Internships are a chance that you can acquire valuable work experience. An internship is usually a temporary arrangement in which you gain experience in a particular field or job function under the guidance of an employer.
WHY DO AN INTERNSHIP?
- Internship experience is consistently ranked as the Number 1 factor employers seek in full-time job candidates.
- Build your resume and explore career options
- Develop skills and make contacts in your field of interest.
- Apply your academic background to “real-world” problems and issues.
- Employers often hire their interns as full-time employees.
Once you are set to begin your internship, how can you maximize your experience? Here are a few tips on how to make your internship the best it can be.
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE…
– GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS: It is helpful to begin your internship with a clear set of goals and expectations in mind. Re-evaluate your initial internship goals in light of the specific position you’ve been offered, as well as what you hope to contribute to the organization. On your first day it is a great idea to sit down with your supervisor to clarify mutual goals and expectations.
– BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE: Before beginning your internship, try to ensure that you have a strong sense of your organization’s mission and how it works. Take the time to perform any additional background research on the organization and its industry. The more knowledge you possess before going into the experience, the more quickly you will be able to acclimate to the environment and put into perspective the new bits of knowledge you gain.
WHILE YOU ARE THERE…
– PROFESSIONALISM: Make it a point of duty demonstrating standards of professionalism throughout your internship experience. Ascertain the appropriate workplace attire, and be consistent with punctuality and meeting your deadlines. This not only ensures your effectiveness as an intern, but also demonstrates your commitment and dedication to the experience as well as your reliability as a valuable member of the organization.
– ATTITUDE: Maintaining a positive attitude is key to a successful internship experience. Be enthusiastic and do your best on every task you are assigned, even if at first it seems rather mundane and not as challenging as you might like. Demonstrating a cheerful and energetic attitude toward all of your work will prove impressive to your supervisor and potentially lead to more challenging tasks. Simply observing and soaking up your organization’s environment is, in and of itself, an incredibly effective way to learn. Ask your supervisor if you might sit in on a few inter-departmental meetings and seek out opportunities to observe various members of your organization.
-INITIATIVE: Another way to facilitate an enriching experience is to be a proactive intern. There might be times when your supervisor does not have anything pressing for you to do. In such cases, offer to expand on a small project you have already been assigned, or suggest another project you think might benefit the organization. On especially slow work days, tactfully check with other co-workers around your department to see if you can lend a hand.
-BE AN ACTIVE LEARNER: Begin your internship with the intention of learning as much as you can during your time with your organization. Be inquisitive. Ask questions and generally cultivate your curiosity about the organization and industry. Demonstrate your interest by seeking to learn as much as possible about the role of your department in the organization as a whole and how your company figures into the industry at large.
-NETWORK: Introduce yourself and be friendly with colleagues and co-workers. Be curious about the people you work with, and ask questions about their specialty areas, interests, motivations for entering the field, and how they started out. You might indeed find a mentor willing to share experiences and offer career advice.
-BE FLEXIBLE: Recognize that it takes time to adjust to every new environment, so give yourself time to get oriented to the pace and rhythm of your workplace and colleagues. Remember to keep an open mind during the course of your internship, and try to take something positive from every experience.
-REFLECT: Check in with your supervisor periodically to review progress on your tasks and projects, receive feedbacks on your performance, and even to share your own insights and learning. On your own, reflect regularly on your experience by keeping a journal of your experience, tasks, and observations.
WHEN IT’S OVER
On your last day be sure to thank your supervisor and co-workers and ask for their business cards. Follow up immediately in the next few days with an email thank-you or a hand written card in the mail. Stay in touch afterwards to maintain networking connections and good rapport for possible references and letters of recommendation. Remember that many organization hire permanent employees from their intern pool.