Making the Most of an Internship

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86% of students will have an internship during college—and 69% will complete two or more.  Whether you’re still on the search for your first position or already have some under your belt, it’s important to know how you can make the most of an internship.  The following advice will make sure that you get the most out of your position.

  • Have a positive attitude throughout your internship.  Being enthusiastic about every task you’re assigned—even if it’s making copies or filing—will make a great impression on your employers.  Showing that you can approach menial tasks with a good attitude may lead to you being assigned more complex and interesting projects.
  • Don’t be negative.  This may seem obvious, but it is very important to remember.  Unprofessional behavior like showing up late, using office time for your personal agenda, or taking extra long lunch breaks will hurt your short and long-term opportunities.  Additionally, treat every employee with respect—not just your boss.
  • Set personal goals about what you want to accomplish or learn through interning.  Some internships, especially those that are part of a large intern program, are very structured.  At other companies, you may be treated more as a temporary employee.  Regardless of your situation, think about and set your own goals.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity you can.  When you’re allowed to attend a company meeting, pay attention.  Even when people are talking about a project you aren’t directly involved in, you can still learn more about the company and the industry by taking notes.  If there’s an opportunity to attend extra conferences or seminars, say yes.
  • Network, network, network.  Get as much exposure as you can within the company and industry during your internship.  You never know what connection could lead to a job offer.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.   You are there to learn and your employers understand that you want to gain experience.  Trust me, your boss would much rather have you ask questions than have to clean up after your mistake.
  • Look for a mentor.  Whether or not it’s your direct manager, finding a mentor can give you advice and direction you wouldn’t otherwise get from your internship.  Ideally, this is someone you are comfortable asking questions, who has a career path you admire, and is willing to advise you.
  • Pay attention to the office culture.  This will make your transition from class-attending collegiate to real-world intern much easier.  Not every company follows the same rules and has the same atmosphere, so what was expected at your last position may not be the same at this one.  Observe things like the dress code, noise level, and lunchroom habits and act accordingly.
  • Keep track of your projects and accomplishments.  If your manager approves it, make copies of completed projects to add to your portfolio.  Make a detailed list of everything you’ve worked on or been responsible for during your internship.  This ensures that you’ll know exactly what you’ve gained from the internship and you’ll be able to share it in future interviews.

 

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