Internships are a critical first step on almost everyone’s career path. Although many people picture internships as an endless amount of coffee runs and menial tasks, many successful interns are actually able to leverage their internships into paying jobs both inside and outside the organization they intern for.
Internship experiences can help set you on the right career path, make you a better employee for the future, and even make the company you work for better. Most importantly, without one, your job search can become significantly more difficult.
Here are 10 ways to make the most of your internship.
Take advantage of every opportunity
Don’t always wait for your manager to assign you something. Be proactive, not reactive. Show your enthusiasm for your industry by asking questions and letting the proper people know what part of the business interests you most.
Being actively involved in your internship shows you can be a leader. Ask your supervisor for more responsibility. Always ask what you can do to help and ask others what you can do to help them as well.
Make sure to note what you’re learning and doing on your resume while it’s fresh in your mind. In addition to your resume, update your LinkedIn profile.
Understand office norms & culture
Observe how others in the office carry themselves, and mirror that. Pay attention to how people dress, greet each other in the morning, and how they speak when on the phone and in meetings. As the newbie in the office, it’s best to follow the lead of your superiors. Keep in mind, companies *love* having interns, so never forget what an asset you are when acclimating to your company’s environment.
Build Your Network
We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Personal relationships and building bonds are a key part of any internship program.
Get a solid professional reference
Don’t leave without a letter of recommendation. Specifics about your performance in the office will eventually become a distant memory to your co-workers, so get someone to write the letter before you leave.
Your internship may not lead to another job there, but a strong reference can set you up for one elsewhere.
Find someone you look up to and want maybe even want to emulate at your office. Get to know them and learn more about their career path and choices they have made that’s gotten them to where they are today. Everyone’s path is different, but it’s always helpful to get insight and learn from others’ mistakes.
Every so often, ask your manager how you’re doing. What could you do differently? What could you do better? Are you meeting the goals of the organization? Make it easy for them to give you input that will help you grow. Once you have that feedback, use it.
Identify your strengths & weaknesses
Internships can be a voyage to self-discovery. Sometimes skills that come naturally are ones you overlook, and it’s helpful to have others pinpoint them for you. This feedback provides you with good talking points when you meet future employers.
Keep it professional
As an intern who’s either still in college, or newly graduated, you may not have worked in a professional environment before. Always be respectful of co-workers, no matter their role, and show up in professional attire (unless notified about a specific dress code.)
Soak up as much information as possible. Actively listen and take notes when receiving instruction. Show initiative by researching questions – first through company resources – and then ask.
It’s important to continue the relationships you’ve built after your internship ends. Sometimes getting an interview or job is about who you know and what your former managers say about you. So keep in touch – connect on LinkedIn or email. Continue to stay connected to the company even after your duties are over.