How To Get The Most Out Of Your Internship
For many college students and recent graduates, an internship is a near-requirement for future full-time employment. Without an internship, even entry-level positions are out of reach. So it can be easy to fall into the mentality that an internship is merely a stepping-stone on the path to a “real” job—something to endure, not enjoy.
But internships can offers all sorts of benefits beyond post-college employment. Sometimes, an internship can expose that a planned career path or industry is not, in fact, the best one for you. Internships can help you build a network of colleagues—and friends—who may last a lifetime, offering countless opportunities (both career-focused and personal). And, internships can help make you comfortable and confident in the office environment. You won’t get all those benefits if you’re just showing up and counting down the days until your internship is over, though!
Seek Opportunities to Gain Company and Industry Knowledge
During your internship, try to learn about a range of things. If you’re interning with the marketing department, seek out employees on the editorial team, or the programming department, and try to learn how their work differs from your own.
Become Confident in Workplace Practices
If you’ve always been in school and worked part-time jobs in retail or food services, an internship may be your first exposure to office culture. It’s… different. The more you’re exposed to how offices function, from the pre-meeting small talk to knowing who to CC on emails (and when), the more comfortable it will feel once your training wheels are off, and you have a staff position.
And, keep in mind that knowing industry-focused jargon is hugely helpful when it comes to decoding job postings, writing effective cover letters, and sounding like a knowledgeable pro during interviews. (Here’s what all those buzzwords using in job postings actually mean.) So keep track of the tools used in the office and the buzzwords that come up during meetings.
Broaden Your Skills and Track What You Do
During your internship, maybe you’ll write your first newsletter or computer program, create a schedule, or run a project (if you’re lucky!). But some internship programs reserve tedious grunt work for interns. Rest assured, no matter what work you do, you are gaining knowledge and skills that are different than the ones learned in the classroom.
Ask for Feedback
As an intern, you’ve practically got “newbie” in your title. That may be frustrating, and sometimes limit you from more exciting projects, but it also means that you’re expected to not know everything. So feel free to ask questions, always.
Give It Your All
The best internships offer challenging, interesting work. But sadly, that’s not always the case. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re struggling to stay engaged:
1. You can ask for more:
Volunteer for additional work and projects if you’ve completed your assigned tasks. Or, better still, generate a list of helpful projects or tasks, and ask your manager if it’s OK to move forward with them.
2. Be assertive:
Meet with your manager early on, if possible, to try to get a sense of expectations. Remember, this internship is a two-way street: If you know you’re interested in meeting with certain people or achieving certain resume-worthy tasks, mention it your manager—part of a manager’s job is to ensure you have a meaningful experience. (Do be aware, however, that people in the office are generally over-worked, not under. So be respectful about how much time you take up.)
3. Don’t look bored:
Depending on your responsibilities, this may be a challenge. No matter how tedious the work may be, don’t let that show on your face or in your attitude. Don’t check your phone during meetings (unless that’s part of your job responsibilities) or social media at your desk.
Form Connections—And Maybe Even Find a Mentor
If you’re part of a group of interns, know that you might form relationships that will last a lifetime. So do socialize with your peers (but not at the cost of your work—use lunch time and coffee breaks for conversations, not cubicle-time).