10 Strategies to Get the Most Out of Your Internship
An internship can be a great stepping-stone for people trying to land their dream job. Not only will you get hands-on experience in your field, but you can also make connections in your industry that will serve you well.
Here are a few suggestions on how to get the most out of your internship:
Get to Work
This may sound simple, but you would be surprised how many interns (and employees, for that matter) spend time visiting with coworkers or surfing social networks. While these things may be okay at times, make sure that you spend your time working. Your primary objective is to contribute to the company and gain real-life experience, which you will only be able to do if you are focused and productive.
Ask Relevant Questions
An intern’s job is to help, but you should also take the time to get to know your coworkers. Knowing people’s background and experience, and understanding why they are working in their department or at the company can help you navigate your own career. Ask people where they went to school, why they do what they do, what their own career goals are, etc. Even though you may not be there long, taking an interest in your coworkers can separate you from the other interns who may only be interested in adding something to their resume.
Soak Up the Culture
Every company has their own specific culture. Observe how employees interact with each other, how they handle customers, how they manage phone conversations, how they structure their day, and so on. You will eventually have to find what works for you, but glean from their years of experience to form your own positive work habits.
Solicit Honest Feedback
The simple reality of an internship is that nearly everyone there has more experience than you do, so make the most of it and ask for evaluations from a variety of people as often as you can. Even informal evaluations, such as “How does that look?” or “How am I doing with…?” can go a long way. Ask all of your immediate supervisors to evaluate you at least once during your internship (preferably at the end) and ask for ways that you can improve.
Dress the Part
Make sure you understand and follow the dress code. Be prepared to spend a little money clothes. Rather than look at this as an obligation, seize the opportunity to begin building your professional wardrobe.
Have Realistic Expectations
Many students begin an internship believing they will be doing important work, but many internships require menial tasks such as running errands and making copies. That does not mean these jobs are not important; on the contrary, moving from person to person and operating within several departments provides an understanding of the company and a broad perspective.
Perform Quality Work
If you make a mistake, fix it. If you miscommunicate to someone, own up to it. While you don’t want to be annoying about the little insecurities you may have, if an error has been made, admit it and stay late (if necessary) to fix it. Stewardship of little things will make people believe you are worthy of greater responsibility.
Ask for Advice
This is different than soliciting feedback on your work performance. Every so often, talk to your coworkers and managers about what you want to do with your career and ask them for their opinions. For example, if you want to work for an advertising agency, ask someone in marketing what they look for when hiring. The information you gain will confirm if you are on the right career track or give you time to switch course if necessary.
Develop Trust with Superiors
It does not matter whom you talk to at your new company, everyone is higher up on the food chain than you are. As an intern, students are tasked with very low-level jobs that even entry-level employees are too busy to do. Take the opportunity to prove yourself to the people around you and show why you are worthy of more responsibility.
Be Grateful For the Opportunity
When your internship is over, take time to thank your coworkers for the experience. They did not have to hire you or give you an office to work in, so anything you experienced there was voluntary on their part. Taking a few minutes to show them how much you appreciate the opportunity will allow you to leave on a positive note.
Ready to start looking for an internship? Here are some online resources:
- What resources can help students with disabilities locate internships and other work-based experiences?
- Applying for Jobs & Internships
- Career Resources for Students with Disabilities
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