8 Ways to Make the Most of Internships
Getting a job after college has its hurdles; one of the biggest is your lack of experience. If you worked while you were a student, you’ve got a head start. If not, you should consider an internship to equip you with insight and hands-on experience within an industry or career of interest. Here’s how to get the most out of that internship.
1. Some students are deterred by internships because they often pay little or nothing. You can look into a part-time job to pay the bills, and consider the internship your sweat equity that will pay off in career muscle later. Internships generally last a year or less, so remember, it’s a short-term commitment for long-term gains.
2. An internship helps you learn more about a particular field and can confirm that you are headed down the right career path, or it may warn you that this isn’t what you expected. Either way, it’s up to you to soak up the experience and its many lessons. Maybe it’s a lesson in trying something new or living in a new city—or even a new country. Another great bonus to being an intern is that employers don’t expect you to know much, which means they’re prepared and expecting to teach you.
3. Stand out from the crowd by doing more than what’s expected. Go that extra mile. Be willing to jump in on projects that weren’t in your internship description. You might not be getting paid for it, but a stellar recommendation when you’re done is valuable reward.
4. Watch what people on the job do, how they behave, even what they wear. It’ll give you an idea of the corporate culture of the industry in general or specific company.
5. Take notes when someone is training you, whether you think you’ll remember everything or not (you probably won’t). Then, if you make a mistake, it won’t be because you weren’t paying attention or simply forgot. Dealing with that mistake in a professional way is the challenge. Rather than mope, blame someone else or get angry, reflect on it as a learning experience and take note for the future.
6. Take advantage of the wisdom around you. Talk to people who work with and around you. Ask questions that extend your knowledge or help you gain further insight into the profession—its pros and cons, opportunities and challenges. You’re not only building your resume, you’re building connections. If business cards are made for you, take some with you whenever you go out. You have clout now and can talk about what you do with others outside of work, thus further expanding your network.
7. Turn your internship into a job. In the case of some internships, you may be eyed for a job within that company. If there’s an open position, it makes sense for human resources to look at the intern who not only has experience in the field, but experience within that organization specifically. You aren’t obligated to say yes if offered, but at least say no with grace and gratitude.
8. Your internship will now be an important part of your resume. When the internship ends, don’t be shy to ask one of your superiors for a letter of recommendation to keep with your file.