For students and recent grads, summer means much more than frequent trips to the beach: it’s internship season. Whether or not you’re getting paid, you’re probably wondering, “How is this internship really helping me?” With studies showing that 60% of students believe that internships are a requirement—and employers agree—internships are more important than ever. If you’re one of the lucky ones that has already landed an internship, here are some tips to make your experience as valuable as possible:
1) Develop a network.
Internships are one of the best ways to start building your professional network. Talk to people around you—don’t be afraid to go to lunch or coffee breaks with coworkers, staff meetings, and other company events. As Dawn Rasmussen writes, when you spend time to talk and ask questions, you develop interpersonal relationships that can lead to other opportunities (including future job offers). And translate your offline network to online connections—LinkedIn is a great place to start!
2) Learn new skills.
Employers often say that many potential employees coming out of college lack skills necessary for the workplace. Internships provide great opportunities to master some of these skills, like crunching data in Excel or crafting impressive presentations with PowerPoint. Maybe a coworker frequently does graphic design for your company. Ask to hear about some of their Photoshop tricks! Also, as Alison Green suggests, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. You’re an intern who’s looking to gather as much experience as possible. Your coworkers have experience and will be happy to share their list of tips.
3) Go beyond the call of duty.
Exceed your employer’s expectations. This doesn’t mean that if your supervisor asks you to send her an email, you should send her four. Exemplifying professionalism and motivation enables you to learn much more from your tasks and show that you are ready for more responsibility. For example, if you’re asked to do research, present your findings with notes and explain your thought process with an organized chart in Excel!
If a coworker is expressing frustration, offer to help with anything that you can. Even if these tasks are outside your job description, it provides a fantastic opportunity to keep learning new skills.
4) Ask for feedback.
During the first couple of weeks, you’ll naturally want to prove that you can produce quality work, but you’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way. Accepting mistakes and maintaining enthusiasm are qualities of a strong employee. That’s why asking for feedback is so important. When you ask your supervisor if you can improve your work in any way, it highlights your professionalism and work ethic. Plus, it will help you learn faster and it may prevent other mistakes in the future.
5) Bring a positive attitude.
We all know that there’s nothing harder than trying to work with someone who’s sending negative vibes. While some intern tasks may be frustrating or tedious, remember that you have a set of skills that the company desires. So bring a positive attitude! Being enthusiastic about your work will not only demonstrate that you’re interested, but it will also contribute to the work environment. Enthusiasm can go a long way. It’s as simple as this: being the kind of employee that companies want to hire means that they are more likely to hire you.
Ultimately, an internship is what you make of it—to get experience that you want requires your own initiative. Following these tips will help you have the best internship experience possible and will further prepare you for your future career.
Have tips of your own or other internship stories? Feel free to post them below!