How To Get The Most Out of Your Internship
Whether you’re trying to make it in your chosen career path, want to see if you enjoy a certain job type, or are just looking for some extra cash, internships can provide invaluable experience and great fodder for building your resume. Here are a few ways to make the most of your time as an intern, whatever your industry!
1. Find a mentor.
Whether your internship is seasonal, or year long, finding a mentor who can challenge your mindset and open up new possibilities to you is always worthwhile. Try finding someone outside of your team, even outside of your department, that inspires you. Maybe their name gets mentioned a lot in your meetings, or your coworkers have nothing but nice things to say about this person. Or take the opposite approach, and find someone who other people struggle to relate to. That doesn’t mean finding the most abrasive or insulting person at your job, but having insight into a driven, complicated person could give you an advantage in the office; learning to work well with different types of people is always beneficial.
2. Always under promise and over deliver.
Many make the mistake of setting unrealistic deadlines, suddenly getting swamped with work, and then not being able to deliver the work as promised. If you don’t have a consistent workload, start by finding out if the person who has assigned you the job has a drop date: the date the work has to be done by. They’ll either give you a hard deadline, and then you have your answer, or they’ll give you a vague answer, like “whenever you can get it done” or “by the end of the week.” Then you can schedule your work by priority, knowing that if you need the extra time on certain tasks, you have it. This way, your getting your work done with expediency, and hopefully delivering good quality work under the deadline set.
3. Don’t be the first one to leave.
In cubicle world in particular, someone is always watching. You don’t want to get a reputation for being the first one out the door when the clock strikes 5pm, because it makes you look like you don’t want to be there (and even if you don’t, you don’t want to give that impression). You want your coworkers to see you as eager to learn, full of enthusiasm for the job, and busy. Busy people don’t leave just because the work day is “officially” over. So take your time, stop and socialize, and leave a lasting impression on your coworkers as someone who actually wants to be there. That’s what they’ll remember long after you’re gone.
4. Show that you’re invested in the internship and willing to help out.
Whether you’re doing coffee runs, making cold calls, or photocopying, always show willingness to do the work given to you. Your coworkers know it’s boring grunt work, and often they can’t help that. But if you keep showing up with enthusiasm, and showing a willingness to do anything they throw you’re way, they are more likely to give you the good stuff when it pops up, because they know you really want to succeed.
5. Always ask for more.
Don’t sit idle. You’re there to learn, to succeed, and to hopefully be challenged in your role. Some internships have a lot of down time, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Remember that mentor you have? Ask your boss if it’s okay if you shadow them for a day (or one of your other teammates or coworkers). Found a cool seminar you could do online? Send it to your boss and ask if you can take it over your lunch break. Hear about a project you think sounds exciting? Tell your boss you want in on it. This all goes back to showing willing: if you put in the time to find work and projects or tasks to fill your time, you’re going to make a much better impression on your boss and coworkers than if you sit at your desk doing nothing and playing on your phone.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
This is a common mistake that newbies make. Whether it’s an assignment that confuses you or a project you’re unsure about, always ask questions. People would much rather you ask questions now and get the job done right than have to backtrack later, or even worse, spend time having to fix your mistakes. This also applies to meetings and projects you might be sitting in on: if you have questions, voice them. Curiosity is good, and wanting to learn more is never a bad thing.
7. Build Relationships
Internships are great way to foster relationships and build a foundation for future work connections. Not only can you earn recommendations through your coworkers, but you can also find future mentors and bosses through internships. The best way to do this is stay in touch with the people you worked for (and with) during your internship. Update them on your career choices, your work applications, and your future endeavors. It may feel awkward to keep superficial connections alive, but if you’ve made a good impression through your internship, most people will be happy to help you further your career. You don’t have to email them weekly, or even monthly, but touching base every few months to let them know how you’re faring, and to ask them if they’ve heard of any opportunities in your field, will keep you top of mind in case any positions open up.