing to work around your schedule, so there’s always a way to fit it in and around your other responsibilities. I think ultimately, all companies should at the very least offer expenses, be it travel pay, lunches or coffee on tap!

Where is the best place to look for an internship?

There are so many routes you can explore when searching for an internship. Be it internet job sites, company websites, networking opportunities, or back to basics via word or mouth, no one method should necessarily be favoured over another. It’s about personal preference and exploring the options available to you depending on the type of internship you would like to secure. I personally chose a mixture of internet searching and calling companies directly to
enquire about what placements were available. Vocal communication is important and a
human voice goes a long way.

Are internships of a week or less not valued as much as a longer stint?

I’d always recommend you try and secure at least two weeks of work experience at a time. One week may not be enough time to settle in, adjust and experience everything that a company has to offer. However, there is still the potential to learn in that time, and as long as you can demonstrate that knowledge on your CV, there’s no reason it should be devalued due to length .


What happens if someone has work experience in a field they then decide to not go into? How do they still sell their experience as positive and relevant?

An internship doesn’t necessary have to be industry specific. Remember that many skills are transferrable, and as long as you can identify which ones are suited for a particular role, you can sell any experience to a potential employer. My internships varied across market fields, yet each placement taught me something vital that I could use in the next. For example, proper
office etiquette, and working effectively within a team. It’s about learning to function in a
workplace environment and putting in the effort to gain that exposure. Employers look for
someone who both tries and who is visibly confident, so as long as you can justify the
relevance, there is nothing to say you can’t explore various industries and pick up new skills along the way.

Please feel free to contact me at lj.interns@gmail.com with any questions and remember to download #interns – we do more than make coffee here: http://amzn.to/1qhbEoJ

Until next time!

Leoni

The 5C Pyramid of Interning

 

5C Pryamid

I have spent many months of my life interning, exploring what the working world has to offer, allowing me to develop my skills in a professional environment. During this time, I began to gain an in depth understanding of just how the work environment operates. What I ultimately learned was the importance of putting as much in to an experience in order to take from it. The more you throw yourself into an internship, the more likely you are to gain from the opportunity, and this will help substantiate your overall character and what you can personally offer to a company when applying for a permanent role. When I think about my time working abroad, I categorise my overall presence and manner in terms of the 5C pyramid, a structure that is both easy to remember and useful to refer to when guidance is sought on how to remain an invaluable intern. Below I outline each stage of the pyramid, coined so for obvious reasons illustrated in the diagram above, which provide insight into how you can keep your professional manner in check during your interning placement.

Care
You may only be working within a company for a short period of time, and it’s therefore understandable one may adopt the attitude that there is little reason to care about the work you do and what impact you leave – it’s just for your CV after all, right? Well actually, for more reasons than one, this way of thinking is very wrong and potentially damaging. Firstly, to the owners, managers and staff working in a given organisation, this workplace is their playground in which to put their passion to effective use, build upon their careers and develop their skills within a field. It’s therefore imperative that you remain respectful at all times, and illustrate through hard work and determination that you care about what you’re doing on a daily basis. Further, it’s not unheard of that internships have the window of opportunity to lead to full time roles or recommendations within a given industry. Even it if your stay at a company is only a few months, ensure your care and passion are illustrated at all times through the work you do and your personal attitude.

Curious
One thing I learned from the onset, during my time as an intern, was the significance of asking questions – both in regard to my responsibilities and objectives in addition to taking an interest in others within the organisation. Obviously I’m not recommending you present a daily lengthy list to your manager and colleagues, but if there’s a quiet moment, take the time to ask about the company, the different positions available and staff member backgrounds. This interest is another way to demonstrate that you care. It’s especially important you ask questions if you’re unsure on certain aspects of your work load as it’s sensible to ask a few times and complete a task correctly than submit work with errors, ultimately wasting time longer term. Your manager is aware you are in a new environment where growth and learning are key and therefore should set aside time to show you around the office, explain your responsibilities and set some objectives of the internship. Just remember, curiosity can be good in the correct dose!

Courteous
It may sound obvious, but remaining courteous to those in the office, and others you may encounter along the way, is extremely important. Companies are fortunate to have applications piling on desks for internship requests, but they have selected you! Remaining polite at all times and gracious for the opportunity will highlight your appreciation for the work placement, only helping your potential future with that company or business area. Industry expert circles are small, no matter where you go in the world, and people continuously talk. You absolutely do not want to gain a reputation for being difficult, rude or unappreciative. These are all qualities that can potentially damage your future career. Alongside this, I would also recommend going the extra mile during your internship, whether it be staying on late to finish work, offering to run errands for your colleagues or helping pick up the slack with office tasks; these will highlight your positive approach and willingness to start at the bottom in order to gain the foundational skills on which you can build in the future.

Confidence
Alongside being courteous, it’s imperative to showcase confidence – this will instill faith in your manager that you are the best intern and they made the right choice in hiring you.  Set yourself the challenge to radiate self-assurance, without coming across as arrogant. Reassuring your boss that you can handle what’s thrown at you may result in higher responsibility throughout the internship. Don’t panic if you feel the workload is becoming too difficult; you can still remain confident but ask for help or advice with completing individual projects. Sometimes asking these questions demonstrates a level of maturity, demonstrating you’re not afraid to question yourself and learn.

Communication
The key to working well with others is excellent communication; this goes for all walks of life and can sometimes require the self-motivation to push yourself out of your comfort zone. When I was interning, I had to call and speak with PR professionals in companies and agencies across America – a rather daunting task for a 20 year old who had just landed in the States. On top of this, I was attending high profile events and interviewing influential industry figures on a weekly basis. I was challenged to rapidly adapt to my surroundings and learn to articulate and converse clearly with others, especially given the accent barrier! Communication is a topic that’s sensible to address sooner rather than later. Learning to talk effectively with others, and listening to what they have to say, is a skill that will definitely be useful for years to come, throughout all walks of life.

So there you go – the 5C Pyramid of Interning. What I’ve outlined is intended to provide a guide to help you when entering into the world of internships. I know all too well how nerve racking the experience is initially, but if you refer to these simple recommendations, I can assure you that in no time you will settle in and feel like a valued member of the team!

Until next time.

Leoni

 

 

we do more than make coffee

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There’s a widespread circling cliché regarding interns, with them often being labeled as coffee makers, errand runners, and general office housekeepers. However, in recent years, these fundamental stereotypes have not only been disregarded as grossly inaccurate, but also couldn’t be further from the truth in many cases. With work experience placements gaining increased popularity, regard and value throughout a plethora of industries, interns are now identified as an invaluable feature in offices around the world today.

Yes it’s true that interns may face the prospect of long hours and a lack of credit for their work, but then again, more often than not I’m impressed by the range of responsibilities that are entrusted to the interns of today. I had the opportunity to interview a number of former work experience graduates, for my book, who spent time gaining valuable skills in a range of industries. Each and every one of them acquired an increased level of experience, giving thanks to their placements for helping them to achieve their current positions today.

My previous blog entry detailed some information about my first internship, including a selection of highlights and challenges. This time round, I’d like to share snippets from other interns’ stories in order to provide further insight into what internships can offer to your future. Let’s start with Jannet Kim, a born and raised Californian, who studied a Bachelor of Arts degree at UCLA. During her time at university, she completed three internships in marketing, PR and HR at three well known and highly regarded companies. She explained that completing these placements helped her to “funnel down my career interest”. She owes her time working in these internships to helping her develop capabilities and skills in terms of successfully completing tasks and projects in an efficient manner, aiding the transition between university and entering a full time role.

How about Divya Bishnoi, the landscape architecture student in her final year at the University of Edinburgh, who travelled abroad to invest time interning for a company in The Hague? She developed such a range of useful skills, and was learning so much during her placement, that she decided to extend her stay. Given the small structure of the company, she was able to form strong bonds with her colleagues and even learn a bit of Dutch! She believes her internship will benefit her future as she was able to work in a time pressure environment, truly understating the meaning and importance of setting and keeping to deadlines. She commented “I learnt so much on the job, in a way that was completely different from university. Even learning life skills like being more assertive in meetings, becoming more efficient and to learn from constructive criticism are things that I still value from it”.

Then there’s Charlotte Gibbs, a spanish and sociology student from the University of Leeds, who travelled to San Francisco on the BUNAC Work America Programme to intern. She was given control of a number of projects at the company with a high level of responsibility. She told me that “Employers find it really interesting to see that I completed an internship in San Francisco on my CV, and they always ask about it in interviews”. Further, Charlotte touched upon some of the skills she developed in her internship that have helped in her current role today including marketing and database management; areas she had little knowledge of before.

These case studies provide a level of insight into the benefits that can derive from internships. As the industry gains more credibility, and the intensity for internship placements increases, companies are utilising the skills of their interns and providing them with more tasks and projects that ultimately challenge them and are useful when entering the workforce for real.

Whether you choose to intern during school, after school, in university, after university, instead of university, abroad, in your home country, at a small, medium or large company – in whatever industry – make sure you are squeezing every last drop out of the experience. This is the time to learn, make mistakes, build on your skills and develop contacts for the future. It’s an incredible time to find out who you are and where you are most suited in the working world – go out there and enjoy it!

You can read the full range of case studies in more detail in #interns – we do more than make coffee: http://amzn.to/1s8Ayq9

Until next time!

Leoni

My Life as a Hollywood Intern

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The world is arguably smaller than ever, with the opportunity to travel becoming an increasingly appealing option to younger people, before and after university. During the second and third year of my business studies course, I decided to make use of my four month summer and combine work experience and travel into one package. As an individual who is career conscious, I understood the importance of securing an internship on my CV, but working for an entire summer in Scotland just didn’t have the same appeal as travelling to somewhere sunny, picturesque and with a beach! I set my mind on America straight away, given my fascination and interest in the country growing up, largely due to holidays in California to visit family and trips to Florida to meet Mickey Mouse. I set my mind on Los Angeles as I was interested in pursuing a career within the entertainment industry – and what better place to work than the entertainment capital of the world?

In my book #interns, I discuss the four internships I completed during my time at university in great detail, outlining the initial process involved in securing the roles and interning abroad. This blog entry, however, provides an overview of my first internship experience, and some of the points I had to consider before I ventured to the blissful city of LA.

Budget
The first step was rationalising how I would be able to save the money required to fund my trip. It took me over a year to save for my first internship abroad, but this allowed a decent length of time to research and organise the overall summer. It’s really important you leave yourself sufficient time to plan all elements of the trip before you jet off.

The Visa
Regardless of your role,the majority of students and young people who venture abroad will require some form of work visa. As a legal requirement, it’s vital you check what form you’ll need. My student visa involved a trip to the US Embassy in London and a fair amount of paperwork. I also chose to obtain mine through BUNAC, a trusted and well known work and travel adventure company.

Finding my Dream Internship
Perhaps the most demanding component of the internship process is securing the actual work placement. With so many other factors to consider, sometimes finding an internship takes a back seat. Once you do focus your efforts on the search, you can be thankful for the number of options available when it boils down to sourcing work. Be it through job search sites, social media, networking or simply word of mouth, with a bit of determination and some perseverance, the perfect internship is right around the corner.

The Interview
I discuss this point at great length in #interns because, after all, it’s a crucial part of the process. What I will stress is the importance to practice the types of questions you might be asked in your interview. Do this a few times with a family member or friend as it will make the actual interview far less daunting and potentially quite enjoyable!

Accommodation
It’s a good idea to plan ahead and get a kick start on securing accommodation abroad. I set up a number of viewings before I arrived and decided the best course of action was to book a hotel for the first few nights until I decided on an apartment to sublet. I chose to live in a student populated area in order to allow the best chance of meeting people my age. Finding sublets to rent near the university campus during summer was a fairly simple option thanks to the wonders of Craigslist – the online site for classfields, forums, jobs and sublets.

The Job
My first internship was with an online media company, and although this line of work interested me, it was something I had little experience in. This is why internships are so crucial; they provide a valuable learning experience and present the opportunity to challenge yourself. I was pushed out of my comfort zone with many of my duties which involved liaising with PR Managers, conducting extensive research under timely deadlines and (most excitingly) attending red carpet events throughout the City. After the initial adjustment period, I settled in and started to really enjoy and absorb what the whole experience had to offer.

Highlights and Challenges
To pinpoint just a few highlights is a difficult task in itself, but one of my most memorable, if not surreal moments, was attending the Hills Cast Finale Party for their television show which ended the summer I was working in LA. To celebrate the last ever episode of the much loved programme, the cast were interviewed both on the red carpet and on a built stage at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.  This event also involved some sneaky activity on my part to gain backstage access to the poolside show, but that’s a story reserved especially for my book – you’ll have to download it to find out!

One of themajor challenges I faced daily in Los Angeles was the lack of public transport and the terrible traffic! Although my work was based only 12 miles from where I was living, it took me one and half hours to get there, and then even longer getting back in the evening. However, the metro bus system actually turned out to be very good, cheap and in most cases – reliable.

In terms of the job, the days were very long, and I was often covering two events in one day. At times, I found myself physically drained, especially when I wasn’t entirely accustomed to the way of working life. I also found some of my tasks rather daunting but these were all challenges I had to overcome very quickly in order to function well in the office.

Last Thoughts
During my three months in the States, I had the opportunity to explore a new city, immerse myself in a different culture and make some incredible lifelong friends. My internship experience wasn’t solely focussed on the job – it was ultimately about learning new skills, challenging myself and becoming more independent in the process. If you do have the opportunity to travel abroad, I’d take the time to consider each point in detail and think about your options. Whatever you decide, just remember, a world of opportunity awaits!

If you want to read about my whole experience from start to finish – the good, the bad and the downright outrageous – you can download #interns – we do more than make coffee, here:  http://amzn.to/1iVvhhs

Until next time!

Leoni

To Intern or Not to Intern

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Generally speaking, internships are a relatively new and evolving phenomenon. Taking a lead from America, the UK seems to have embraced this form of work experience only in recent years, with thousands of companies now offering comprehensive internship programmes and short term placements. However, the question begs, how necessary is it for young people to complete one just because the opportunity is available?

This entry will discuss a number of prominent pros and cons that you might find when completing an internship. Hopefully these tips will help to inform you on the subject and aid the decision making process.

Pros

Travel
Interning provides an incredible opportunity to travel just about anywhere in the world. There are so many choices in a large number of countries, and with visas relatively easy to secure (particularly for students), the options are endless. Born and bred in Scotland, I couldn’t wait to explore the world, and ended up completing four internships in Los Angeles and London in the space of three years. My time abroad was character building and developed my independence, and I became more confident and comfortable in my own skin, unafraid to try new things.

New Skills
Internships allow the platform in which to gain new skills that are transferable within the general workplace. This results in learning the knowledge and basic foundations for when you start a full time job, resulting in the chance to impress your manager and carry out your work with a level of confidence. With so many varied office rules, practices and technologies, it’s advisable to get a head-start through work experience and learn as much as you can in the timeframe you have.

Meet New People
I had the fortune to meet some truly inspiring and remarkable people during my time interning; not only in the workplace, but also where I was living. Some of these friendships are still going strong today, and it’s a good feeling knowing I have close contacts across the globe. Meeting people in the workplace also provides an opportunity for networking. If you develop solid bonds and work hard, there is every chance these contacts may be able to help you with a future role.

Experience of Office Work
Woking in an office is different to the classroom or shop floor. The dynamics, atmosphere and general surroundings can take some getting used to. Interning provides the opportunity to gain office experience and develop an understanding of teamwork and staff interaction. Its good practice for when you start your first role as you will feel more comfortable entering a new and unknown environment.

CV
No matter what the internship or experience, it will positively impact on your CV. Employers nowadays are keen to hire candidates who obtain a certain level of outside knowledge and skill, and an internship is one way to illustrate this. Think of your CV as personal marketing – you want to appear in the best light as possible, which can be a challenge on paper.

Cons

Time
Finding the time to intern can be a challenge. It’s a case of working it around your studies/part time job or utilising the summer. Either way, it will cut in to your free time. But is this necessarily a bad thing? In the working world, people are juggling jobs, commitments, families and social lives – it’s a good practice run for what lies ahead. I personally chose to intern in the summer when I had four months of uninterrupted time to solely focus on gaining experience. It also meant I could travel abroad and explore new cultures – you can always find a silver lining!

Cost
The majority of internships offer some level of reimbursement, be it a free lunch or travel expenses; however working full time for no salary has its problems. If you are lucky enough to find an internship that pays – well done! If you find yourself in the position of landing your dream role, but it doesn’t pay, then it will most likely come to down to creating a budget and saving. I had a part time job throughout my time at university, and I saved my earnings for over a year to pay for the majority of my time abroad. My parents also kindly contributed to some of my expenses and I was fortune to win a scholarship with my university to conduct a research project abroad at the same time I was interning. If you can’t afford to go abroad for your internship, look into finding one closer to home, so that you limit your expenses. Just remember, if there’s a will, there’s a way!

Bad Experience
You may start your internship and find it’s completely not what you expected. Perhaps the people aren’t friendly, the workload is dwindling or you decide the industry isn’t for you. The important thing to remember here is that no one has the perfect internship experience; there are always bumps in the road. Try speaking with your line manager if you don’t feel happy and ask if there are other responsibilities you can become involved with. It takes time to settle into a new work place, and it’s even more difficult if you’re only there for a short time. Try and get the absolute most out of the experience. Worst case scenario is you leave and move on somewhere else -it happens all the time. Internships are about finding your niche and it’s sometimes a case of trial and error.

Competition
The competition can be fierce in the world of interning, especially for companies offering industry specific programmes. I sometimes found myself asking “why bother?” I won’t be receiving a salary, so why should I spend my free time searching and applying for posts? The key factor here is perseverance. If you really want something enough, you will find a way to get it. Think of the competition as a challenge you need to overcome. When you do, it will be all the more satisfying!

So there you have it, an overview of some pros and cons you may face when entering the world of internships. Ultimately, the decision is based on the individual, and it depends on long term goals. Many are put off by the negative factors that may face you along the way, and I can completely relate – I had my doubts at times too. But if you truly want it enough, you will find a way to push past the difficulties and come out the other end stronger, armed with new skills, and the maturity required to take on the world!

Until next time!

Leoni

Let The Journey Begin

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Hello and welcome to The Intern Wall!

Really, I can’t help but wonder, what comes first? The blog or the book? In my case, I’ve had the fortune of already publishing a book – #interns -the ultimate internship guide for anyone looking to kick start the work experience process. Brimming with tips, experience stories and interviews, I answer many asked questions surrounding the subject of internships, based on my personal experience in this realm.

So how did my internship journey begin I hear you ask? Well, it was quite simple. I set myself the goal to utilise every last minute of my four month summers at university, and after completing a Career Development Course, I was inspired to secure some form of work experience. This was when my eyes were first opened to the world of internships.

Three and a half years and four internships later, I have found myself, on many occasions, offering advice to others on their work experience options. I’m regularly contacted by young people in relation to blogs I wrote for the BUNAC work and travel website, and questioned on how I managed to secure my internships in the States. Reflecting on my personal experience, I had limited sources of concise and relevant information to help in my search process. Internships had only just begun to gain popularity in the UK, and I had to spend days carrying out personal research and learning.

During my third year of university, I was hired by BUNAC to work as a ‘Student Marketing Coordinator’ on campus for two semesters. The role largely involved promoting the range of programmes the organisation currently offers, in addition to speaking with students about my experience of interning abroad. It’s for this reason I decided to write #interns – I wanted to continue helping those in the process of entering the world of internships.

The Intern Wall is a blog I’ve created, that aims to build on some of the topics outlined in #interns, in order to provide readers with valuable tips, interviews with former interns and my thoughts on internationally debated intern topics in the media today. It’s almost a given that the majority of students and graduates will, in one way or another, complete some form of work experience. With an influx of young people pouring into the current  job market, competition for jobs is intense, and everyone is fighting to stand out within this growing crowd. The good news is, opportunities do exist, and with a bit of hard work, focus and determination, you will achieve your goals!

Feel free to ask me questions and leave comments, and remember you can tweet me @TheInternWall or contact me at lj.interns@gmail.com.

I look forward to building an intern community!

Until next time,

Leoni Jay