Securing an internship takes a fair share of hard work and planning. For many college students and recent graduates, an internship is a near-requirement for future full-time employment. It can be easy to fall into the mentality that an internship is merely a stepping-stone on the path to a “real” job—something to endure, not enjoy. But internships can offer all sorts of benefits beyond post-college employment, and you won’t get all those benefits if you’re just showing up and counting down the days until your internship is over. Here’s how to maximize your internship experience and keep the focus on your whole career – and not just an initial job placement.
Broaden your skills
During your internship, you’ll maybe you’ll write your first newsletter or computer program, create a schedule, or run a project (if you’re lucky!). No matter what work you do, you are gaining knowledge and skills that are different than the ones learned in the classroom. Remember that the purpose of internships isn’t just for you to do work to help the company – It’s for you to learn. To that end, take notes during meetings, and if something is unclear, ask questions to clarify later. If colleagues mention interesting, relevant news stories, resources, or tips, follow up and learn more. All of this research and follow-through will make you a better, more informed candidate during interviews.
Internships usually last only a few months, and in that context, it’s easy to either focus solely on your work or to make connections only with the other interns working around you. But forming broad, deep relationships within your team and throughout the organization can help you manage your current responsibilities while also boosting personal development. You’ll also make yourself more memorable to those around you and create a network of contacts to reach out to when you’re ready to find your next job. Connections and friends that you make during your internship could greatly benefit you in the future.
Be on the lookout for mentors
Be on the lookout for mentors who can give you advice, write recommendations, and help you make important connections. If you have a co-worker who is helpful answering questions about on-the-job tasks or works with your regularly, ask how they got to where they are, what advice they’d give you, and so on. Having these kinds of conversations is the start to a mentor-type relationship, which can be a powerful force throughout your career.
Internships are hard work. And doing only what’s expected of you isn’t enough to be noticed. You need to go above and beyond, from arriving on time to doing exemplary work, and make the most of your time in the company. Take the skills you have acquired and apply them to the career you are working to build. Remember everything from the coffee runs to the powerful words of executives at quarterly meetings. Keep those lessons in your mind and keep moving in the direction of your dreams.
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