Every year as school winds down, internship season kicks in. For many students this will be the first time they are working professionally in their fields and can be an invaluable experience. At best, internships can lead to great jobs and at worse – you will become the resident barista. More often than not, your experience depends directly on you, with that in mind, here is how to make the most out of your internship.
Figure Out Your Goals
You should have a clear idea of why you are doing this internship. Do you want a job at the firm? Are you looking to build your portfolio or resume? Perhaps learn new technical skills or get an idea of what the job entails? Figuring out your goals allows you to actively position yourself throughout the internship to maximise your learning. Keep an eye on your goals throughout your term and if you’re not reaching them, figure out why and change it.
Make a Good First Impression
On the first day you will often get introduced to others in the company, it’s important to make the best impression possible. Be well dressed and on time. I know several people who have brought baked goods on their first day. It might seem silly, but that is the easiest way to make everyone in the company love you and create a good first impression. Coffee, croissants, bagels, muffins, cupcakes, etc., are all fair game. Bonus points for vegan and gluten free items – that way you don’t leave anyone out and avoid most allergies.
Often you will get assigned to a senior employee or perhaps a small team. It might seem natural to stick with them the whole time but you should really try to get to know everyone regardless of their department. They might prove to be a valuable connection in the future or you might realize that the job you thought you were interested in is actually something else.
You’re there to learn – if you don’t know something, ask. Try to find out why things are done one way instead of another – get a deep understanding of how the company operates. Being curious and eager to learn is a very good trait. Also, most people love to talk about their work.
It’s your mission to learn and experience as much as possible. It’s your supervisor’s mission to keep you busy and make sure you don’t screw anything up too much. As a result, you will often get small boring tasks at the beginning. However, as you build trust and show that you are competent, it’s your job to take the reins and demand more responsibility. Ask to sit in on client meetings. Is there a project you are interested in? Tell your supervisor and press her to let you get involved. Have an idea that will help the company? Draw up a proposal on your time and ask to dedicate part of your day to executing it.
Ask for a Review
Talk to your supervisor and ask if you can set up a schedule to have a quick one-on-one review of your performance, this could be bi-weekly or monthly. Ask them what you could do better at? What you are doing well at? Voice any concerns you have and ask for more responsibility. This is often a standard part of an internship but things could get busy and people forget. Mark it in your calendar and remind your supervisor a few days in advance.
Tie Loose Ends
As you wrap up your internship there are a few things you should do. Through the last few weeks try to get the contact info of as many people as possible, especially those you’ve worked closely with and the higher-ups. Ask the key members of your team for recommendation letters – be prepared to write these for them. On the last day it’s a great idea to bring something in to show your gratitude (see Make a Good First Impression above). Once your internship is over, write thank you cards to your team mates as well as the leaders in the company – try to make these personal to each individual. As time goes on and you work on new projects at school or elsewhere, be sure to send occasional updates to your supervisor and others – keep in touch!
This wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a great article about internships, that was recently in Maclean’s. There is a lot of good info, but the main point is about unpaid internships, surprise – they’re illegal (unless it’s for a charity or if you’re receiving a credit for it). Read the article here.
Do you have tips for having a great internship? Please share them in the comments!
Images Sourced from: spo0ky