How to make the most of your internship
Summer’s almost here and if you have an internship lined up, you’re about to take your first steps on the career path of your choice. These three months can be critical to getting your professional life off to a good start, as they can define how you perform, as well as how you’re perceived by others. The following tips can help you make the most of your internship:
- Set learning goals for yourself. No matter how well you’ve done in school or at college, there are going to be gaps in your knowledge once you step into the real world. That’s why it’s wise to think about what you want to learn ahead of time. Outline some learning goals and share them with your internship coordinator so he or she can give you relevant assignments.
- Exceed expectations. Everything you learn in school or in college is theoretical — but as an intern, you’ll be contributing to real-life projects. Because of this, it’s advisable to perform as well as possible right from the start, as John Coleman advises in his article “6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Internship” for Harvard Business Review. Even if you don’t understand the relevance of a task that’s assigned to you, never decline to perform it. Instead, do what’s asked — and do it well. That way, you’re more likely to make a good impression — and that could even help you land a job after graduation.
- Ask questions. As an intern, you’re still in a learning phase, so people won’t mind it if you don’t know something or need clarification on how to perform a task. Take advantage of all of the experience around you to enhance your knowledge.
- Hone your skills. If you have little practical knowledge of certain processes, an internship can provide you with the opportunity to enhance your skills. For example, you could spend more time working in Microsoft Office applications, writing reports to enhance your communication skills or responding to customer questions to improve your sales abilities.
- Build new relationships. As an intern, you’ll meet a lot of people in your chosen professional field. Use this time to build your network and add contacts who can be helpful to your career. After meeting new people, follow up on LinkedIn and keep notes for yourself as to how and when you met them so you can refer to them later.
- Find a mentor. In her article “How to Get the Most Out of Your Internship” for The Balance Careers, Madeleine Burry recommends trying to find a mentor — someone who can advise you as you navigate your career path, help you make new contacts and even write recommendations for you when you’re looking for a job.
To use your internship to your advantage, you have to go above and beyond what’s asked of you. When you give it your all, you’re likely to walk away with enhanced skills and knowledge, a bigger network and professional contacts who can vouch for your professional abilities.