For many college and university students, completing an internship is necessary in order to graduate. For this reason, there is a danger of students just going through the motions and not seeing the possibilities and opportunities to take advantage of. Here are some ways to make the most of your internship.
Expand your knowledge
Take it as an opportunity to learn as much as possible about your industry and the variety of jobs available. Watch and learn. This openness and willingness to learn could lead you to solidify your interest in the field or lead you to learn that you are really not as interested in the field as you imagined you were.
Connect with people
Try and meet your coworkers. Express genuine interest in them and what they do. You never know what may spark your interest and lead you down an interesting career path. Plus, there’s the added benefit of maybe making new friends which becomes increasingly difficult as we age. We are social beings and human connection for us is priceless.
If you are able to, identify a mentor, someone whose skills and traits you admire, and try and learn as much as possible from them.
Set goals for the internship
After the first week of finding out what the job entails and what is expected of you, set some personal goals, documenting your own expectations. What skills do you want to work on? What areas do you need guidance with? Who can you ask questions or go to for guidance?
Log what you do
Most colleges and universities will require a formal report on the activities undertaken by students on internship. Regardless of whether your institution requires it or not, it’s beneficial to keep a log of the things you learn and do during your internship.
Keep a journal of the tasks done, when you did them and what you learned if it was something new. The days can roll into each other leading you to forget or underestimate all the work you have done and the skills you have developed. This information will also come in handy in future interviews because you will have concrete examples of things you have done and the skills it took.
Whenever you are assigned tasks, always follow through. If you doubt your ability to deliver, ask for help. If you make mistakes, own up to them and attempt to fix them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help. You are the new guy and it’s expected that you do not know some things and that you will make some mistakes.
Ask for feedback
If there is no formal review process as you exit, then step up and ask your supervisor and coworkers for feedback on your performance. This will help you learn what you did well during the internship and what areas need improvement. Reflect on the skills you’ve gained and the task you’ve done and update your CV/resume to reflect that. Even if you decide that’s not the path you want to stay on, those skills may be transferable, and those experiences are valuable regardless.
General internship advice
- Network as much as possible. Connect with everyone in the office who will have you on LinkedIn. 5 Tips On How To Network In A New Environment
- Ask for letters of recommendation or online recommendations on sites like LinkedIn. Offer them as well. Careers: 7 Tips To Make Your LinkedIn Profile Stand Out
- Start building a portfolio of the work you’re doing, so you can reference it when done
- Journal about your experience.
- Ask questions.
- Meet people in different teams and learn about what they do.
- Don’t shy away from adding your value and ideas to projects.
- Try to establish genuine relationships with your peers and coworkers and try and stay in touch with those you connected with if/after you leave.
- Volunteer to help out on projects that interest you even if they are not assigned to you.
- Dedicate yourself to applying what you learned whether or not you are retained by the company.
- Be proud of your experience.
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