You previously found out about the Zoran Djindjic Internship Programme of German Business for the Countries of the Western Balkans, read all the blog posts by alumni talking all about how great it is and decided to apply in the future? However, said future is now the present, the deadline is approaching, and you are unsure of what to do? First of all, congratulations on making the first step toward the unknown, and deciding to put yourself out there and go for something you want for yourself. This is always the most nerve-wracking part of the process, but also the most necessary one. I regret to inform you that there is no way to get an internship without applying for one, but the good news is that I was in your shoes before, just like any other scholarship winner before me, regardless of how early or late they were in starting their application. When the deadline begins to approach, everyone becomes doubtful, fatigued and hesitant – faced with the possibility of rejection, avoidance starts to seem like the most painless option. Don’t you panic just yet – giving up is not an acceptable option, and you still have plenty of time to present yourself in the best light. Here are some tips on how to make the best of however much time you have until the deadline they may not guarantee you any outcome but are sure to help you shoot your best shot and leave the process with no regrets.
Step 1 – Preparation is key, allegedly.
I am going to be honest while understanding the full risk of losing any cheap “relatability” points at the very beginning, and say that I found out about the Internship Programme of German Business when I was too young to apply, waited until that changed and came up with a plan on how to approach my application as soon as I was eligible. If this is you, that’s great, but it is absolutely not a requirement to be successful. It is, however, good to be honest with yourself about your goals and motivations and be proactive and responsible when it comes to achieving them. Look at the website, find any available information from trusted sources (this blog is a good start!), get acquainted with the Internship Programme of German Business, its goals, missions, as well as the professional opportunities it can offer and think about how you fit in with them, and how that complements what you want to accomplish.
Carefully look at all the documents necessary to apply, make sure you know what everything means, and come up with a rough (but realistic!) plan on how to acquire them and how long this will take. Hint: the administrative aspects are fairly straightforward, but the things you need to do by yourself are probably going to take forever, honestly – factor in some procrastination as well. Luckily, there are ways to help yourself here, and I will explain more on that later. Now that you know the basics about the Internship Programme of German Business, and how to get your materials in before the clock is up, it is time to have some super crazy fun and write your cover letter and resume.
Step 2 – Know your strengths, own your strengths.
Please don’t lie and/or exaggerate. Play your strengths up, don’t make them up. I promise you the selection committee knows you are in your early twenties and don’t reasonably expect you to have completed 4 degrees, 5 jobs, 3 ultramarathons and speak 7 languages fluently for fun. If this is you – good for you. If it isn’t, you are like the vast majority of the past, present and future scholarship holders, who are all accomplished, well-rounded and well educated but also enthusiastic and open to learn new things and improve. Not being incredibly advanced at everything you do is definitely not going to be held against you, but being caught in an exaggeration probably will. Honesty and enthusiasm really go a long way – most people prefer hearing others talk about something they truly like and enjoy doing, rather than something they think sounds impressive.
Be honest about your goals and motivations as well – this is where making sure you recognise exactly what they are. Of course, wanting to experience new challenges is a great start, but think about concrete things that can help the committee match you with a company – what are your interests, strengths, experiences? What is it that you are currently lacking and want to learn? In what ways will you be different once you are back and how do you want to change your trajectory? Of course, no one is expecting you to tell the future – reality will always be different from what you expected and this is normal and even desirable. However, thoughtfulness and intentionality in your approach, and coming prepared after completing step 1, are really helpful to everyone involved in the process.
Step 3 – Be yourself. Or something.
You know yourself best, and you have a lot of the agency with how you present who you are. You also have the responsibility to do it accurately and the unpleasant reality is that other people can’t help you with that. Whatever you tell people about yourself at this point – they will probably believe you, who else would they ask? While the programme obviously has a good idea of what qualities help candidates thrive once they leave for their internship, the worst thing you can do for yourself is try to figure out what the people evaluating the application want to see and attempt to be exactly that. This is most definitely not going to work. You are never going to have enough information to come up with a good conclusion, and you are doing yourself a disservice by even attempting to do such a thing.
However, what you can and probably should do during your application and your interview process is be upfront and transparent, while using steps 1 and 2 to clarify things in your own mind before you can have a productive conversation with anyone else. If you’re funny, great – it’s always nice to break the tension in an interview with a joke. If you are not, that is also fine, having a serious interview doesn’t mean anything bad. Actually, nothing that happens at your interview, no matter how earth-shatteringly awful it seems at the moment, isn’t necessarily going to guarantee you a bad outcome. If you think you messed up, chances are you didn’t, but even if you did – get it together and move on, don’t dig yourself deeper in a self-made hole. Whoever you are, try to be exactly that. If you are a good fit, that will be obvious. If not, you are better off knowing right away, so you can invest your time in something more suitable for you.
Step 4 – Send in the application. Seriously.
Do.not.give.up at the last minute because you think you lack time, adequate competencies, or the sheer luck necessary to be successful. Seriously, just get it done. Seems like a pretty obvious step, but one that most people fail at. If you think you are awesome, great – share that with others. If you think you are the opposite – okay, prove that, and see how you really compare. If you’re scared of the answer, stop whining and find out.
Step 5 – Relax pls.
Last but not the least, and probably the most difficult step: calm down and don’t take things personally. This is something universally difficult to accept whether it is regarding a bad outcome of a date or a job interview – unless you show up in sweatpants, forget the other person’s name or say something offensive, sometimes it really is NOT you. However, it is likely that it is NOT the other party either. Some of the best-prepared candidates didn’t get accepted, while some people who showed up on a whim fit in with the Internship Programme of German Business perfectly. The outcome is not a reflection of you and your absolute or relative qualities – sometimes other people are not better, smarter or more competent, but maybe they are just a better fit with the community, personally or culturally. You could also be out of luck in terms of circumstances entirely out of your control – the company or the position perfect for you could be unavailable that exact year, the interest for the positions you are after could be particularly high, or you could just have a bad day at your interview. All of this is normal, and not even one of us did everything exactly right to ensure things went their way, but these tips are just guidelines to make the process less painful and uncertain for you. If you really want a summer internship, you can always apply to other options to increase your chances, and calm your nerves, or try again next year. Remember to get the most out of the process, talk to people you meet throughout and enjoy the conversations – this is, in the end, what the Internship Programme of German Business is truly about.
Good luck and hopefully see you in some capacity in the future.
Serbia, Generation 2020