I recently wrote about my best advice for your Israel internship, following my experience working with internship programs in Israel such as Masa Israel Journey and others. I then followed up with short-term Israel internships. In this post, I would like to focus on those who are coming for long-term internship programs in Israel.
Why long-term internships are different
A 3-month, 4-month, or longer internship period is very different from a 2-month or less. Theoretically, based on the advice for short-term internships, in a long-term program you could acquire a series of defined and accomplished projects, as “victories.” However, my experience taught me that it does not work this way, since the understanding of both the intern and the employer that “they are here for a longer period of time” changes the way those internships behave.
You basically have three stages for your internship, which are usually correlated with the first month, middle-months and the last month.
- First month: Liftoff. You’re excited. Everything is new. You learn a lot. There are so many opportunities here… But, you have to first learn how to execute your tasks and meet your immediate expected goals. Learn how to be responsible for your assignments, and get the job done. So, you think you could find a later time for all those extra opportunities. Or: This is not what you thought. Yo may want to give it a chance, or, find an alternative internship right away. If you do, you start all over again.
- Middle months: Plateau. Your first month was insane. You just got your stuff together and worked out your daily office life. You want to breathe a little bit. Invest in socializing in the office. Enjoy the ride a bit… If you have a longer-than-3-month internship, all months in between the first and the last month are part of this “plateau” stage. Please note that this “plateau” is not horizontal! It declines linearly.
- Last month: Make or brake. You’re already thinking about what’s next for your personal journey. You are staring to summarize this experience in your head. You cannot afford another “plateau” month. Now, you have to make things happen – inside the office, and outside. This month is either “make” – or “break.”
The challenge of long-term internships
Here’s what’s happening for too many people at the “make or break” stage: “How did time fly so fast? What shall I expect to be written in my recommendation letter? Wait a minute – what exactly was I doing here all those weeks?! I was given “boxes to check” every day/week – and I did… And then I went home! What I have accomplished may not be enough for future job interviews, or my MBA application… I should have went to all those networking events… I should have exploited all those extra opportunities I missed… I should have worked more. Care more. Do more. Achieve more. Not do the minimum and go home – do the maximum I can! So, I got to experience everyday life in Israel, Cool – but how does this contributes and promotes me on my career path?”
Here’s what too many do: Give up and become sad. Or, comfort yourself by focusing on the fun you had, instead of things you achieved. Blame your program manager. Blame your Boss. Blame your parents. Blame your Jewish federation. Blame Israel. Blame the universe. Stop caring. Stop coming to work. Calling in “sick.” Become cynical. Lose.
Here’s what too few do: Realize that mad is better than sad. Fight. Hustle. Try to make the most of every day. Do their best to win. But the problem is that one month may be already too late! As hard and fast as you could go – you are limited. So why even get to this stage in the first place?
Here’s what I advise you to do: Not get there in the first place. Understand the above chart as early as possible, fine-tune your state of mind, and think like “make or break” and operate accordingly from the first day.
My advice for your long-term internship
- Make sure you know how you want your internship experience to connect to your “why”.
- Define for yourselves the long, mid and short-term goals for this internship experience.
- Understand that in the office, even as an intern, you are all business units, and act like ones.
- Coordinate expectations with your employer as effectively and clear as possible, from the very beginning and along the way.
- From your very first day, “map your market” as a business unit and start looking for the “gold” in the gray.”
- Don’t wait for the last month to realize that your enemy is time. The first day is also the beginning to the end of the internship.
- Don’t wait for the last month to think about “what’s next.” Do it from day-one. But also, don’t just “look for a job” – biz-dev!
- Insist on status meetings with your employer, asking for feedback, looking to improve, and see how to maximize the internship for your mid-term and long-term goals. As a business unit, this should come from you!
- Involve your employer as much as possible in the process. Make them a part of your journey, and get them to care as much as you can. It begins by you caring for them first.
If you ask me, your internship is not just an experience. It’s an opportunity. Your Israel program is not about how your journey becomes one with Israel. It’s about how Israel becomes one with your journey! It’s about you.